Claims Commandments to be Honored by All Claims Professionals
A video presenting two of the fifteen claims commandments that should be followed and implemented by every claims adjuster, public insurance adjuster, insurance claims executive, insurance claims counsel or insurance coverage counsel. View the video at https://youtu.be/kknbIanrz3A
Claims Commandment III — Thou Shall Communicate Often
Insurance claims is a service business. The claims person provides a service to the insured and the insurer. Communication is essential to providing the service promised by the insurance policy.
To fulfill Commandment III the claims person must communicate promptly and often with the insured, the claimant and the insured (if a third party claim) and counsel for each. In doing so the claims person establishes a rapport with the insured and/or claimant and will make resolution of the claim easier. No claims person should ever misrepresent or conceal benefits, coverages, time limits or other provisions of the policy from the insured or the claimant.
Claims Commandment IV – Thou Shall Understand The Policy
Insurance policies are contracts. To understand insurance claims the adjuster must understand how all contracts, and specifically insurance contracts, are interpreted. Rules of contract interpretation have developed over the last 300 years and are applied by courts with the intent to fulfill the desires of all parties to the contract.
People and judges who are not conversant in insurance and the interpretation of insurance contracts believe that the insurance policy is difficult to read and understand.
Insurers, and insurance claims professionals, faced with a need to understand and apply the wording of a policy of insurance must now conduct their investigation to include:
- a detailed investigation of the facts of the loss and policy acquisition;
- a determination of the expectations of the insured and the insurer at the time the policy was acquired;
- a determination of the purposes for which the policy was acquired; and
- an examination of all communications between the insurer and the insured or their representatives.
To do so the insurer must at least conduct a detailed interview of the insured, the claimants, the brokers, and the underwriters. When there is a dispute over the meaning of common terms, the court will often find it necessary to inform upon the understanding of persons in the particular business insured so that the judge must consult the opinions of experts. The expert testimony can be helpful in establishing that the insured’s or the insurer’s interpretation of the term a
t issue is different from that advanced by the other was reasonable. In California, this may be sufficient for a party to prevail because although insureds are treated differently so that even if [the insurer’s] interpretation is considered reasonable, it would still not prevail, for in order to do so it would have to establish that its interpretation is the only reasonable one.
An insurance claims professional can never make, or recommend, a decision with regard to an insurance claim until he or she has read the entire policy as it relates to a loss, interpret the policy wordings in accordance with the rules of interpretation stated above, conduct a complete and thorough investigation to determine the reasonable expectations of the insured, and if unable to make a decision seek the advice of competent coverage counsel.
© 2020 – Barry Zalma
This article, and all of the blog posts on this site, digest and summarize cases published by courts of the various states and the United States. The court decisions have been modified from the actual language of the court decisions, were condensed for ease of reading, and convey the opinions of the author regarding each case.
Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 52 years in the insurance business. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.
Over the last 52 years Barry Zalma has dedicated his life to insurance, insurance claims and the need to defeat insurance fraud. He has created the following library of books and other materials to make it possible for insurers and their claims staff to become insurance claims professionals.