When you think of a claims adjuster, you probably envision a professional who manages the aftermath of a loss. This is certainly an accurate view, yet it is only part of the picture. While an experienced adjuster's claims management expertise is essential throughout the loss recovery period, this professional can play an even more vital role before a loss occurs.
This is because claims specialists who take part in an innovative pre-loss planning process are making great strides in helping customers mitigate loss costs and expedite recovery well before a loss event takes place.
This preloss planning process is collaborative. It utilizes a team approach, uniting claims specialists, underwriters, risk engineers and the insured to identify exposures, promote effective loss control and lay out multiple facets of a loss management plan.
The process typically begins with engineering studies, undertaken to analyze the insured's risks. These inspections are a critical part of the pre-loss planning process. They help customers identify areas where loss prevention is most urgent. The process includes a discussion of loss control techniques and recommendations, where appropriate, that may benefit the customer by helping to reduce both the frequency and severity of losses.
Work would typically then proceed to planning the means that would be deployed to help a customer manage and recover quickly when a loss happens. By collaborating with the insured through this process, the insurance team gains an in-depth understanding of the unique needs and preferences of the client. With this knowledge, they can be best prepared to support efficient and expedited claims resolution.
Such partnering before a loss also ensures that the insured can focus its efforts on pressing issues such as expediting repairs to damaged property, mitigating loss to protect income and market base and minimizing environmental impacts. Since expectations for claims handling will be shared, a plan to avoid many potential obstacles can be developed and the groundwork laid for overcoming impediments to a speedy resolution.
Consequently, if a loss occurs, the claims team will be able to focus not on "putting out fires," but on assisting with recovery efforts and evaluating cash management issues related to a loss reinstatement, in line with customer expectations.
One final note of importance: While a preloss analysis can enable an insurer to fully understand the loss potential of an account and craft tailor-made loss prevention and recovery programs, truly effective partnering preloss can only occur if the insurer is a true specialist in the customer's business.
Only then can the insurer make a meaningful difference to a customer seeking to control and eliminate safety and operational issues. Only then will a long, satisfying relationship between the customer and the insurer take shape.
DENIS H. SMITH is a vice president of claims with Zurich Global Energy.
April 15, 2005
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