Canadian Underwriter

How pandemic could complicate claims adjusting after Alberta hail storm

June 22, 2020   by Greg Meckbach

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The COVID-19 pandemic could complicate the movement of adjusters if help is needed from south of the border to deal with the aftermath of the recent southern Alberta storm.

“I think customers by and large are recognizing that it’s complicated to bring anyone up from the United States,” said Walter Waugh, vice president of operations for Western Canada at Crawford & Company (Canada) Inc. He was commenting about the challenges of investigating claims in the Calgary area (pictured, above), which was hit June 13 by hail the size of tennis balls in some places.

The border-crossing restrictions between Canada and the United States, recently extended to July 21, were put in place this past March after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic.

Land travel between Canada and the U.S.  has been limited to trade shipments and essential workers since mid-March, when the two countries negotiated a mutual ban on discretionary trips like vacations and shopping trips, the Canadian Press reports.

As of last week, Crawford was not planning on bringing any of its American adjusters into Alberta to help investigate claims in the Calgary area.

Calgary Mayor Nenshi was quoted by the Canadian Press as estimating the storm could cause up to $1 billion in damage.

“While there might be avenues to get people from the U.S. into Canada, we want to respect the spirit and the intent of the government regulations in closing the border and so we have not activated any of our U.S. resources to travel to Canada,” said Crawford Canada’s chief client officer, Greg Smith.

The June 13 storm reportedly damaged tens of thousands of properties, including roofs, siding, windows and vehicles.

Crawford could potentially have some of its American adjusters work remotely to complete estimates of property damage.

“We have not had to do that because we are sufficiently resourced for that in Canada,” said Smith. “We have been planning for this because we know that Cat season has been coming since COVID erupted, and we are minimizing travel within Canada. But we are certainly comfortable having that travel take place with necessary precautions and personal protective equipment.”

As a result of the social distancing precautions established due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Crawford is very cautious about having adjusters travel by air.

As of last week, Crawford was only using adjusters who are already based in and licenced in Alberta to investigate claims from the June 13 storm. At the time, Crawford was not ruling out the possibility of bringing in adjusters from elsewhere in Canada if necessary. Many of Crawford Canada’s adjuster are licenced in two provinces, suggested Smith.

“If they don’t, we are able to work with the regulator to fast-track the licensing,” said Smith.

“There are people who are ready to drive into Alberta from surrounding provinces on a couple of hours’ notice and a third wave of people who are prepared to fly in from other Canadian cities,” he said.

“We like to always make sure we always have two or three levels of resources ready to go, because as customers call with demands, or if a second weather event happens somewhere else in the country, part of our obligation is to always be ready and to have a plan to help service those claims.”

While it is too early for any official industry estimate of damage from the June 13 storm, Institute for Catastrophic Loss managing director Glenn McGillivray is not ruling out the possibility of $1 billion in insured damage. ICLR does not do its own loss adjustments and Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ) has not released its numbers yet.

McGillivray did note that a 2014 hail storm that affected Airdrie (a city of about 70,000 north of Calgary) cost the industry more than $500 million. Calgary’s census metropolitan area has a population of about 1.4 million, making it the fourth largest in Canada behind Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Feature Image: The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh

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