investigation was launched into circumstances surrounding the West Fertilizer
explosion. I’m wondering how this could
change the public’s perception of this
unfortunate disaster in Texas.
In the weeks following the blast, various
news agencies unveiled a patchwork regulation for facilities such as West Fertilizer,
which stored hundreds of tons of the
highly-volatile chemical compound ammonium nitrate at the site. West Fertilizer,
or its parent company Adair Grain, did
not notify the Department of Homeland
Security it possessed so much ammonium
nitrate—as facilities dealing with this
quantity of the substance are required. In
fact, it seemed no one whom outsiders
might assume should have known actually
did know much about this facility site.
The Texas Department of Insurance says four state agencies with some
oversight (as in maybe, maybe not and
to what extent is not particularly known)
of facilities like West Fertilizer do not
require general liability coverage. The
Opinion | p. 11
The Insurance Council of Texas
puts insured losses for the April
17th disaster at about $100
million—a total that includes insurance payments for West Fertilizer. Following the explosion, a
spokesman for Adair Grain Inc.,
the parent company of West Fertilizer owned by the Adair family
of West, confirmed the facility has
just $1 million in liability insurance
provided by United States Fire Insurance Co., a member of Morristown, N.J.-based Crum & Forster,
which is part of the Fairfax Group.
The business, which takes in
about $4 million per year, has
no excess or umbrella coverage.
Since the blast nearly decimated
nearby homes and disrupted local
businesses, multiple companies
within the W.R. Berkley Corp.
group of insurers have filed suit.
West Fertilizer, or Adair Grain,
has not been officially deemed
negligent for the blast that
wounded so much of the town.
The facility apparently did not
tell the proper authorities that it
stored hundreds of tons of the
highly volatile chemical compound
ammonium nitrate on the site and,
by all accounts, the facility ap-
pears to have lacked sufficient risk
management measures to attempt
to protect its neighbors from a
While it’s evident West Fertil-
izer’s insurance won’t go far in
making others whole again, if
Reed is officially connected to
the explosion, the effect on the
lawsuits brought against Adair
Grain can only be speculative. The
disaster, no matter the cause, has
additionally raised some questions
regarding the state’s safety and
environmental regulations—as well
as questions regarding land-use
planning so close to a facility stor-
ing hundreds of tons of a highly-
volatile chemical compound. Adair
AN EGREGIOUS LACK OF COVERAGE
Q: How is technology changing the
way adjusters perform their jobs?
One of the recent changes we have noticed is that many insureds prefer to receive
a text from the adjuster instead of a phone
call. Also, for technology to be used effectively, more system training must be provided
for adjusters about how to use smart phones
to, for example, share digital photos.
Q: How is the role of the adjuster
changing at your company? What are
some of the issues the industry must
address in terms of the quality and
experience of adjusters?
One important change in our adjusters’
role is to relieve them of responsibility for
performing “non-value-added” tasks by us-
ing software to streamline the process and
eliminate repetitive data entry and administra-
tive tasks. This, in turn, frees them up to focus
on conducting quality claims investigations in
order to resolve our policyholders’ claims both
quickly and accurately. Product knowledge
is not only a requirement for accurate claims
settlement, but also a significant driver of cus-
tomer satisfaction. To have a staff of knowl-
edgeable adjusters, companies need to invest
For technology to be used
effectively, insurers must provide
more system training to their
adjusters, including how to use
smart phones to share photos.
in their hands-on training and education. Our
industry needs to focus on educating college
students about the opportunities and rewarding careers within the insurance industry.
Q: How has mobile technology changed
the way everyone in the claims operation goes about performing tasks?
Mobile technology has enabled our field
adjusters to have access to more information
while they are onsite during an inspection.
That kind of immediate access to information
and tools of the trade at the loss site can
enable them to resolve the claim faster and
with increased accuracy.
Q: How has mobile technology
changed case assignment,
FNOL, location, and routing?
Our FNOL process includes loss
assignment to the adjuster based
on the loss location. This then gen-
erates a text message with several
initial data elements to enable
the field adjuster to complete initial contact.
We’re in the process of installing a state-of-
the-art new claims system that will allow us
to leverage mobile technology considerably
more while in the field.
Q: What kind of feedback do you receive
concerning customer satisfaction with
the claims process, and how does this
affect claims processes?