Using Drones for Claims Investigations

 

The insurance claims industry has been publishing articles claiming to increase the use of drones for investigating property claims. Travelers Insurance Company was recently highlighted in an article in Insurance Journal magazine titled “Travelers’ Drone Program is Changing the Way its Claims Reps Do Business”, dated May 11, 2017.  In the article, Travelers is teaching claims adjusters to use drones to inspect property instead of physically going to the property and doing the inspection.  Where roofs are concerned, there is an obvious safety benefit.  However, the move is to eliminate sending an adjuster altogether thereby eliminating the expense of travel and on-site adjusting time not to mention is reduction in claim handling time.  What about auto claims and water damage claims and fire claims?  If a drone can be used to assess the damage without sending an adjuster to the scene, then the cost savings to the carrier will be very beneficial.  However, whatever cannot be seen by an adjuster now will not be seen by a drone either.  Hidden damage in roofs, vehicles or structures will present the same problem that it does today.  That is, what is not viewable and is not accounted for will have to examined and dealt with when the damage is discovered.  This further implies that roofers will be submitting estimates for additional work.  Similarly, auto mechanics and body shops will be submitting estimates for additional work when hidden damage is brought to light in their respective jobs.  Building contractors will be doing the same thing when they discover problems in structures that will have to be addressed before the building is ready to be reoccupied.  As tempting as drone technology is to insurance carriers; there are restrictions regarding flight over certain areas.  The FAA prohibits flight over certain populated areas and as a matter of safety, they are restricted within a certain distance from airports.  There are also concerns of privacy and whether or not a carrier might be spying on a customer.  Furthermore, can the photographic data be used to intentionally deny coverage to a customer as well as support a claim? Reports of carriers intentionally denying or shorting customers on their settlements is not unheard of and will continue.  Drone technology will facilitate this process.  After all is said and done, drone technology still has a ways to go before it is fully accepted as a common way of doing business.

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About rjhillconsulting
R.J. Hill Consulting is a forensic consulting engineering firm that specializes in performing failure investigations for attorneys and insurance companies. Mr. R.J. Hill is a registered professional (mechanical) engineer with over 37 years of experience, 33 years in private practice. Please visit www.rjhill.com to see the kinds of forensic investigations that Mr. Hill performs.

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