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INSURANCE – DEALING WITH CLAIMS

Having a claim made against them is every pest manager and timber pest inspector’s worst nightmare. Here is some information about how the process works, should the situation arise.

Insurance claims within the pest management industry are rarely straightforward. Unlike a motor vehicle claim or house fire, where the damage is clearly evident and the cause is almost always known, pest claims are much more complex.

During his 17 years in the industry, Nathan Kerr, account manager at Wymark Insurance Brokers, has seen his fair share of claims. “Pest claims can be complicated. The issues we are faced with when assessing a termite or timber pest claim, for example, vary enormously,” explained Mr Kerr. “We are dealing with multiple parties including the claimant, the pest manager, industry experts and others.”

Managing the expectations of all parties is a critical part of the process and can often be the most difficult aspect of the claim. “Despite the dollar value of the claim, emotions are always running high,” added Mr Kerr. Pest-related claims are often prolonged due to lengthy investigations due to the time required to gather evidence, and the need to determine if indeed there has been any negligence on the part of the pest manager.

“During these times, the partnership between the pest manager and their insurance broker is really where the rubber hits the road. At all times, the broker is acting for the pest manager, and has a duty to help them through the process and protect their interests at all times.

“Essentially, it is up to the claimant to prove their loss. This is where we see industry experts enter the picture, to try and build a case and prove the pest manager has been negligent in the performance of their duties,” said Mr Kerr.

Throughout his career, Mr Kerr has seen many pest-related claims. He advises that pest managers should never think they are immune from having a claim made against them. “I have seen claims made against businesses both large and small, and ranging in quantum from a few hundred dollars up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even the most experienced operator can slip up, and at the end of the day, that is what you buy insurance for.”

In considering if there are any industry trends that result in more claims, Mr Kerr believes that across the spectrum of pest management work, the pre-purchase industry is the most highly litigious, and of most concern. “We tend to see fewer claims arising from things like spider treatments and rodent work, however claims arising from pre-purchase inspections seem to trickle in on an ongoing basis. The quantum of these claims is typically higher too.

“It’s quite the balancing act to have a claim finalised where all parties are happy with the end result,” added Mr Kerr. “Often, the claimant will think they are entitled to more compensation, whereas the pest manager does not believe the claim was even legitimate in the first place. The costs involved in investigating and defending these claims usually well exceed the actual claimed amount.”

Mr Kerr believes that good training, good mentoring, and a good attitude are all key elements of minimising risk. “Whilst the wide variety of industry tools such as moisture meters, thermal imaging equipment, termite detection dogs and the like are well relied upon, the pest manager’s fundamental pest knowledge and ‘know-how’ is just as critical.”

One thing is certain – if a claim is made against you, it pays to have an expert guiding you through the process.

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