Document Your Actions In Every Claim

By Christopher E. Carter, P.E.

“I’m gonna fly out there to Aurora, drive to your office, find your tiny little cubicle, and kick your ass!” That was the response I got once when I tried to explain to a Georgia home owner why his house wasn’t considered structurally unsafe.

At the time, I was working in the claims department of a 10-year structural warranty company, and an adjustor had given me the unsavory task of calling this guy and explaining why his claim wasn’t covered. I guess you could call the home owner’s response “claim rage.” Nonetheless, I recorded his quote in something called an activity log, which was part of the claim file.

An activity log, or diary, is an invaluable tool that every warranty rep should use to document claim activities. It’s a simple form, usually with just three columns, that accumulates on the left side of a file jacket. The first column records the date. The second (largest) column documents the activity. The third column lists the initials of the person making the entry.

The idea of such a log is to make a chronological record of all claim happenings. If an engineer is asked to look at a house, that activity is recorded in the log. If a fax or email is sent, it’s also recorded. If a message is left on a home owner’s voice mail, it’s recorded. If the home owner calls back and threatens your life, it’s recorded.

Here’s my point: Practice effective claim file communications. It’s not enough to just throw relevant documents in the file. Often in lawsuits, the discovery process will reveal numerous logistical and operational blanks between document dates. That’s where opposing counsel my exploit speculation and misperception.

Filling in the blanks with an activity log will give you an additional exhibit in a potential lawsuit. By carefully documenting your actions in every claim, you will get to make your case before there even is a case. If you can imagine yourself in an interrogation room having a two-way mirror with a jury of your peers on the other side, you have established the correct environment for claim file handling.

Discovery is reality. Everything you say, do, write, and think as part of your everyday work on a claim is discoverable. (Even this column is discoverable, and may be used against me someday!)

So warranty reps, do yourselves and your companies a favor: document your claim files like they’ll be subject to an IRS audit. That way, when Bubba comes a knockin’, they’ll at least know why it happened.