Digital claims investments pay off in active hurricane season

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The insurance claims technologies industry has been developing and introducing a dizzying and impressive array of solutions for many years but some of these – while garnering much media coverage and conference discussion – have seen incremental adoption at best. Many of them just seemed like solutions looking for problems.

However, Hurricane Harvey – and now Irma – will likely be remembered as a watershed (pun not intended) moment, when these technologies were validated and came of age.

Since 1992, when Hurricane Andrew, the last Category 5 Atlantic hurricane and the most destructive hurricane to ever to strike Florida and the costliest hurricane to make landfall anywhere in the United States until it was surpassed by Katrina in 2005, technologies have evolved in many ways to the benefit of residents, policyholders and insurers.

Well before the initial onslaught of Harvey, and now Irma, was felt, residents and emergency management agencies were given almost a full week of notice due to improved and more accurate weather forecasting and almost universal mobile connectivity among consumers. Text messages with warnings and valuable advice was distributed easily and quickly to millions of people simultaneously. Countless potential injuries and fatalities were minimized when sufficient time enabled well planned and orderly sheltering and evacuations. Further, precious first responder resources were conserved for the remaining emergencies.

Advance notice also enabled insurance companies to deploy human and technology assets to the strike zones to be in place and ready to respond during, and most importantly, after the event. Aerial images of covered property from both drones and fixed wing aircraft before and after the event are invaluable for assessing the pre-event condition, potential number, extent of damage and legitimacy of property claims.

As for dealing with the aftermath of these claims catastrophes, the list of new claims technologies that proved their value during and after Harvey, and will do so with Irma, include:

· Aerial imagery and drones. These have made property claims evaluation not only faster and more accurate but much safer for field appraisers who would formerly have to climb up on wet and broken roof structures and generated a variety of imagery and video, including thermal, infrared, LIDAR, radar, mapped video and immersive 3D visualization and measurements
· Live video collaboration, including on demand live streaming video and high resolution platforms on smartphones and on drones are in use by carrier staff as well as third party adjusters enabling more precise underwriting risk, faster claim time, enhanced damage estimate accuracy and decision making all while reducing indemnity and insurance loss adjustment expenses
· Visual intelligence enabling carriers to gather real-time, actionable information to advance claims while also preserving life safety and business operations.
· Customer claims self-service and remote damage assessment is being enabled by mobile photo uploads leading to faster shorter claim cycles and conserving field staff bandwidth for contents and other property claims. At least one industry provider of contents claim management software, inventory and valuation services and payments solutions has made available at no charge to victims of Harvey and Irma their online contents inventory creation tools to assist citizens with the difficult task of inventorying their lost or damaged personal property
· Highly accurate 3D measurement technologies based strictly on these same photo images and videos to generate the information necessary to accurately and quickly value and pay claims without the need for costly onsite inspections
· More precise geocoded, ground level weather and atmospheric condition data will enable more accurate assessment of the cause of claims for more accurate coverage and liability decisions and the identification of valuable subrogation opportunities
· Crowdsourcing technologies for claims inspection services will be heavily utilized by carriers and TPAs to take advantage of local residents who are available for these tasks, compressing claims response and cycle times and saving valuable adjusting resources who may have difficulty getting into some of the affected areas
· Wearables are supplementing traditional and crowdsourced claims inspection to provide expert adjusters located thousands of miles away with real time on-site views of damaged property
· Real-time electronic claims payments and advances are being sent to policyholder bank accounts and to smartphones, replacing paper drafts and checks and allowing hurricane victims to pay for emergency housing and supplies

All of these “virtual inspection” technologies are deterring the exaggerated and outright fraudulent claims that invariably surface in such chaotic conditions and prevent claims payout before the fact, not after it when it is so much more difficult to recover. While Harvey and Irma will inflict extremely painful losses on people, infrastructure and business in this unfortunate string of record breaking natural disasters, and as hard as it may to believe right now, things could have been even worse and we have these new claims technologies to thank – now and well into the future – as we prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

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