Property Claims: When to Call in an Expert
On the Scene E-Newsletter, Edition 140, June 22, 2011
For those in the property claims field, the question often arises, “What is forensic engineering and when should I consult a forensic engineer?” This article will address how forensic engineers, or experts, and those involved with property claims can help each other.
The best way to approach any claim is to know what “tools” are at your disposal in order to ensure the quickest, fairest and most efficient processing of that claim. Forensic engineering is a tool at the disposal of anyone in search of an answer to the question: “How did this accident happen and where does the liability lie?” Clearly, many accidents presented to property claims managers, adjusters and agents do not require the investigation, reconstruction, or analysis which forensic engineers offer. Unfortunately, however, too many accidents which do require the services of a forensic engineer are not recognized as such until the matter progresses to litigation, at which time it may be too late to involve an expert. Litigation costs insurance carriers millions every year both in terms of the costs associated with defending claims and also in terms of negative publicity. The media does not hesitate to carry the latest horror story about how some innocent policyholder could not get his carrier to process a claim quickly, fairly or accurately. The media rarely bothers to pursue a case where the carrier is found to be blameless and, even if it does, the public relations damage has very often already been done.
Forensic engineering allows for far more precision in uncovering the true causes or factors of an accident for at least two reasons: First, forensic engineers are objective. Their purpose is to provide investigation and analysis of accidents –pure and simple –with no agenda that could possibly influence the outcome of their investigation. There is no substitute for objectivity in a contested claim, especially where the outcome may hinge upon expert testimony. Second, forensic engineers’ expertise is highly specialized and their reputation for knowledge and accuracy is closely guarded. Like attorneys, forensic engineers obtain much of their livelihood from referrals. Superior service and a satisfied customer are priceless to both.
There are at least three reasons to consider retaining a forensic engineering company: Cost, Complexity and Consequences. What will the cost to retain the services of a forensic engineer be compared to the cost of not retaining one? If a claim appears to represent a minor exposure to a carrier in terms of policy limits but a huge exposure in terms of a lawsuit, a forensic engineer could very well save the carrier millions. If a claim involves more than a minimum amount of complexity , a forensic engineer should be consulted immediately. Sharing or denying liability in a complex claim situation is best accomplished after careful, expert and objective evaluation of the accident with the aid of forensic engineers. Here again the services of an expert are an investment that can pay off in millions. Lastly, what are the potential consequences of not consulting with an expert? Remember, those consequences include not only the claim itself but also potential litigation as well as negative publicity. Denying a claim made by multiple policy holders based on a single event such as a hurricane can have far-reaching consequences; denying such a claim without expert investigation often results in class-action lawsuits or costly settlements which can cost hundreds of millions of dollars and leave policy holders and the general public with a negative impression of the carrier, which can affect future business.
Founded in 1987 by a group of United States Naval Academy graduates and professors committed to applying science and sound principles to accidents, CED has grown to over six offices and a multitude of engineering disciplines. Even though this growth has allowed CED to diversify in such areas as forensics, engineering research, maritime studies and as a first responder to accidents, CED has always maintained the connection to the military discipline through preparation, teamwork, communication and a results focused approach. Therefore, should you require assistance in a property claim assessment, call us at (800) 780-4221 or please visit our website at www.cedtechnologies.com.