Canadian Underwriter

How the pandemic affects this claims adjuster’s property inspections

June 10, 2020   by Greg Meckbach

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Despite the unprecedented closures and precautions arising from the ongoing pandemic, claims adjusters continue to inspect properties affected by disasters.

“With exterior damages, social distancing has done nothing to affect [claims investigations] other than requiring us to stay a safe distance from the property owner or the insured,” Skip McHardy, executive vice president of Toronto-based CRU Group, said in a recent interview.

“If we are required to do an inspection of damages inside the building, what we have done is increased our communications techniques via phone, email or text so that we are communicating with that insured or property owner and setting up a time that we can come in and do our inspection without them right next to us,” said McHardy.

Shortly after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, provincial authorities across Canada moved quickly to impose a variety of restrictions and mandated closures.

The Ontario government is advising businesses to take a variety of precautions, such as cleaning items that are touched regularly, staying two metres or more apart while working, using boot sanitizing trays and wearing gloves when using equipment.

At CRU Group, staff must wear masks and gloves while inspecting property claims, McHardy told Canadian Underwriter.  CRU — which also owns Maltman Group International and The Academy of Insurance Adjusting — provides loss adjusting and claims management services from offices in Canada and the United States. The company “had no issue at all” having enough personal protective equipment on-hand because it has a division that handles environmental claims, said McHardy.

CRU Group is able to handle interior inspections but takes additional precautions because of the pandemic.

“We may be upstairs while [the client is] downstairs — or vice versa — but we are wearing [personal protective equipment] for all of those inspections,” said McHardy. CRU inspectors are also wearing PPE when they come into close proximity to an insured or property owner.

CRU is also placing an emphasis on communicating by cellphone, text or email where feasible.

Canada-wide, weather-related disasters are causing — or threatening to cause — damage to properties that will need to be inspected by claims adjusters.

In northern Alberta for example, thousands of properties were affected the last week of April by flooding. Estimated insured losses from that disaster were more than $228 million, reports Insurance Bureau of Canada, quoting data gathered by Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ). At the time, CatIQ reported that commercial properties took the most of the damage, with some of the Fort McMurray flood losses hitting homes and vehicles.

More recently, a local state of emergency was declared Tuesday in the Rural Municipality of Stuartburn in southeastern Manitoba, the Canadian Press reported. The area was hit by 155 mm of rain, and covered most roads running north to south in Stuartburn, said David Kiansky, according to CP.

In Atlantic Canada, a wildfire the last weekend of May east of Halifax resulted in a temporary evacuation of 1,000 residents, CP reported at the time. At the end of May, provincial fire and air crews were fighting fires in Frankville in Antigonish County, near Alton Road in the Springfield area of Kings County, and near Argyle in Yarmouth County.

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