Elizabeth Kelleher Dwyer is legal counsel to the R.I. Department of Business Regulation Insurance Division.
Dwyer has been an attorney specializing in insurance regulatory matters in both the private and public sectors for 27 years. In addition to practicing law in Rhode Island, she has practiced law in California and Massachusetts.
Dwyer has a bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration from Providence College and received her J.D. from Pepperdine University School of Law.
PBN: The R.I. Department of Business Regulation held two hearings on rule amendments on July 8. One was on Insurance Regulation 110 on Property Insurance and Weather-Related Claims. Can you explain briefly what the change is and why the change being made at this time?
DWYER: The proposed changes to Insurance Regulation 110 are designed to address insurance issues that arise after a hurricane. These issues exist in many states and we are actively engaged in discussions with other states to coordinate the rules insurers must follow. The changes are being made at this time to implement statutory changes made by the legislature in the last session to the laws applicable to homeowners insurance.
PBN: Is Rhode Island among many other states, or just a few states, making changes in regulations related to hurricanes, like this one, about more than one hurricane in a calendar year? Is it related to what’s seen as an increasing number of severe storms due to climate change?
DWYER: A number of states are looking at the issue. Gulf Coast states have had experiences with multiple hurricanes in one calendar year. We are addressing the lessons learned from those events in case such an occurrence happens in Rhode Island.
PBN: How will the new provision related to personal lines claims due to hurricanes going to mediation affect Rhode Island insurance companies? Is there a time restriction on that mediation, as far as when it must be resolved after the hurricane or after the claim?
DWYER: The mediation provision is designed to establish a structure to resolve disputed claims in an expeditious manner. The proposed regulation provides that the department will issue timelines after a specific hurricane. We anticipate that in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane the insurers will be paying the undisputed claims and that a mediation process will be established for those claims that remain unresolved 30-to-60 days after the storm.
PBN: The other hearing was on the rule amendment to Insurance Regulation 10 on Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage. Can you briefly explain that change and why it’s being made at this time?
DWYER: Insurers have informed us that they need clarity on the sale of uninsured motorist property damage coverage and this proposal is to provide that guidance. The proposal is designed to assure that consumers are aware that they can purchase this coverage, but are not encouraged to purchase more insurance than they need. If a consumer has comprehensive and collision coverage, Uninsured Motorist Property Damage coverage is not usually necessary.
PBN: Do you anticipate changes on any other topics in the near future that Rhode Island insurers should be on the lookout for?
DWYER: We are in the process of reviewing the new insurance laws that have been enacted by the General Assembly in this session. We anticipate that some of these laws will require that we amend existing regulations and we will be getting notices out on those hearings in the near future.