Choosing the Right Claims Tools for Catastrophe Adjusting Proves Important

August 29, 2005

Hurricane season or other major catastrophes are often anticipated with angst not only by residents in affected areas but also by insurance companies and their partners.

Being prepared for storms and catastrophes can help adjusters focus on the most important concerns in the aftermath of a catastrophe – settling insurance claims to give insureds some sense of relief despite the traumatic events they have experienced.

As an adjuster, the most important preparation for the increased activity and work associated with storms or catastrophes is to choose the right field estimating tool. For insurance companies and adjustment firms, that also means choosing the right claims management system. This choice is fundamental to the ability to scope, estimate, assign, manage and settle losses quickly and fairly during one of the most stressful times for adjusters and policyholders.

While there are many estimating software choices, the right choice is a product that supports the entire claims process while supporting insurance company best practices. Key features to look for are ease of use, real-time communications through the entire claims cycle, and well-researched and industry-accepted material and labor cost data.

Make it easy
Everyone knows that the right estimating application is easy to use so adjusters can efficiently process the overwhelming numbers of claims that are typical after major catastrophes.

But “easy to use” should mean more than just user-friendly input and estimating. It should also mean the type of support the vendor provides when it’s really needed, including:

• Complete application training;
• On-site training and technical support during storms and catastrophes;
• Fast access to current cost databases;
• Free technical support: phone and online.

Real-time, two way communication
The right estimating solution will provide extremely reliable communication between adjusters and insurance company claims systems. This means real-time, two-way communication that supports the entire claims process including full and partial assignments, estimating, photographs and inventories, reports, statistical analysis, invoicing, and even electronic payment.

The right field estimating tools connect with existing claims management systems so managers can get a real-time snapshot of the status of a single claim or the whole portfolio. This helps managers immediately find, track and strategically attack issues such as staffing levels, file approvals, and adherence to best practices. Cycle time is reduced, claims are settled promptly, and insureds and state regulators are satisfied.

Data drives fair and accurate settlements
Cycle time is important, but so are estimates that are accepted by both carriers and contractors. The right claims tool provides fair and accurate settlements based on data researched locally in rural as well as metropolitan areas. Labor rates, material and equipment cost changes are independent of each other, reflecting actual prices in local markets. Estimates are fair and accurate because data is continuously updated through ongoing research, including demand-surge pricing on-site, and is continuously validated through file reviews and user feedback. And, finally, the right claims tool continues to evolve and improve as user needs and technology evolves and improves.

Benefits from the right choice
Carriers and adjusters who choose the right estimating application are prepared to handle almost anything a storm or catastrophe might throw at them. Ease of use speeds up cycle time, which is essential to keep abreast of increased case loads. Real-time, two way communication increases the ability manages claims from assignment to settlement; and locally-researched, validated data assures that every claim is settled fairly, consistently, and accurately.

One additional benefit to independent adjusters is that carriers recognize the valuable role they can play during storms or catastrophes and as regular members of their claims team.

Remember, quality claims estimating is of the utmost importance, especially during a catastrophe. Choose your tools wisely.

Jonathan Kost is vice president of claims for Marshall & Swift/Boeckh. For more information, visit .

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