The Truth About Cats and Dogs
For this month’s cover story, I spoke with Mitchell International’s Mike Mahoney about obstructions to information flow between claims and underwriting. What does a conten- tious exchange—or the absence of communication at all between the two—really cost the insurer? What internal warfare is waged in the minds of P&C professionals who may in- habit the same office space but draw upon different philosophies on managing risk and whom to hold accountable when profitability plummets and claims costs spiral out of control? Beyond undermining careers or the occasional company teambuilding retreat (“You want Tina from accounting to...catch me...Like, with her arms?) this disconnect undermines insurers’ collective fraud-fighting power and overall profitability. Once a certain level of depersonalization sets in, is there ever a point of “no return,” or conversely, hope for real unification as opposed to tepid acquiscence? As the Claims editorial team waded through environmental forensics and training mechanisms for new entrants to adjusting to procure this month’s issue, we shared some misadventures in insur- ance. One involved a man who could have passed as Clint Eastwood’s less cool brother ramming toy cars into each other and posing hypothetical collision scenarios—always a treat after hours of those ghastly road carnage videos in driving school. I recalled meeting my homeowners’ insurance agent for the first time. He seemed cordial enough but not in an artificially saccharine manner. I appreciated
that. Then again, I liked pretty much everything at that point. Mere months off the “good student”
discount, I was working in publishing—my dream—and just settling into a modest 1920s bungalow
with creaky floors whose subtle scent reminded me of hugs from Grandpa on a summer day. Intoxicated with possibilities, I daydreamed, replying by rote as the agent progressed down a checklist.
“Any jewelry or collectibles?,” he asked. Then, after a pause, he inquired if there were any “pets on the
premises.” I proceeded to gush about having just adopted a puppy a week prior.” The agent sighed,
and the intonation of his voice shifted as he furiously scribbled on a pad and asked about the breed,
weight, and so on. Palms sweaty, I prattled with the desperation of a parent pleading to have her kid
admitted to an elite prep school. “She’s smart, you know; a cousin of the Border Collie and very quiet.”
As my voice trailed off, a vision of my dog, Roxie, darting out the door and startling a postal worker, who then slipped and yelped in pain appeared. Come to think of it, the porch is due for a fresh coat
of paint, I figured. That was over 6 years ago and he did write the policy, after explaining that there
are certain breed-specific exclusions in the state. Since then, I have settled into pet parenthood and
am blessed to share laughs with neighbors who enjoy taking Roxie for walks or feeding her t-r-e-a-t-s.
Unfortunately for insurers and the houses they extend coverage to, some folks would simply lie
when asked about pets. Or, maybe they were telling the truth at the time. Lifestyles rapidly cycle,
meaning that underwriters may inadvertently assume greater risks for possibly claims to shoulder
at a later point. My life looks a lot different than it did when that carrier extended coverage to me,
and that is a good thing. What do you think about the notion of the insurer as a “life partner,” and
not simply an impersonal provider of services or products deemed mandatory? Risks look much differently when unraveling before our eyes. Isn’t separating the earnest from the dishonest, fact from
fiction, worth a little awkwardness and extra effort? Email me. Let me know what you think. I’d love
for us to connect.
the insurer’s fight
percentages to denote
liability in fatal collisions,
there is room to falter.
Mark Fay tackles improving
adjuster confidence in
regard to comparative
negligence on page 40.
Christina bramlet, editor in Chief