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A Wake Up Call for Claim Management 2000
The recent Kent, Sussex floods and following clean up, offered a very public view of the Good, Bad, & the Ugly involved. Claims handling is normally a very private and confidential affair. The insured generally experiencing a once in a lifetime disaster event, usually have no benchmark to gauge service or results. Equally insurers or adjusters depend on their preferred contractors to undertake cost effective renovation and provide professional judgment. The widespread damage in this event highlighted to even the inexperienced, the vast differences in safety, customer care, restoration protocol and settlement cost. From the relatively few sites visited, this overview may reflect serious shortfalls in contractors damage, restoration and mitigation techniques.

Case 1 Domestic Property

Floodwater had covered ground floor areas. Surveyors appointed at insurers request, recommended timber floor replacement, as boards were dry but distorted. Cavity walls were said to be dry as they were filled with non-absorbent fiberglass. Builders arrived and proposed to simply screed the floor and cover with hardboard. The insured concerned at conflicting advice and neighbour’s experience requested independent appraisal.

Conclusion

The floor was swabbed and instant computer analysis indicated substantial contamination present. Although dry, cupped floorboards indicated high moisture content to underside. Ultrasonic measurement confirmed this. Fiberglass is hydrophobic & will collapse. Plasterboard is hydrophilic, cavities provide ideal conditions for mould, odour etc. Simple cleaning, sanitation, & controlled drying recommended with minor building work as opposed to the builders proposed expensive and doomed to failure renovation suggestions.

Case 2 Engineering Supplies Warehouse

The building was submerged to four feet, telephone assessment by the loss adjuster confirmed underinsurance by 10%. The insured embarked on a self help regime of salvage and clean up. Independent advice was sought to mitigate the claim. Salvage, clean up & drying program was proposed, specialist contractors were approached and a reserve of £15,000 was quoted for works specified. The adjuster who had not visited site, requested two further quotes and eventually installed his own preferred contractors who had been too busy to attend site a week previously, although dehumidifiers were delivered electric power was not available, after covering vital machinery with plastic, they left it to sweat and corrode. Site conditions quickly deteriorated as humidity levels rose. The contractors advised all stock would be removed for eventual salvage disposal.

Conclusion

The insured closed the warehouse, conditions quickly worsened with previously unaffected stock lost, from secondary damage. The specialist, low value stock salvage, was unlikely to cover the collection and disposal cost. The insured believes lack of action has cost his insurers over 100,000 pounds unnecessarily, more importantly to the insured, he has been forced to close.

Case 3 Document Store

Ground floor flooded to depth of 12 inches affecting stored books & records, which were removed for restoration. Six refrigerant dehumidifiers were installed badly in a 15,000 sq ft facility. Heating was seen as priority for staff comfort.

Conclusion

Increased heating raised both relative and specific humidity causing uncontrolled evaporation which was absorbed by previously unaffected books. Totally unnecessary and expensive document restoration was required.

The Good

Insurers, adjusters, contractors & the insured, who is capable of self-help and mitigation. Fast, effective response & control measures. Capable of making decisions quickly, based on experience, competent knowledge and understanding.

The Bad

Unqualified, incompetent or underpaid. The bean counters dream, accepting higher workload in return for lower pay? Unable to accept upfront spending will control primary damage and mitigate or eliminate secondary damage.

The Ugly

Due to adjusters concern at expensive quotes, independent appraisal to scope works was requested. An appointment was made and two minutes into my survey a loss assessor appeared, not a professional but an opportunist intent on elevating the flood restoration into a total refurbishment and renovation for his client and personal benefit. Threats of inspection by chartered surveyors, environmental health officers, English Heritage, consequential loss, B.I. claims, all directed at me, if, his totally unwarranted proposals were not followed. His argument and rational was most convincing, and most contractors would have succumbed however as a independent appraiser with the support of a experienced and confident adjuster the rouse failed.

Summary

Damage restoration science has moved into the 21st century! Unfortunately the industry has followed the route of uniformity, standardisation and cost cutting exercises in place of excellence. International disaster recovery specialist generally believes the UK restoration industry is unique in its incompetent approach. Adjusters and insurers are left with few alternatives and the recent flooding has publicly exposed the wide variation of service levels. Statements from the Environment Agency, days after the event, that flood water was contaminated was a surprise to many, except the competent professionals. Health care advice was often inadequate and misleading. The press and public will not be slow in picking up disparity and poor service levels. Professional restoration can and does save on renovation, disruption and replacement costs.

The Author is Jeff Charlton

Please note this is the original and perspectives may have changed slightly

Same name 5 years on. 08700 789 999.
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