This week, I ventured down a slightly different path on my podcast. I talked about COVID and insurance, but more about what I believe we need to consider for the future rather than about what is happening today.
People are talking about lawsuits these days, even more fervently than usual. Why? Because the big question is: What will happen if a person claims he or she contracted COVID-19 at a restaurant, or store, or at work … and then sues the business owner? Will the business’ insurance policy pay the claim?
At the moment, it’s impossible to answer that question with any certainty because we have no precedent to follow. In other words, we’re in uncharted waters.
One of the first things to remember about insurance claims (with or without associated lawsuits being filed) is that liability insurance only pays if the insured was legally liable for causing bodily injury or property damage. And legal liability can only be determined by the courts.
It’s true that many insurance companies settle claims without lawsuits being filed or trials having to be undertaken. And that’s because the facts associated with the claim are so clear cut the insurance company is confident that if the matter went to trial, their policyholder would be deemed negligent and, therefore, legally liable.
Nothing about COVID-19 is especially clear right now. Therefore, how can we determine whether an individual or business exercised due diligence in preventing its spread?
My best guess is that if every business follows federal, state, and local guidelines about social distancing and preventing the spread of coronavirus, proving it was negligent is going to be very difficult. However, many believe some guidelines are not feasible, or reasonable. What then?
Only time will be able to answer these questions. However, I do talk more about this topic on Episode 8 of my podcast, so take a listen here.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law to help Americans and U.S. businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Although I’ve downloaded the 247-page bill, I haven’t read all of it yet. However, here are some of the major provisions that might affect you and your family.
The $1,200 and $500 each adult and child, respectively, will be receiving. First of all, not everyone will be receiving this money. The stimulus gives a tax credit to those who filed federal income tax returns in 2018 and/or 2019. So, if a person DID file a tax return in 2018 (or already this year), the tax credit will apply and money will be sent.
Secondly, the $1,200 and $500 amounts are based on the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI) shown on that 2018 or 2019 federal income tax return. The amount is a $1,200 tax credit per individual and, once the taxpayer’s income exceeds a specified amount, the tax credit is reduced. AGI thresholds are:
$75,000 for individual taxpayers
$112,500 for taxpayers filing as Head of Household
$150,000 for taxpayers who file jointly
My understanding is that the tax credit is reduced by 5% of so much of the AGI that exceeds the above thresholds. Once I read the enter law, I’ll have more info for you about that.
The $600 additional weekly unemployment benefit. The federal government is funding additional unemployment benefits … with limitations. The $600 weekly amount is paid over and above the amount paid by the state, but only in accordance with specific provisions. Some employees will only be eligible for the extra benefit for being unemployed between April 5 and July 31, 2020. Others will be eligible for benefits for a longer period.
The expansion of benefits will apply to the self-employed, independent contractors, people with a short work history, and a few other categories of workers. However, these individuals must meet requirements pertaining to COVID-19, including being diagnosed with coronavirus, being a caretaker for someone with the virus, or losing one’s job because of the pandemic. Other conditions also make a person eligible for unemployment benefits, as well.
Special provisions about retirement plans:
Rules for required minimum distributions (RMDs) have been waived for certain retirement plans in calendar year 2020
The 10% premature withdrawal penalty for certain qualified plans is waived for distributions from retirement accounts for taxpayers with issues related to COVID-19 (this applies to IRAs, 401(k)s, qualified trusts, qualified annuities, and some defined contribution plans)
Certain NON-COVID-19 Medicare telehealth services were expanded
The insurance industry is an “essential” business during the coronavirus pandemic and all the related upheaval social distancing and self-quarantining has created. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to continue working in the industry are finding as many ways as possible to help those who can’t work, or who can only work limited hours, and are suffering financially.
Please check with your insurance agents and insurance companies to see what assistance is being made available to you. Here are 3 types of help you should be able to obtain immediately with respect to your current insurance policies. In many cases, these actions are MANDATED by federal or state law.
Health insurance companies are waiving patient cost-sharing in the forms of deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance
Insurance carriers have suspended the issuance of cancellations for failure to pay premiums when due–for a certain time period (i.e., until May 1)
Some insurance carriers are allowing people to extend the due date of premiums due on renewal policies for a certain time IF they call the carrier at a designated phone number to make arrangements
Each insurance company will be responding differently based on a number of factors, so call your agent or insurer to find out what type of assistance is being offered. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has created a Coronavirus Recourse Center on its website, which can be found here.
Many insurance companies, agencies, and other professionals are publishing and broadcasting all kinds of information to help but take care to be sure you’re listening to a reputable source. As we often see on social media, some individuals thriving on exploiting others.
Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you might have about, and I’ll get you an answer.