Delaware Enacts Insurance Laws on Weather Claims, Firefighters, Teens

August 4, 2008

Delaware has new laws protecting homeowners from insurance policy cancellations, clearing the way for more surgeries at Delaware’s veterans hospital, allowing teens in foster care to get drivers licenses and protecting firefighters from being dropped by their auto insurance.

Governor Ruth Ann Minner signed into law Senate Bill 191. S.B. 191, which bans insurance companies from ending homeowner insurance policies after a homeowner has made a few weather-related claims, or just inquired about a making a claim. The new law makes Delaware one of the strictest states in the country when it comes to preventing policy cancellations.

The bill was the result of a three-year effort, and at one point the insurance industry sued Denn over the issue. Sen. David Sokola and Rep. Valerie Longhurst shepherded the bill through the legislature.

Donald Ash, president of the Delaware Association of Realtors, said at the signing ceremony in Dover Thursday that “homeowners in Delaware are now safer. Before, a mere inquiry could get their policy cancelled and now that’s not the case.”

Senate Bill 269 came about in response to a shortage of surgeons at the Veterans Medical Center in Elsmere, a situation that its supporters said caused some Delaware veterans to have to go to Pennsylvania or Maryland for surgeries. A number of retired doctors had offered to perform surgeries at the VA hospital, but were being hampered from doing so by a provision in their former medical malpractice insurance policies.

S.B. 269, signed into law Friday in Wilmington, allows retired doctors to work at the VA hospital without affecting their former coverage. It was sponsored by Sens. George Howard Bunting and Patricia Blevins and Reps. Terry Spence and John Kowalko.

Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 262 eliminates barriers that were preventing teens in foster care from obtaining driver’s licenses, including allowing state child agency workers to sponsor foster care teens for a license in lieu of parents.

While the bill made its way through the legislature, bill sponsor Sen. Liane Sorenson and Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn negotiated with insurance company AIG Direct to create special program to provide low-cost auto insurance to foster children, another essential condition for the foster care teens to get behind the wheel.

“We felt we weren’t the same as other kids, we weren’t normal kids because we couldn’t get a license,” 19-year-old foster youth Michele Robison, who suggested the law, said at the signing ceremony in Dover. “This is a good thing.”

Senate Bill 239 which bans insurance companies from raising the auto insurance rates of policyholders or dropping their policies solely because they are volunteer firefighters and ambulance company members. The legislation arose from the experience of some volunteer firefighters who were told by companies that using their personal cars to respond to fire calls was justification for cancellation or increased rates.

S.B. 239, signed by the Governor on July 21, was sponsored by Sens. Blevins and Bruce Ennis and Reps. Biff Lee and Bill Carson.

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