The Insurance Information Institute A One-Stop Resource

 It goes without saying that individuals and associations alike need to be  properly covered by insurance; that's just common sense. But the wide variety  of choices can make obtaining that coverage a daunting process. To help boards  and HOAs navigate these options with minimal hassle, the New York-based Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)  has become a one-stop-shopping resource for information on all manner of  insurance needs.  

 Purpose & History

 With property and casualty premiums totaling a trillion dollars (that's trillion  with a T) in 2010, plus an additional nearly $600 billion more in life  insurance premiums, insurance is a huge business with scores of companies  offering competing services. I.I.I. exists to simplify, clarify and aid the  premium payers.  

 According to Michael Barry, the group's vice president of media relations, “I.I.I. is an insurance trade association that is funded by property casualty  insurance. We specialize in homeowners, automobiles, and business insurance, as  well as life insurance and annuities. We're here to communicate with the public  on important issues related to insurance.”  

 The Institute's main office in Manhattan was founded over 50 years ago, and, it  exists to provide aggregated information without bias. Throughout the group’s history, they have earned a reputation for fair reporting and accurate  information, making them experts in the eyes of both state and federal  governments, in addition to industry regulators and the public.  

 According to Barry, the I.I.I. maintains this reputation is by not allowing  their operation to become a political lobbying concern, focusing instead on  presenting facts as straightforwardly as possible and allowing individuals to  draw their own conclusions.  

 As a result of this credibility, I.I.I. has nearly 90 member insurance  organizations, for whom many of which they provide media services, and each year, the I.I.I. works on more than 3,700 news stories  on insurance and handles more than 6,000 requests for information. Major  insurance companies, including Allstate, State Farm Insurance, Nationwide,  Allstate, Travelers and USAA Worldwide, are among the industry members that  rely on I.I.I..  

 Leadership & Outreach

 Guiding the I.I.I. is Dr. Robert P. Hartwig, CPCU, who assumed the post when  former president Gordon Stewart retired in 2006. Hartwig joined the  organization in 1998 as an economist and became the group's chief economist a  decade later. Since taking on the presidency, Dr. Hartwig has focused his work  on improving understanding of key insurance issues across all industry  stakeholders including media, consumers, insurers, producers, regulators,  legislators and investors.  

 In support of these goals, the I.I.I. conducts programs, issues reports,  provides statistics, and boils down complicated industry jargon into plain  language for consumers, reporters, and others in the industry. By their own count, the I.I.I. receives over 50,000 questions from the general  public annually. To address more common concerns, they have numerous books and  pamphlets available for the general public and for companies. The titles are  clear and helpful, such as 9 Ways to Lower Your Auto Insurance Costs and  Insurance for Your House and Personal Possessions.  

 The I.I.I. also helps maintain the Washington, D.C.-based National Insurance  Consumer Helpline (800-942-4242), a telephone service that is designed to aid  any consumer with insurance needs. They are also accessible through various  social media, like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr.  

 In line with their goal of providing timely information, they have responded to  the ferocious storm seasons of recent years with numerous news releases  focusing on hurricane-related insurance issues and seminars designed to inform  consumers in high-risk storm areas on the East Coast about preparing for storm  season, making use of new media and communications in emergency action plans,  and minimizing homeowners' exposure to storm-related damage. Similar programs  are scheduled throughout the year and tailored to specific markets. Distilled  versions of these events are also made available through the I.I.I. website as  either Power Point presentations or reports viewable using Adobe Acrobat  Reader.  

 The I.I.I. also issues a monthly digest of reports from a variety of sources,  providing timely information to all those interested.  

 I.I.I. Online

 On a daily basis, anyone visiting the I.I.I. website can check out an exhaustive  collection of data, resources and links—most of which are offered in both English and Spanish. For example, a new business can find a page asking basic questions starting with  finding the right insurance agent, exactly what is covered with business owner  policies, how to file claims, the need for workers compensation insurance and  much more. Each question links the user to a page filled with the specific answers,  complete with tips and suggested links. The advice is practical and in clear, concise language. A separate glossary section helps decipher some of the terms that can bring a  policy owner to tears.  

 One of the most useful tools on the site is a directory of companies in specific  fields, making the search for qualified insurance agents an easier one.  Homeowners and insurers alike can access articles and papers written about  current issues that they would not necessarily have access to any place else—things like how your credit score impacts your insurance premiums, what types of  dogs are considered most high-risk for biting, and more.  

 The I.I.I. also offers free downloadable software from their auxiliary site,  www.knowyourstuff.org that allows homeowners and renters to take inventory of  their belongings. The website is also available as a mobile iPhone or Android  app. Users can take digital photos of their insurable items and scan receipts  for their records, which can speed the claims process and also insure that they  get a really fair settlement.  

 Another important resource that I.I.I. offers is a series of video releases on  subjects ranging from business and commercial insurance lines to workers  compensation and consumer insurance. There are also audio podcasts available in  both English and Spanish.  

 In Real Time

 Beyond the web, I.I.I. offers numerous books and pamphlets for consumers and  businesses. Their pamphlets are free if requested with a self-addressed stamped envelope. Bulk orders are available for businesses interested in sharing information. The  topics in the pamphlets go from wood stove safety to fire safety tips for  high-rise apartment owners. Several pamphlets are also available in Spanish, including one on common auto  insurance issues.  

 “We’ve also been very active in the neighborhood housing service,” Barry continues. “We have a nationwide network of organizations [in the directory] that try to  help people who need affordable housing, and help them buy insurance and  understand what they need to make their homes more insurable.”  

 As the legal system redefines liability issues or state laws change insurance  requirements, I.I.I. will remain vigilant in their pursuit of timely  information. Complex issues will be made comprehensible to the small business owner, the  homeowner or the corporate executive, taking some of the complexity out of a  necessary part of life.    

 Robert Greenberger is a freelance writer living in Connecticut. Hannah Fons,  associate editor of The Cooperator, contributed to this article.  

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