Are You Really In Good Hands – Ensuring Your Insurance

Tax and Business

“With insurance contracts… disputes are often about coverage”

Everyone should have insurance, and being insured does, in many ways, help us sleep at night. However, as with many contracts (and remember, an insurance policy is actually a contract), disputes sometimes arise. It is not unusual for there to be a dispute regarding the interpretation of insurance contract terms. And, with insurance contracts, those disputes are often about coverage. That is, the insurance company may claim that, even though you have insurance, your claim is not covered. This can be frustrating.

A short time ago, I attended a seminar on insurance coverage where recent Court of Appeals’ decisions served as reminders of some important issues to remember when faced with a coverage dispute.

First, Oregon law provides that if an insurance claim is not paid within six months of the filing of a proof of loss, the insured is entitled to a recovery of attorney’s fees if the dispute goes to court.

Second, many insurance policies include a “contract statute of limitations.” Ordinarily, a party to a contract has six years to bring a lawsuit. However, an insurance contract could provide for a much shorter statute of limitations; say, one year instead of six.

Finally, one must be careful that they are accurate when submitting a claim. Under certain circumstances, an insurance company has the right to cancel the insurance policy if the insured makes misrepresentations about the loss during the adjustment of the claim. In fact, accuracy matters in all insurance transactions; not only in submitting claims but in submitting applications and underwriting information as well. Coverage could be denied if information provided to the insurance company was not accurate, no matter when that information was provided.

In summary, treat any insurance claim as a contract dispute and pay careful attention to the details.

Steven W. Seymour is an accomplished business litigator with an emphasis on labor and employment law as well as fiduciary litigation. To contact Steve, or another attorney at Samuels Yoelin Kantor, call 503.226.2966, or by email at


The Top Five Insurance Mistakes


Insurance. We often view insurance the same way we view estate planning – “I’ll get around to that when I have time.” Yet life has a way of keeping us so busy that our spare time rarely gets allocated to such mundane topics. However, we must look at insurance for what it really is – a hedge against the unpredictable events that could damage our family’s financial security. 

In assessing this issue, I looked to my local insurance agent, Lauri Woolard of State Farm Insurance. Lauri has been in the “trenches” of the insurance world for nearly two decades, and has experienced first-hand the insurance issues that challenge most people. For this article, I asked Lauri what she thought were the top 5 insurance “mistakes” that people make. These top 5 mistakes are:

   1.   Not Keeping Insurance Current. Over the course of a year or two, things change and your insurance coverage can become inadequate or outdated. On an annual or bi-annual basis, you should meet with your insurance professional for a “checkup” to make certain you and your family are properly protected. 

   2.   Failing to Buy a Personal Liability Umbrella Policy. This type of policy – also called a PLUP – typically adds additional liability coverage to other insurance policies, such as automobile or homeowner’s policies. The liability limits in these policies are often in the $300,000 range, which may be woefully inadequate if you find yourself responsible for causing serious injuries to others. By extending your liability limits with a PLUP, you can protect your personal assets from liabilities and lawsuits that are more than the limits of your primary coverage. For the peace of mind a PLUP provides, it’s a great value.

   3.   Not Buying Adequate Private Life Insurance. If you have dependents or debts, you should consider buying adequate life insurance in the event of your untimely demise. The “right” amount of life insurance varies from individual to individual. This is a question that an insurance professional can help you answer. A common misconception is that life insurance provided through a group plan at one’s place of employment is both adequate and portable. Typically neither is true. Many group term life plans only provide a nominal amount of coverage (e.g. $10,000). In addition, many such group life insurance policies are not portable if you leave your job.

   4.   Failing to Purchase Disability Income Insurance. In the U.S.A., 30 percent of workers will be disabled for more than three months, 20 percent of workers will be unable to work for at least a year due to an injury, and 14 percent of Americans will be disabled for more than five consecutive years. If you are medically disabled and can no longer work, disability income insurance provides you with income to pay your bills and support you and your family. Yet, a surprisingly small number of Americans (approximately 30 percent) actually purchase this form of insurance. 

   5.   Failing to Consider Long-Term Care Insurance. Almost half of individuals in the U.S.A. will require some form of long-term care during their lifetimes. With the general aging of the population as well as medical advances that sustain lives, this percentage is rapidly increasing. However, most individuals do not have sufficient assets to fund both their retirement and fund their potential long-term care costs. Purchasing long-term care insurance may be an essential ingredient to your financial security.

The Low Hanging Fruit of Asset Protection

Most clients who come to us for asset protection are looking for an offshore trust or maybe even a domestic asset protection trust. These are both viable options to protect one’s assets. However, there are a number of simpler options that one should consider first. 

  • Liability insurance is relatively inexpensive and can cover many personal liability issues that may arise.
  •  Life insurance and annuities can be good investments and are protected from creditors.
  •  Money contributed to retirement plans are protected assets and allow for tax free savings, a double benefit.
  •  529 plans (college savings plans) are also protected assets, as well as they also grow tax free.
  •  A Qualified Personal Residences Trust protect a person’s house from creditors, and also passes the house to the next generation with minimal gift tax consequences.
  •  How one titles property, depending on the laws of your particular state, can protect that property from certain creditors.
  •  When your child turns 18, have them buy their own car rather than drive one provided by you.
  •  Put investment real estate in separate limited liability companies.
  •  Ask your parents to keep any assets you receive from them in trust for your life.

These are merely an example of several items to consider. Asset protection is a continual process, much like estate planning, to keep your hard earned assets in you and your families hands.