I hope your Labor Day weekend was a safe and enjoyable one. It capped off a busy month for me in terms of travel and time out of the office. I finished up my travels in August by spending a few days in Nashville at a conference put on by one of my clients. In addition to enjoying the craziness of the tourists who come to Nashville to cruise the shops, bars, and restaurants along lower Broadway, I was able to listen to an impressive line up of speakers talk about current issues facing the insurance industry. They included people who are well known in the insurance industry, Bill Wilson and Steve Anderson, and people I had not heard of before.
Steve Anderson talked about the challenges created for the insurance industry by the fast pace of technological change. This has led to the sharing economy (Uber, Airbnb) and other developments that have created new risks that are not completely addressed by existing insurance coverages. The Agents Council for Technology has developed what it calls Risk Advisories on many aspects of our ever changing world. Each advisory focuses on a specific topic (e.g., cyber security, sharing economy, work from home, internet of things, drones) and discusses what the risks are, why they are important, the implications for the insurance industry, and what steps agents and companies should take to deal with the issues raised.
With respect to the sharing economy, Mr. Anderson made the point that so many things are now being shared every agent should ask their customers if they are participating in any way in that economy. Failing to do so may leave the customer with an exposure that could have been covered if the agent had known what their customer was doing. It is also imperative for agents to be aware of the changes their carriers are making to their policies to exclude the type of risks created by technological change and to notify their customers of any such changes that affect the policies sold to them. Not providing customers with the proper insurance coverage has been the most prevalent E&O claim over the past 50 years. If these types of actions are not taken by agents, that trend is likely to continue.
Bill Wilson’s presentation was about resolving claims disputes. He has a blog on which he addresses this and many other topics of interest to insurance agents and agencies. His main point was to read the policy in question and base your argument for coverage on the language of the policy. This should be done as soon as possible after a claim is made to head off any dispute that may arise. The emphasis should be on the language of the policy, no matter how illogical the outcome may sound, because that is the document that governs the coverage provided. Many states have laws that govern how an insurance company must properly document a denial of coverage. Agents should be familiar with the applicable law in this area (Georgia’s law is found in O.C.G.A. Section 33-39-11), to make sure all their customers’ rights have been given them.
Mr. Wilson gave some examples of coverage disputes he had been involved in and how he had managed to resolve them using the above principles. They involved everyday claims situations that most agents may experience at one time or another. He has written a book, “When Words Collide”, that contain these and many more examples, which may be of use to agents. It can be ordered from Amazon.