Risk Management

Don’t Wait For a Loss. Ask Your Insurer These 5 Critical Questions Today

Understanding the claims handling process better prepares your organization to bounce back from a loss.
By: | June 27, 2018 • 4 min read

Insurance may be the only product businesses buy hoping to never use, despite how much work goes into the transaction process. Underwriters and buyers are focused on understanding the risks accurately, tightening up policy wording and pricing appropriately — a process requiring a lot of data-sharing and negotiation.


Looking ahead to a potential claim seems secondary when all parties are absorbed in binding coverage.

But when that unfortunate event does happen, simply having a policy in place may not be enough if companies and their carriers haven’t laid the groundwork to trigger coverage and kickstart their claim response.

“On the day you are purchasing your insurance policy, it pays to remember what you’re really buying. In the world of insurance, claims is the product,” said David Crowe, Senior Vice President, Head of Global Claims, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance. “Optimizing claims handling should be on everyone’s agenda from day one.”

Crowe identified five critical questions you should ask your insurer before a loss – even during the underwriting process — to ensure the best possible claims response that meets the expectations of all parties.

1. Which insurer will lead my claim?

Multiple insurers may be involved in property programs. If you suffer a loss triggering that policy, which carrier(s) will take the lead in administering the claim?

David Crowe, Senior Vice President, Head of Global Claims, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance

This dictates who to contact both to report the claim and for regular updates about claim status. Ideally, the insured and market can agree up front on a lead carrier who will coordinate the market response to a claim.

“The lead adjuster will also coordinate coverage with the market participants to ensure a streamlined payment process,” Crowe said. “Choosing your leader ahead of time and having a single point of contact helps to eliminate individual carrier coordination and potential disputes down the road and keeps a claim moving forward smoothly.”

2. Who are the people on my claims team?

Insureds should know their claims team personally from the time they sign a contract.

Right after a loss is not when a risk manager should be rifling through files trying to locate the name of their contact and introducing themselves for the first time.

“Claims handling is about people serving people. When you begin to establish a rapport with your claims handlers during face-to-face underwriting meetings, it will serve you well when you need to team up to tackle a loss,” Crowe said. “Building a relationship from day one establishes trust, which provides peace of mind and makes communication easier during a claim.”

“The sooner you get to know your adjusters, the better.”

3. What specific steps should I take to report a loss?

Policies typically require loss details to be reported within specific timeframes or through specific channels. Failure to follow these guidelines could result in denial of coverage.

During initial meetings to iron out policy details, “insurers can share their specific claim service standards, and the insured can likewise share any specific claims handling instructions — which should be documented and made easily accessible to all at a moment’s notice,” Crowe said.

“Knowing the ‘what, who and when’ of loss reporting is fundamental, but it merits significant focus upfront.”

Solidifying these procedures ahead of time allows companies to move quickly after a loss, which could mitigate other related issues like, for example, business interruption in the case of severe property damage, or reputational damage after a legal incident.

4. I had a bad claims experience in the past. How can I avoid a repeat?

Past disappointing claims outcomes should serve as learning experiences. Perhaps a denied claim revealed coverage gaps or ambiguous policy wordings that were not discovered until it was too late. These issues should be raised with underwriters and claims managers as early as possible to avoid repeating past mistakes.

“For example, we had an insured’s general counsel share the details of a contentious claim they faced with a previous insurer. Our D&O claims leader and underwriter were able to clarify their policy wording to eliminate a grey area that concerned the customer. When a similar loss arose later, it resulted in a much more favorable outcome,” Crowe said.

5. What vendors, contractors and defense counsel will I work with?

Just as risk managers should know who to contact to report a loss, they should also know which preferred vendors will help them deal with its aftermath.


Carriers can often offer names of contractors they have worked with for the insured to conduct its own due diligence. Choosing these vendors and establishing a relationship before a loss occurs may also provide an opportunity to lock in rates or take advantage of discounts.

“Remediation contractors, for example, are in high demand after a natural catastrophe and rates can rise significantly. Having a pre-existing relationship with a local contractor and already-agreed-upon pricing may give your company a leg up over other facilities scrambling for their services,” Crowe said.

Asking the right questions before a loss can go along way to easing and optimizing resolution after a loss.

“Risk managers should not hesitate to ask to meet with a carrier’s claims team during underwriting,” he said. “It’s the opportune time to understand who stands behind the promise being made in your policy and exactly how they will respond when that claim comes in the door.” &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

The Profession

Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?


Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?


A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]