This is an unprecedented time for us all and first and foremost we hope you and your loved ones remain safe throughout this ordeal.
We expect you are currently receiving inquiries from clients seeking guidance concerning what type of loss is covered under various policies you have procured on their behalf. We also understand providing excellent customer service is of key importance to your firm as it is ours. There is a natural tendency to want to respond quickly to questions being raised by anxious clients who are seeking immediate answers and this is a key point in time when agency employees should be empathetic while applying appropriate restraint.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of types of policies and some examples of types of claims that may arise:
- Commercial Property - Business interruption
- Entertainment - Event and production cancellation
- Private Company D&O - Bankruptcy risk
Below are some practical steps to follow for incoming queries:
- Issue a letter to all customers
Appoint “COVID-19 Managers" based upon assigned lines of business, who will have coordinating responsibility within your company for client inquiries to ensure quality control, consistency of service and that all notifications are properly and timely processed and acknowledged by insurers. Pay particular attention to reporting deadlines on “non-occurrence" trigger policies.
- Providing clear direction and a simplified process with agency contact points for COVID-19 related questions.
- Advising that insurance agents / brokers do not have any authority to make any coverage determinations and that only insurers are able to make such determinations.
- Advising your firm is prepared to provide assistance to clients by way of explaining policy requirements concerning reporting claims and/or notice of circumstances to insurers.
- It may be advisable to retain an attorney to assist you with drafting a thorough communication.
If your firm has agreed to report claims or circumstance to insurers on behalf of your clients, avoid “cherry picking" policies under which notifications of claims or circumstance will be reported. It is possible you may inadvertently fail to report the claim under a policy that may afford coverage. Instead, provide a single notification to all insurers with whom your firm has placed policies.
Ensure all Covid-19 inquiries and responses are preserved in the account file and in a master electronic file (account name, inquirer's name, date(s) of inquiry, date(s) of response, line of business, brief description date of notification to insurer, insurer name, date of acknowledgement from insurer. This will ensure your management's ability to track notifications and insurers' responses in one central location.
Direct your staff to avoid making any representations (verbal or written) concerning coverage, even if the answer appears to be obvious as only insurers are able to make coverage determinations.
Ask the client to put their inquiry in writing (via e-mail) so it can be handled expeditiously and allowing a clear paper trail. If the customer has multiple inquiries ask the customer to include all of them in a single e-mail correspondence which will form the basis for any notification to insurers.
If the client refuses to put their inquiry in writing, take detailed notes of the client's inquiries and send an email to the client asking them to confirm by return e-mail your understanding of the inquiry.
Document your file with details concerning all verbal communications.
Provide the client with a list of all policies procured by your firm on their behalf and be prepared to provide complete policies to your clients. Do not provide any additional commentary.
Explain claim notification requirements and/or notice of circumstances reporting requirements which will differ depending upon the policy and offer to assist the client to ensure their timely reporting to the insurer(s). Note: Claim reporting is a key area of E&O exposure for insurance agents and brokers, therefore tracking this activity at a management level is critical to ensure claims have been reported and acknowledged by all potentially involved insurers in order to avoid a claim for failing to report.
If reporting the claim or notice of circumstance on behalf of your client to the insurer(s), include all policy titles with corresponding policy numbers and effective dates. This will accelerate the insurers' response.
Your staff must immediately escalate all customer threats to your senior management in writing and the appropriate agency executive should contact Allianz Global & Corporate Claims in North America to discuss any specific situations where your firm's client has threatened to make a claim against the agency.
We hope you find these thoughts helpful for navigating through this unchartered territory and please know we are ready to respond to any questions you may have.
The content above has been adapted from a recent communication from Allianz regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic.