State Farm Insurance has announced that as of May 1 it will begin accepting applications from West Virginia homeowners and businesses for new insurance policies. The company is the largest property and casualty insurer in West Virginia and in the U.S.
State Farm stopped accepting new applications for homeowners insurance in July 2002. It also stopped accepting new business insurance customers in the state in January 2003. From 1993 through 2003, State Farm incurred nearly $200 million in homeowners and business insurance underwriting losses in West Virginia.
Arlene Hogan, State Farm’s operations vice president for the Mid-Atlantic Zone, cited recent changes to the insurance and legal climate in West Virginia for its decision, including several new laws passed this year by the West Virginia Legislature. One of the new laws provides more flexibility in allowing insurance companies to nonrenew high-risk homeowners. Another new law establishes a “file and use” system of rate approval for commercial business insurance products.
The West Virginia Legislature also modified the doctrine of “joint and several” liability, and abolished the private cause of action for third party lawsuits against insurance companies, bringing West Virginia in line with the law in 44 other states.
Hogan acknowledged Governor Joe Manchin and the West Virginia Legislature for their leadership in passing the new laws.
“Governor Manchin is to be commended for his leadership in addressing the problems in West Virginia’s insurance market during his first year as Governor. Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin and House Speaker Bob Kiss are also to be commended for their leadership on these issues,” Hogan said. “These reforms will bring more stability to the West Virginia insurance market. This increased stability allows us to begin accepting new homeowners and business insurance customers again in West Virginia.”
State Farm Insurance has 146 independent contractor agents in West Virginia and more than 840 people are employed in State Farm claim offices and agencies throughout the state. It insures 30 percent of all the automobiles and 25 percent of all the homes in West Virginia.
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