Dispute arises over insurance



Few vehicles in the fleet are worth more than the deductible, one director said.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Are you looking for minimum coverage?
Trumbull County wasn't, but that's what it seems to have found -- three years after ditching a public insurance pool for a private company.
Since renewing a $495,000 annual insurance contract with Gallagher Pipino Inc., a division of Arthur Gallagher & amp; Co. of Chicago in May, county officials have been told their deductible for automobile coverage is $50,000.
In other words, the insurance company says that each time a county car is involved in an accident, the first $50,000 of damage is the county's problem. Of the roughly 300 cars in the county fleet, only a few trucks and pieces of heavy equipment are worth more than $50,000, said human resources director Jim Keating.
"What do I even need the insurance for, then?" said Keating. "We are under the impression that for the fleet, the deductible is $1,000. I distinctly remember that is what was said to us."
Gallagher Pipino had paid on smaller claims until the most recent policy renewal, Keating said.
Meeting set up
He said a meeting is being scheduled with the insurance company to discuss the discrepancy, which became an issue when a claim for an accident involving a county engineer's truck was refused.
Officials at the Boardman insurance office declined to comment on the dispute.
Other departments with large fleets of vehicles covered under the policy include the sheriff's department and sanitary engineer.
In 2001, Trumbull County switched from the County Risk Sharing Authority, an insurance pool in which most of Ohio's 88 counties participate, to save $20,000 a year on the premium.
Another selling point was that the Gallagher Pipino policy offered a $1,000 deductible on vehicles, as opposed to $5,000 with CORSA, Keating said.
Increase in premium
Since the switch was made, the annual premium for the Gallagher Pipino policy has increased by $151,000. The policy also covers county buildings.
"We are saving a ton of money doing it this way," said County Commissioner James Tsagaris. "If we have an accident this year, as long as it is not a couple of $100,000, we are still way ahead."
The county has had other disputes with the insurer and its underwriters. The company has not yet resolved a $1.5 million claim by the county for damage sustained at the county 911 center during flooding last year.
Commissioners threatened a lawsuit and borrowed money so the center could be repaired.
siff@vindy.com

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