How Strong is your Peer Support Program?
by Antone P. Braga
Fiduciary Relationship:Founded upon a trust or confidence and relied upon by one party in the integrity and fidelity of another.
The U.S. State of Texas has stated that insurance companies owe “fiduciary-like” duties to their policyholders. The reasoning is that since insurance companies have such a superior bargaining position over the general insuring public, and issue policies on a take-it-or-leave-it basis (adhesion contracts), they should be held to act as a fiduciary when dealing with policyholders. However, many courts do not see it that way.
The millions of people each year who suffer disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and fires usually carry insurance, although generally they have only an idea of what to expect based on company advertising, even after asking around. How can they possibly conceive what their damage claims could be or partake in the process in a truly informed way? It is always a good ending to a story when the interest of the policyholder has been served without having to horse trade or fight. However, much depends on an individual company adjuster’s aspirations, the adjuster’s temperament, and to what extent he or she is informed of rights and rules, to be something on which people can blindly rely.
While emergency communications are essential in time of crisis, there is little if any focus on the insurance industry’s role and lack of meaningful information available to policyholders as well as to adjusters. Crucial information should reach the insuring public and adjusters alike. The general public should be provided disaster insurance rights and rules of recovery as a matter of course at the inception of insurance. Nearly everyone has been left out of the loop, including many adjusters. It not only helps to have rights and rules, where are we without them? Disaster survivors in particular are in jeopardy because they lack that fundamental consumer protection when they are most vulnerable. And some adjusters unknowingly or knowingly take advantage. That is just how it is and for one reason or another there is not yet enough public pressure to right this listing ship.
I would say consumers make up the largest peer group, and insurance consumers the largest portion of that group. Yet it is this segment that lacks fundamental consumer protection in time of disaster, of all times! How can that be? Where is the critical support? Insurance agents? Insurance adjusters? States’ Departments of Insurance? States’ Governors? First responders? Red Cross? FEMA? Etc.? As a starting point for insurance consumers to answer, “How Strong is your Peer Support Program?,” one needs to first understand government’s and industry’s willingness to participate on behalf of the consumer, or not, and the basic premise and image of the industry in its advertising, compared to law and to what extent we insurance consumers need to help through our own Peer Support Program: