The decision to become an insurance agent can be the beginning of a fulfilling and lucrative career. As a new professional in the insurance industry, it is imperative to know the “basics” and to inquire about other important aspects of the job. As an Errors & Omissions claims handler, I see hundreds of claims every year pass across my desk. Below are 10 suggestions for new agents that, if followed, may reduce the chances of having an Errors and Omissions claim being brought against you and/or your agency.
1. Know the Marketplace
Take the time to know the products you are selling, the differences in coverages of those products, and what your competitors are up to. The more you stay on top of what is happening in the industry, the better you are able to provide a high level of customer service to your clients and ensure success in marketing new business.
2. Know the Standard of Care in the state(s) where you are licensed –
Know what your legal duties are to your customers, as well as what they are not. – Is your state an “order-taker” state? Do you have a duty to pro-actively advise customers of exposures and the need for specific coverages? What is a “special relationship”? An awareness of the basic laws of your state can prevent many potential claims of negligence in the future.
3. Listen to Your Customer
Being a good listener is an underrated skill in the business world. Not only does being an attentive listener avoid errors in the placement of coverage, it also shows your customer that you care about them personally and that you are attempting to meet their insurance needs.
4. Properly Assess the Risk/Exposure
Listening carefully to the insurance needs of your client will assist in assuring the proper coverage is obtained. Additional investigation, such as viewing the risk that is to be insured, may be advisable, if not required. Know the insured’s personal needs and/or the type of business they operate.
5. Document Everything
One of the simplest things to do as an agent is to document your file with emails, documents received, calls made, etc. However, this is often not done on a regular basis. Many E&O claims can be dismissed with the production of a single document that will prove an otherwise problematic claim to be baseless.
6. Review your Customer’s Policy
Review your customer’s policy when it is issued for errors in coverage, limits, typos, etc. Insureds usually have a “duty to read” their policies but seldom do. The expectation is for the agent to make sure everything is correct.
7. Use Caution in Email Correspondence
Use caution with both external and internal emails. Always be thorough and professional. Remind yourself that everything you write and send could be used as an exhibit in a courtroom someday if an E&O claim was to be litigated.
8. Never Assure Your Customer that “Everything will be Covered”
When a customer files a claim, it can be a stressful time for both the insured and the agent. Sometimes the claim involves catastrophic circumstances. Often, it is natural to want to assure customers that “everything will be okay.” Assist customers with reporting their claims in these circumstances but refrain from taking a stance on coverage opinions. This is the carrier’s responsibility.
9. Be Responsible with Website Content
If you are responsible for a website for your agency or an agency where you work, be careful in the use of language on the sites. Holding oneself out as a specialist in particular coverages can be misleading to customers and result in errors in risk assessment. These websites can be used to your disadvantage in defending a claim.
10. Continue Your Education as an Insurance Professional
All 50 states require insurance agents to be licensed. The requirements of licensing vary state by state. However, don’t stop there! Continuing to pursue a variety of professional designations can do nothing but enhance your skills as an agent and boost your reputation in the community.
Watch: Understanding Your Agency’s Standard of Care
This article is intended to be used for general informational purposes only and is not to be relied upon or used for any particular purpose. Swiss Re shall not be held responsible in any way for, and specifically disclaims any liability arising out of or in any way connected to, reliance on or use of any of the information contained or referenced in this article. The information contained or referenced in this article is not intended to constitute and should not be considered legal, accounting or professional advice, nor shall it serve as a substitute for the recipient obtaining such advice.
About the Author
Julie Carter is an assistant vice president, claims specialist with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions and works out of the office in Kansas City, Missouri. Insurance products underwritten by Westport Insurance Corporation, Kansas City, Missouri, a member of Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.