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Spring Journal

Volume 32, Issue 1

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The restoration industry is constantly changing. With insurance providers adopting new e-commerce initiatives, restoration vendors also must adapt and implement e-commerce initiatives in their businesses.

Efficient Claim Processing Benefits Vendors and Customers

E-commerce and electronic claims handling are here today and will certainly be the future of the business. In the last several years, tremendous changes in the information industry have affected everyone in the property and casualty fields. Focused on claim-related business communication, insurance carriers and service providers have changed the way they acquire, store and transmit data for claim services. Electronic mail, Internet-based networks and searchable databases have brought the vision of a paperless claim to reality. Utilizing electronic communication, insurance providers and restoration vendors remain competitive in their respective markets while meeting the needs of their clients.

Performance by each party involved in the claims service effort is important to the insured. Length of response times and actions performed can make or break customers’ perceptions of how their claims are being handled. A customer’s perception that diligent effort was made to resolve their situation is important. The end result of efficient claim processing is customer retention and possible future referrals for both the insurance company and the restoration vendor. By working together on an e-commerce solution, both insurance carriers and service providers reap the benefits of reduced claim cycles, cost reduction and customer retention.

The greatest advantage in utilizing an e-commerce system is the timeliness of communication. A great deal of time is wasted while waiting for faxes, copies or return calls. Time is lost that could have been given to more pressing issues. In the electronic environment, the agent or adjuster can receive claims information, estimates and digital photos online.

Timely Response Needed for Mold Contamination Claims

Timely response is important in all areas of claims handling, but is even more important in the handling of water losses. By this time, you’ve heard all the concern about mold. Mold is an issue that is impacting everyone including the insurance carrier, the insured and those involved in the restoration industry. Interest in molds and their effects is increasing. Recent media attention has focused on molds and mold contamination through published or televised articles on the “hidden killer.” This increased knowledge on the subject of molds has placed a new emphasis on the proper handling of mold contamination. The concerns over mold must be taken seriously so that all parties involved in mold property damage are part of the solution.

Servpro Industries, Inc. recently released the research paper “Understanding Mold in the Property Restoration Industry.” By releasing this report, Servpro is not attempting to create or establish guidelines for mold remediation, but is presenting information compiled from qualified sources. The report does not put forth a “solution” to the mold issue. Rather, the goal is to provide information that will help everyone work to promote a safe, healthy environment.

The mold issue has affected the different participants in the restoration industry in different ways. Those most widely affected include industrial hygienists, indoor air quality specialists, insurance adjusters, lawyers, building occupants and, of course, the restoration vendor. Mold is changing the way these different groups do business on a day-to-day basis.

Mold claims make the insurance company’s job more challenging. The company must work cautiously to ensure the safety of all participants in a mold claim situation. However, for the most part, insurance professionals have no guidelines by which to determine if unhealthy levels of mold exist at a specific loss site. To worsen matters, if water mitigation services are not begun immediately, molds can grow as a result of excess moisture and create a health hazard.

Liability Issues Concerning Mold

The adjuster must also determine policy coverage and damages resulting from a covered loss. In some situations, the adjuster may need to determine if any molds have resulted from the loss. Liability can become an issue for the insurance company.

Lawyers on both sides of the mold issue are affected. On one hand, lawyers claim negligence on the part of one or more of the participants in a water damage or mold loss. Lawyers are looking at mold as a new area, and thus raise liability issues for everyone in the property restoration industry. On the other hand, lawyers are working to ensure and identify ways to hold down liability for their clients by ensuring everyone involved - customers, employees, vendors - remains safe in a mold situation.

As the awareness of molds and potential hazards increases, so does the need for the services of Industrial Air Quality (IAQ) professionals and Industrial Hygienists (IH). These individuals, by testing, can determine to what extent the mold types or mold spore concentrations are unusual. IAQ/IHs are valuable resources for identifying the safest way to keep occupants and others safe from concentrated mold exposure.

Education of Potential Risks is Vital

Restoration vendors are affected by the need to properly train their employees in mold procedures. Various health agencies, IAQ/IHs, and other state agencies continually propose or update procedures for the proper handling of mold contamination. Restoration vendors must put these recommendations into practice to ensure the safety of their employees and the building occupants. Timely mitigation of water damage situations is extremely important. When moisture levels in a water damage situation are greatly reduced, the possibility of mold problems is also greatly diminished.

Finally, building owners and occupants must be educated to the potential risks associated with molds and mold contamination. Building owners, managers and those in maintenance positions are all charged with maintaining a safe and healthy environment for occupants and their visitors or customers.

When mold is an issue, the health of everyone visiting a mold-contaminated job site must be protected. Everyone involved in the work process must be committed to providing a safe workplace.

Barry Fultz, a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, is responsible for the daily functions of Servpro Industries, Inc.’s in-house advertising and communications department. For more information on molds and mold remediation, refer to the research paper released by Servpro Industries, Inc. It is available online at www.servpro.com. Choose Mold Research from the menu.