Property Insurance Claims: Negotiating Unfamiliar Terrain

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A broken water pipe released thousands of gallons of water into a facility that produces sterilization equipment for major pharmaceutical companies. While much of the manufacturing equipment was spared, the entire operation was shut down due to damaged software that controls valves for a highly volatile gas used in the sterilization process.

Insurance company experts inspected the equipment and suggested its continued use. Uncomfortable with their findings and method of testing, the company retained its own experts, who discovered failures in 90 percent of the software’s functions. When presented with these findings the insurance company authorized the replacement of all software, along with associated hardware that was also damaged. This also resulted in an extended business interruption claim because of the additional time required for restoration.

Shortly after you notify your insurance company an adjuster representing your carrier will visit you to gather facts about how the loss occurred, the magnitude of the loss and the possibility of subrogation. Once again, be careful how you answer these questions, especially if you are not well versed in property insurance and how your coverages are written. Be cooperative, but do not guess at the answers.

Keep in mind that the company adjuster’s interests do not always coincide with yours. There will be plenty of opportunity to respond to inquiries with greater specificity later, after you have had an opportunity to check your facts and evaluate your loss thoroughly.

Valuing Your Loss Properly

Once the preliminaries are over, you must assume the responsibility of measuring your own claim, using experts and consultants who work for you . Concentrate on maintaining your operations — not on preparing claim details. Leave that to the experts.

In these early stages of the claims process it is also important to establish a claim management team — with one team leader — to help organize and value the claim properly. This team should evaluate the policy and form a claim preparation strategy. All members should know their duties and responsibilities. This is the time to secure expert assistance for the team.

Once the preliminaries are over, it is imperative that you assume the responsibility of measuring your own loss, using experts and consultants who work for you.

Concentrate on Maintaining Operations

Fire struck an international mail order company specializing in sporting goods merchandise and memorabilia. The resulting damage to the main warehouse and call center was extensive, suspending the entire operation during the firm’s busiest time of the year. The fire caused heavy smoke damage to the company’s inventory, including items sold but not delivered.

The claims professionals hired to assist the company referred the insured to another firm that could handle their sales calls. Facing the possibility of losing their customer base, the insured also contacted all of their suppliers and arranged drop-shipping — to continue operations and keep clients satisfied during the recovery process.


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