Safe and Secure?
Field adjusting in the time of COVID-19
By Steve Powell
Field adjusting can be a tricky business—professionals are often walking into unfamiliar environments with a number of uncertain variables that they are unable to fully prepare for. Many claims professionals have tried-and-true protocols and processes they follow when out in the field in order to keep themselves safe and have the most successful visit possible. However, many of these processes have been disrupted due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, complicating matters. For visits in which the in-person presence of an adjuster is essential, claims professionals must take a number of extended precautions to ensure the safety of everyone on the scene.
Prior to any visit, claims professionals should be sure to conduct a pre-visitation health and safety survey. Use a pre-approved and exhaustive questionnaire to determine if the claimants have any potential concerns that could stop you from completing the on-site inspection safely. Determine whether the claimants themselves have been exposed, of course, but don’t stop there. Be sure to ask whether they have been around someone else who was potentially exposed or is currently symptomatic, if they or anyone around them has traveled to a virus hot spot, and if they are consistently practicing social distancing and are aware of current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) protocols, and other guidelines from leading health organizations.
Claims professionals should also take stock of their own potential concerns by asking themselves the same questions they are asking the people they are meeting onsite. If they fear that they have potentially been exposed, whether directly or indirectly, then they should take the cautious route and not attend the site visit. An abundance of caution is needed in these situations; it is better to be safe than risk spreading COVID-19.
Additionally, claims professionals should be aware of their own risk factors. If they are at a higher risk due to preexisting conditions, age, or do not think they will be able to conduct a site visit with a reasonable expectation of safety, then they should err on the side of caution and let their organizations know that they are not comfortable making the visit. If the option is available, switch to remotely reviewing claims until the time comes where everyone feels comfortable going back into the field.
Once field claims professionals have determined that they are comfortable making site visits, it’s important to ensure that they take the proper steps to have a safe and productive evaluation onsite.
Upon arrival, they should conduct an onsite health and safety survey, take stock of their surroundings, and run a secondary evaluation of the health and status of those with whom they are interacting. This may seem repetitive, but given the rapidly shifting understanding of the coronavirus, it is better to ensure safety at every step. At the site, claims professionals should use an abundance of situational awareness and being aware of the people, conditions, and environment they are in.
To further ensure their safety and of those around them, as well as to be able to conduct a more complete evaluation of the site, claims professionals should bring with them a supply of personal protective equipment. This may include disposable gloves, work gloves, masks, protective clothing, goggles, and other practical tools that allow them to limit their risk of exposure. They should use the protective equipment that is applicable to each situation and the specific hazards or risks on the site they are evaluating. Everyone should stay up to date with and follow all guidelines by the recommended authorities, especially since it is changing day to day.
Alongside using the proper equipment, field claims professionals should be sure to continue following basic health recommendations as best they can. That includes maintaining a minimum of six-foot social distance from any other individual while inspecting property loss sites in person. Follow common-sense procedures like not touching your face and washing your hands or changing gloves regularly. If someone appears to be visibly sick upon arrival, field claims professionals should remove themselves from the situation and take the proper precautions after leaving the site. This is relevant if at any point during a site visit there is reason to believe a claims professional was exposed to COVID-19. Supervisors should be informed immediately, and the field claims professional should isolate as necessary.
The Future of Claims
The coronavirus outbreak has had an impact on nearly every industry, and claims is no exception. Business is being disrupted and creative solutions are being tested in order to continue some semblance of normal operations. Although the longer-lasting effects remain to be seen, the question must be asked: Is there the possibility that this will fundamentally change the way loss adjusting and field services for claims are performed?
At this time, the most probable answer to this question seems to be a mix of “yes” and “no.” While some of these changes are likely to have some long lasting, and possibly permanent, effects on the property claims services industry, it is doubtful that everything will change wholesale.
Some of the most talked-about tools being used during this time are related to remote field adjusting. While not an entirely new concept, remote field adjusting tools have exploded in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some remote field adjusting tools are simple means of capturing photos and some scope of the loss without physically visiting the site. Other remote field adjusting services and remote investigation services are more sophisticated and utilize two-way video collaboration technology that is embedded with artificial intelligence and augmented reality, allowing claims professionals to gather essential claims data, including photographs, video, and measurements. You get what you pay for when it comes to the different technologies. These technologies are the latest in personal protection that allow field claims professionals to collaborate without congregating. These could be especially useful not only in the wake of the virus outbreak, but also in situations where it is valuable for the field adjuster to collaborate with someone remotely, whether it’s an insured, expert, attorney, witness, or other party to the claim.
However, this is not a one-size-fits-all solution. In situations where it is not safe to let insureds go into an environment, such as one where the structural stability of the building is unknown, it would be inappropriate to use remote field adjusting solutions. Also, completeness of data gathering is subject to relying on someone who is not a trained professional to show the adjuster the totality of loss. If left unchecked, a complete reliance on remote field-adjusting solutions may lead to an increase in supplements and indemnity due to things being missed that would have been caught during an in-person visit. Additionally, there is bound to be a sample of the population who is not comfortable with the processes.
No matter what the future holds for claims after this pandemic ceases, it is still important to be safe in the now. Keeping up with recommendations from top health authorities, moving forward with an abundance of caution, and using common sense will all assist claims professional in staying safe even during these uncertain times.