Technology Gains Over the Years Improved Catastrophe Claims Response

By Denise Johnson | September 19, 2017

Claims handling has come a long way in 30 years. Just ask Randall Beal, manager of the field technical unit for American Modern Insurance Group. He began working in claims in the early 1980s, when his toolkit consisted of a note pad and a Polaroid camera.

According to Beal, the tools adjusters are now equipped with include laser tape measures, laptops, automated estimating systems pre-loaded with necessary data for the storm damage being adjusted and smartphones which act as a GPS recorder and a camera.

Automated estimating systems, drones, the internet, cell phones and storm tracking technology offer some examples of technology that has impacted the claims adjustment process.

This technology has changed how insurers respond to natural catastrophes, giving them the ability to respond more quickly and efficiently to claims.

“With this mobile technology and the ability to do virtual officing and have access to claims information online, you don’t have that need to have that in-person exchange of paperwork and documentation or communications with the claims office as you once did,” Beal said.

Immediate, real-time data that can be transferred from the field to home office has changed how claims are managed and aids in determining the resources and support adjusters may need in the field after a natural catastrophe.

Beal explained that as technology has been adopted by claims departments, it has led to reduced time spent documenting a file and allowed for an expansion in the territory that can be covered by an adjuster. In addition, advanced technology allows insurers to better match adjuster skillsets to certain claims.

In order to meet customer service needs, Beal said American Modern uses a variety of technology to ensure connectivity. Field adjusters are provided MiFi’s for instant access to policy, underwriting and claims databases. Adjusters utilize cell phones and instant messaging for communication with policyholders based on their needs.

Access to third party satellite data, coupled with the insurer’s ability to review its multi-line risk, allows it to accurately gauge what to expect in certain areas of the country depending on the catastrophe, said Beal.

Having worked his first hurricane in the early 1980s, Beal shared an example of how catastrophe claims handling has evolved thanks to technology advancements.

During 1983’s Hurricane Alicia, there was no satellite or mobile technology to track the storm, he said. This made it difficult to connect with agents who would show Beal and other adjusters policyholders most affected by the storm. Driving agents around town looking for hard hit properties was time-consuming, he said.

“It really doesn’t do anything to service the customer,” Beal added.

Contrast that with today, where adjusters have the preliminary information on damage before ever speaking to a policyholder.

Improved technology allows insurers, like American Modern, the ability to maintain a standby catastrophe unit that is ready at any time.

“We don’t wait for the catastrophe to come to be prepared for the big one,” said Beal.

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