cases, a document in existence for 20 years or more is granted authentication merely by its age (“It’s not the age, but the mileage.”). Beyond that, the testimony of a person having personal knowledge about the document under scrutiny will, in many cases, be accepted.
Types of evidence Typically, insurer documents carry the most favorable weight in proving a policy, with producer documents close behind, and then policyholder documents. The testimony of a witness, such as an employee, also can be admissible. Secondary evidence can take a multitude of forms. Some of these include: policy declaration page; binder or certificate of insurance; interoffice correspondence; subsequently renewed policy; insurer’s claim reserves; policyholder accounting records; corporate meeting records; evidence of reinsurance; producer ledger; premium invoice; government permits; policyholder accident reports; lending documents; attorney files; underlying umbrella coverage; or loss prevention surveys. The pursuit of evidence and the extent of the investigation have no limit unless unwarranted due to the size of the claim for damages.
Historical complications One of the problems that an archeologist will encounter is the historical evolution of insurers, brokers and business entities (“now you’re getting nasty”).
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Another problem occurs when attempting to match historical coverage forms to a policy written by an insurer in a particular year. Initial policy evidence may be limited to just basic information typically on the declarations page. If the insurer was a member of a rating bureau, then research can be performed to identify the standard forms in use at that time. Proprietary forms are more of a challenge. Pursuing records from wholesale brokers and Lloyds may help to catalog the nonstandard forms used by specific insurers writing similar risks decades before the present claim. It also may be possible to establish coverage evidence based upon coverage in subsequent renewal policies that are known to exist. How far the policyholder takes the investigation will depend upon the amount of damages for which the policyholder is liable. Sometimes all you need is the Indemnity Jones Fedora to find your asset, but at times, you might need to bring a whip.
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Corbin is PIA Management Services’ director of research.
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There have been mergers, acquisitions, consolidations, insolvencies, bankruptcies and liquidations. Under these circumstances, tracking the insurance records for a policyholder demands a vast amount of research. However, once an archeologist assembles the various insurer and broker family trees for a select type of industry risk, they can be referred to repeatedly. Predecessor details also will be required of the policyholder. You don’t want to be “digging in the wrong place.”
Professional Insurance Agents magazine