14th January 2014

Treating customers fairly: Lessons learned from the USA

A member of Adjusters International Inc., and the only UK claims expert in the USA’s National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, Harris Balcombe partner Nick Balcombe believes there are several lessons to be learned from the Best Practices operated in America.

The most crucial difference is that insurers in the States are given only a 30 day period after claims details are submitted in which to respond to the claimant on the acceptance of liability. Introducing this to the UK would reduce the anxious and often costly wait claimants experience while insurers and their adjusters and forensic experts stall procedures.

Nick also draws attention to a new Florida law that he believes would benefit UK claimants. Individuals in Florida may now work as a public adjuster (the US equivalent of an assessor) or as a company adjuster (an adjuster). Legally separating these two roles not only acknowledges the different mind-sets each requires, but ensures fairer treatment for customers.

In the UK, insurance companies can use adjusters who also operate as assessors. On the opposite side, brokers who employ adjusters to handle their client’s claim may well be compromising their chances of getting a full and fair payout. Claimants may also find themselves represented by independent adjusters ill-equipped to take on big companies with more resources.

FCA guidelines on treating customers fairly state that clients must have a clear and full understanding of the services they are being offered, and that these must be of the highest possible standard. When individuals are allowed to play both roles, not only is there the possibility of a conflict of interest, but a lack of proper expertise may mean the customer isn’t getting the best deal.

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