Submitting After-Hours Claims
September 5, 2022
We’re nearing the end of the holiday season, when insurers often deal with an increase in after-hours claims. In addition, we see a spike in cases involving cooking accidents, fireplaces, candles and decorations, and overloaded electrical outlets every year. Therefore, adjusters need to be prepared for any eventuality and be able to act quickly to preserve evidence properly.
After-hours claims: 3 Do’s, and 1 Don’t
Do: Always give specific and explicit instructions to contractors
Typically, contractors are the first responders to the incident, eager to begin the repair process. We don’t recommend that from the get-go, especially if you have coverage issues, liability exposure, or subrogation potential. It is outside the scope of contractors to assess these factors. Adjusters must give instructions:
- Board up or fence up the scene and ensure no one’s going in or out. Tell your insured to keep out of the area of loss as much as possible if it’s a smaller claim. Poor security of a scene could affect your subrogation potential.
- Secure the debris piles by covering them with tarps.
- Do not alter the electrical panel. In fire cases, one of the first things we do is examine the electrical panel to look for tripped fuses and additional information critical for our investigation. If contractors want to shut off the power, we recommend that they flick the main electrical switch and leave all other ones unaltered.
If items need to be removed, take photos of everything in-situ before moving them. Ask the contractors to take pictures of the general room, specifically the item of interest where they were during the loss. This should be done before they start moving things.
Figure 1: An improperly secured scene (left) and debris correctly secured with tarps (right).
Do: Secure evidence appropriately
Treat all items as official evidence. For example, try your best to log a chain of custody if you or the contractor is on the scene. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it could be a piece of paper with the name of the person handling the item, the date, time, and a description of what they’re handling.
Find the right place for evidence; don’t leave it out to the elements. Additionally, try to store the items appropriately. If an item is improperly stored, crucial details about the incident could be lost. This reduces the subrogation potential in the file.
Do: Get a forensic expert involved as soon as possible
Figure 2: An illustration of subrogation potential.
There are instances where you don’t need a forensic expert. But when in question, send us an email or call, and we can discuss it. You may not get an immediate response after hours, but we will respond as soon as possible.
The more time that evidence is not preserved, you increase the risk of compromised evidence and decrease your negotiating power when it comes to subrogation. Call or email us, and we can review all the claim details. Try to secure the evidence in the meantime.
Don’t: Send us your notice of loss with prejudiced information
Prejudice information can be damaging to your claim investigation. The information we need, in general, is the location of the loss and what type of loss it is. Don’t give us your opinion or what you think happened. Treat every file like it will end up in litigation. Resist the temptation to put anything on the file that could be perceived as prejudiced or biased; just give us the basic information.
Sending us an assignment
To send a new assignment to us, visit our website and click on the ‘submit new assignment’ option at the top of the page.
You’ll be redirected to this page, where you can put in basic information about yourself. If you don’t have all the information, we need basic information like your name, email address, and phone number. However, we encourage inputting the claim information if you have it; it makes our life easier on the front end.
We often like to speak to you and the contractor in after-hours claims. We may also need to guide the contractor on handling evidence at the scene. So, if you’ve already assigned a contractor, please let us know and try to include their information.
The last page calls for the loss of information. Here, we ask you for the address and city where the loss occurred. In the loss description, DO NOT comment on causation or responsibility. Only include important and relevant details to the incident. Comments on causation and responsibility can be perceived as biased. So, be as broad as possible.
We will let you know if we have any questions. Sometimes special instructions are needed during submission, whether to warn us of a dog in the property or provide lockbox information. If you have any files you wish to attach, please do. You can attach a full photo or other information. Once you’ve filled in all the necessary information, press the ‘submit’ button.
This is the page that will greet you when you’re done:
Once you press the ‘submit’ button, the assignment goes to a centralized claims intake team. They assign an expert very quickly, and the expert contacts you. Many complain that they cannot get hold of anybody after hours, but that’s not what we do. Instead, we ensure you get contacted when you submit a new assignment.
In addition to the ‘Send New Assignment’ feature on our website, you can call our after-hours line at 1-866-931-0572. You can also email us at email@example.com. This email address is tied to the centralized claims intake group.
Our experts, disciplines, and locations
Figure 3: Where you can find us.
We have 17 locations with over 40 forensic experts. We’re widespread across the country, with offices in Ancaster, Mississauga, Kingston, Ottawa, Sudbury, Orillia, London, Windsor, Halifax, Sydney, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Victoria. All these offices are accessible to you within hours and after hours if you send a new assignment through the website, email, or a phone call. We’ll make sure that we get the right people to you.
Our services include fire and explosion investigation, including K9 investigation.
Figure 4: An accelerant detection dog looking for accelerants.
We also provide structural engineering, electrical engineering, alarm system and CCTV analysis, drone services, mechanical engineering, materials and metallurgical engineering, chemical engineering, and forensic litigation services.
Forensic litigation is one of our specialties. We’ve been involved in over 1500 legal cases and qualified as expert witnesses in all levels and types of Canadian courts. In addition, we’ve testified as expert witnesses in over 170 litigation proceedings in Canada, the United States, and internationally.
How we stand out
What makes us stand out is our geographical reach. We have local technical experts throughout the country, which helps save travel costs. Additionally, this helps us conduct a quick site examination to maximize subrogation potential and complete quick and flexible reporting.
Another thing that makes us stand out is our public sector relationships. We work very closely with fire halls and police departments. We do a lot of training for these folks and have strong relationships with them. We also do a bit of on-site collaboration. However, collaboration is limited to ensure no sharing of information that will harm the file. Our relationships with these folks mean they release the scene to us quicker or are incredibly helpful in answering our questions during claim investigations.