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Solicitors’ “silly season” is not so silly

Posted by 20 August, 2012 (0) Comment

Silly season is upon us and the PI renewal scramble has already started. Yet it isn’t so mad this year. Read on to find out if that is because of the ABS’, SRA or insurers.

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Rates Are Down

Deck of cards on a graph - Business GambleCould it be that insurance companies are being more amenable because there are now fewer firms looking for specialist solicitors indemnity? Their market is shrinking. Perhaps firms set up as ABS’ have found a better way of meeting SRA requirements? Perhaps new regulations for COLPs and COFAs have lead to fewer claims.

It’s more likely that the new entrance into this specialist market have increased competition. This could lead to short term gains and long term pains, like Quinn.

Are New Entrants Good News?

There is a certain amount of irony here. Over the last few years insurance companies have not accepted proposals from solicitors with shaky finances. Yet solicitors will accept quotations from insurance companies they’ve never heard of, with claims departments that may as well be in Timbuktu.

Solicitors seem happy to rely on the fact that SRA approved the new entrants, and brokers are happy to offer the quotations if it secures them a client or renewal.

Memories must be extremely short because the SRA approved Quinn too, and brokers continued to offer Quinn quotations days before they went bust.

Dig A Little Deeper

It’s a good time for solicitors to take their pick from the available insurance companies. I can still see the logic in getting the best rates, reducing costs and ticking the SRA box.

Now the market is competitive again it would be prudent to delve a little deeper into insurance company service. Does the policy provide the right cover – yes. Will you get assistance from the claims department – probably. Will the way the claim is handled meet your expectations… who knows!

Wrap up: COLPs and COFAs – love the role or hate it, they are the people that can implement lessons that businesses have learnt and solicitors have been deprived of. The identification of near misses and risks that solicitors were previously unaware of, will help practises evolve profitably.

Top tip: COLPs and COFAs can reduce costs and increase profits. Undertaking the role properly will mean both can be achieved independently of each other.

Who to share this with: Managing Partners, COLPs and COFAs.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When complainants get tough, the tough respond cordially

Posted by 14 August, 2012 (0) Comment

Business owners dread a call from an unhappy client. This post is about what happens when a meeting causes panic. Read on to find out who is on the receiving end, why it happens, and how to avoid setting dangerous precedents.

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I’ve just had my business arse kicked! Am I covered?

 

Computer keyboard - Press the "any" keyMike phones me at 4pm on a Monday. It’s immediately clear that he’s flustered. It transpires he has just  left a meeting with a client for whom he has been providing IT services for nearly a year. “I feel like I’ve had a good kicking. We’ve been accused of making mistakes and fraud. I really need to know – am I covered for this, especially if they take action?”

This is not an everyday occurrence in my world, but it happens with enough frequency that we are used to it. We plan for it by making ourselves available every day because we want to help when it’s most needed. Mike was “covered” and I let him know immediately. He wanted a good night’s sleep, and the finer points can be ironed out when full details are known.

So what are the chances of keeping everyone happy all of the time?

 

I remember when Mike and I first sat down 3 years ago. His business was, and still is, growing rapidly, and clients expectations change all the time too. The main concern at the time was this type of issue, because IT changes as quick as customer expectations. The unfounded allegation of fraud was the result of a “competitor” getting involved.

It is a real blow when a client becomes unhappy. Yet this particular complainant had been egged on by another company, who probably wanted to usurp Mike. The competition went as far as producing a damming report, with a host of allegations that the client could wave in front of Mike, which the client did, with relish.

Apart from shock and horror, are there other issues?

 

Time. It takes time to answer any complaint. Time should be taken to avoid making the matter worse. What is vital is to take a massive deep breath, work out what has actually happened and make sure communications are clear.

This has since been achieved, and the angry party have calmed down, after they received a considered response. Even so, complainants make unrealistic demands when they’re angry and meetings without agendas set a dangerous precedent.

Wrap up: When a business is growing, learn to expect the unexpected, and plan for it. Keep in mind clients expectations change all the time too, and giving in to unrealistic demands of angry clients is not the most sensible response. Take time out to consider the situation from all angles and ensure all outgoing communications are cordial.

Top tip: In all cases, insurance companies must be kept fully informed of all progress and have lot’s of experience in what works and what doesn’t. It makes sense to lean on them rather than trying to avoid the issue or worry about unlikely premium increases.

Share this with: business owners, service providers, IT people, contractors, and anyone else who gets involved in providing a service to the demanding.

Names have been changed to protect the truly innocent.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What the hell was that? Homeowners escape collapse

Posted by 31 May, 2012 (0) Comment

Last week saw the collapse of a roof that hit the front page of the Evening Standard. This posts advises why it’s highly unlikely that the home owner’s insurance company will cover the cost. Read on to find out how it happens, who picks up the tab and why legal action is often the end result.

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How does a roof just collapse?

 

Collapsed RoofIt’s been said that the accident is due to some form of faulty workmanship, crap materials or just old age. However, it’s often difficult to tell when faced with a pile of rubble.

It is highly unlikely that the home owner’s insurance company will cover the cost. Most policies exclude such damage, especially when they are being renovated.

So, who covers the cost?

 

So who pays for this? It’s difficult to say and I think it will most likely end up in the courts. I doubt anyone will want to take responsibility, yet the blame could be a aimed at a contractor, architect, surveyor or even the homeowner. Especially if the appropriate planning permissions were not obtained.

If nobody takes responsibility the owners of neighbouring properties damaged may find themselves uninsured. They’ll probably lay the blame (and cost) at the door of the “guilty” property. It happens from time to time.

 

Last resort, take action? Only if you know who to sue!

 

There is a form of protection that covers works and damage caused after they have been finalised. High quality architects and responsible builders recommend or invest in. It protects neighbours’ properties too.

However, I’ve lost count of the number of people that say they’ll sue someone else if things go wrong, rather than protect themselves. As if they have the money to do that. Do they realise just how much it costs to work out who is responsible for a pile of rubble?

 

Wrap up: Property renovations are a shrewd investment when the cost of labour and materials are so low. The opportunity to increase the value of assets can and should be balanced against the risk of a project going wrong.

Top Tip: Inspect insurance protection of those you allow into your property to complete repairs or maintenance. If they’re not protected, you might not be. Always be careful to survey a property owned by a “DIY Del” before making an offer. Click here for free Property Owners download.

Share this with: property owners, architects, surveyors, contractors, engineers and anyone else who gets involved in property improvements.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , ,

Accountants insurance is changing

Posted by 31 August, 2010 (0) Comment

Accountants indemnity changes 1st September

 

I thought you might be interested to hear about the new rules for accountant’s professional indemnity. Here I explain why it’s important to make an early report of claim circumstances, where problems with timing could occur plus a clear definition of what should be reported.

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Why should I report a minor concern?

Some policyholders believe that premiums go up if they report scenarios that are not really claims. If they don’t report a “circumstance” it proves to be a false economy. When the rules change it’s even easier to make a costly late notification.

Claims don’t happen often yet the early warning signs are common. Questioning fees, complaints about service and a lack of communication are typical indicators that a client or third party may become litigious. Especially if they don’t get their own way.

 

Have the new ICAEW rules made it clearer?

The new wording applies to cover effected on or after 1st September 2010 and makes it clear that claims can and will be declined if “circumstances” are not reported before the expiry of a policy. The intention is to ensure that insurance companies are aware of possible claims before the policy expires.

There is no longer a wishy washy wording – previously insurers refused claims notified later than they would like. This was despite the policy being on a “claims made” basis meaning claims made after the expiry would be covered if the work was completed during the period of cover. The terms of notification were not clear.

Now, possible claim circumstances not reported within the policy period will not be covered. Period.

 

What is a circumstance?

Definitions in policy wordings can be subtly altered without the policyholder noticing. Insurance contracts are full of detail. A “circumstance” is anything likely to affect the underwriters view of the risk. That doesn’t mean all complaints should be reported.

It’s ridiculous to report all complaints so ask your insurance supplier to interpret what is termed reasonable by your insurance company. There is no need for the new rule to result in more red tape. The fact that I’m writing about it means it probably will at the change is embedded into the policy wordings. That is not the intention, it’s just the devil is in the policy detail. We all want claims settled promptly and correctly.

 

Wrap up: Attempts to make policies clearer add to confusion. Indemnity policies have strict timescales for reporting claims or circumstances. Guidance on what a circumstance is should be sought before a policy expires, ie. before the renewal date.

Top Tip: Uncertainty is not good for anyone. Ask your insurance supplier for clarification of expiry dates, notification deadlines and clarify what “circumstances” are real in your World.

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Categories : Accountants Insurance,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,General Requirements,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Business Insurance has a hidden weakness – does your policy protect you properly?

Posted by 4 November, 2009 (0) Comment

Insurance claim departments are taking a hard nosed approach – make sure you’re covered

 

I recently heard about three businesses who have been robbed of £250,000 assets and their company insurance is not paying out. Today, I heard about another case of a business getting caught out and insurers used terrible judgement to decline the insurance claim.  I am trying to use the information superhighway to show you how to ensure this doesn’t happen to you or people you know that run businesses.

The scene of the crime

Criminals have been climbing into manholes and cutting telephone lines at targeted premises. This triggers the alarm and Police and a member of staff attend the premises. There’s absolutely no evidence of a break-in so the Police and staff withdraw. After everyone has left the premises are then broken into yet the alarm doesn’t sound because the lines have already been Read the rest of this entry

Categories : All Risks Insurance,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Can contractors insurance enhance a reputation?

Posted by 16 September, 2009 (0) Comment

 

Here’s a brief explanation of how accidents can happen, the benefits of quality service and how reputations can be enhanced when bad luck turns up.

There seem to be a lot of people damaging windows in Bond Street these days. Not all of them are sinister. Here’s a true story about what can be done to prevent accidents turning into disasters.

A client had the misfortune of damaging the window of a jeweller on Bond Street whilst he was working there. The windows are supposed to be “bullet proof” yet it didn’t stop a sparky’s screwdriver – he was working inside when it happened.

This electrical contractor has a great reputation. Often working at high class restaurants and retail outlets in airports, they have always been careful to ensure they have adequate cover. And they insist we arrange insurance with companies that are willing to help as soon as a claim occurs.

This happened on a Sunday and a call reassured the jeweller that they had adequate insurance and they could order an immediate replacement window because the damage would be covered without admitting legal liability of course. They were able to do this because they understood the claim process and knew who to call to check they had the right cover. How many people can say that?

The new window was installed without delay yet we were asked to intervene when the cost of the glass (£18,000 from Germany) increased because the pound had weakened between the time the order was made and the settlement cheque delivered. We contacted the loss adjuster and they arranged for the increased settlement. And the insurance company benefitted from their willingness to see reason.

The end result was a win for everyone. The contractor had increased his credibility, the jeweller is certain they used the right contractor, the insurance company paid the claim and secured the client’s business for years to come. The insurance company also learned to settle claims promptly or suffer the consequences of currency fluctuations.

These are not the only challenges contractors face, click here for an article highlighting how subcontractors can avoid problems with HMRC.

Top Tip: Always ensure you know your claim process. It’s extra prudent to try the claim reporting number and enquire about the claim process before you buy. And get your broker to check the insurance of anyone working on your premises – you don’t want to suffer a dent to your finances because they haven’t insured themselves properly.

See our top tips section for simple ways to help yourself today.

Categories : All Risks Insurance,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Liability Insurance,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , ,