Insurance carriers that partner with a firm that can offer OPM will have a better opportunity to control mitigation costs and deliver a faster loss recovery.
Returning properties to their pre-loss condition after a large fire, flood, or contamination event can often be a large and complex job that comes with a large price tag. To ensure accurate claim costs, insurance carriers typically conduct post-mitigation invoice audits to verify that all contractors followed industry standards, and that the work performed was justified and accurately invoiced.
While post-mitigation audits offer some savings for the insurance carrier, they can often leave a significant number of unaddressed items on the table. The retrospective view of the post-mitigation audit does not allow for opportunities to identify inefficiencies that an early onsite prevention would address in real-time.
“If, for example, an analyst reduces a bill by 20%, the post-mitigation audit is considered successful. However, that bill could have been inflated by 70% due to process inefficiencies. In that case, the insurance carrier still overpaid the invoice by 50% without even realizing it,” said John Chestnas, Vice President of the Performance Management Group at Engle Martin & Associates, a leading national loss adjusting and claims management provider.
“We believe in a better process to ensure the remediation work is being done correctly, aligns with industry standards, and is priced reasonably.”
The proactive alternative to post-mitigation audits is OPM, which Engle Martin implemented several years ago with a team of expert analysts positioned to manage projects nationwide.
This approach controls costs upfront rather than attempting to recover them on the backend — having experts at the loss site offers advantages beyond the reduction of invoices. Here are the five advantages of partnering with an OPM Team:
1) Alignment with IICRC Standards from the Start
The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) has established standards for many mitigation activities that are followed by the restoration industry. By having published standards, the Onsite Project Manager can ensure that all applicable IICRC requirements are complied with throughout the project.
If contractors do not follow the approved methods, it’s nearly impossible for post-audits to determine whether those standards were satisfied. This could negatively impact the final bill and the quality of work performed.
“In the case of water damage, for example, IICRC standards help determine the size of equipment to use for rooms of different square footage. By not following the appropriate standards, you could be overcharged due to the use of improperly sized equipment. This could extend the drying time, increase fuel costs, and boost labor costs,” said Rob Foster, Lead Mitigation Analyst within Engle Martin’s Specialty Audit Services (SAS) Team.
“If you have an Onsite Project Manager who understands the guidelines they can intervene to correct such inefficiencies, eliminating excess costs and ultimately ensuring the work is done correctly and timely.”
2) Prevention of Scope Creep
The end goal of any mitigation project is to return the insured’s property to its pre-loss condition. Some restoration contractors do not always view projects through such a narrow scope.
Using an Onsite Project Manager allows for a first-person perspective at the loss site to gain a clearer understanding of the work required while providing an opportunity to outline the scope of work with the contractor.
“Developing an accurate scope of work is the most important thing that we do when we get onsite. If we do not establish an accurate scope of work from the start, then the project tends to expand incrementally. Some contractors will continually find new problems to fix, resulting in equipment and labor overruns,” Foster said.
“It’s imperative for us to partner with contractors to consider all of the project needs at the outset to establish where the finish line is.”
If scope changes are warranted — upgrading some material or piece of equipment due to unavailability of the original, for example — an Onsite Project Manager is there to validate the contractor’s decision and verify the cost upfront.
3) Efficient Project Planning
Large restoration projects are complex and require detailed planning and execution. Partnering with a qualified Onsite Project Manager helps to navigate the complexities involved. “If you had a water line break at your house, most vendors would probably be very competent to do that. In contrast, when thousands of square feet are involved, vendors may get overwhelmed and not know where to begin,” Foster said.
A common area of inefficient planning is labor overutilization. When there is a lot of ground to cover, contractors may bring in scores of temporary workers to get things moving quickly. However, without appropriate prioritization and assignment of tasks, those laborers could end up sitting idle.
“We’ve found that additional labor is helpful for the first few days, but contractors tend not to cut back on that labor once the initial need has subsided,” Foster said. “When you have an Onsite Project Manager experienced in restoration projects, they help contractors develop a cohesive plan of action between the use of both labor and equipment. The goal remains the same to get the job done quickly at a fair and reasonable cost.”
4) A Single Point of Contact
Large and complex commercial losses require the involvement of multiple vendors for example, a moisture mapping consultant, clerk of the works staff, loss adjuster, inventory auditor, salvage expert, origin & cause expert, and a forensic engineer. All stakeholders are working towards the same goal of restoring a property, to its pre-loss condition in the most cost-effective manner, on behalf of the insurance company.
“A benefit of OPM is that some services can be managed or provided by one vendor. The Onsite Project Manager can then take leadership of the mitigation and serve as the single point of contact for the carrier, insured, and the contractor. This ensures all parties are on the same page, without the insurance carrier having to make a dozen phone calls a day,” Chestnas said.
Having a single vendor manage all mitigation services also eliminates redundant work and increases cost efficiencies, reducing the insurance carrier’s overall adjustment loss expense.
“With efficient management, you can reduce the duration of the mitigation project, which yields significant savings when a business income loss is a major aspect of a claim,” Chestnas said.
5) Peace of Mind for Policyholders
Large mitigation projects can be extremely stressful for insureds. They’re hyper-focused on stemming losses and getting back to normal as quickly as possible but they may not necessarily understand the steps it will take to get there.
“We’re not just out there to dictate a plan to the contractors. We understand that the insured is going through a traumatic time, and the Onsite Project Manager’s presence on the jobsite can be very comforting. It reassures the policyholder that the project is being managed with speed and cost control in mind,” Chestnas said.
The Onsite Project Manager will solidify the trust and respect of both contractors and insureds throughout the course of a project. Those relationships can expedite future mitigation efforts if the insured suffers another loss, or if the contractor becomes involved in a separate claim. Since the Onsite Project Manager acts on behalf of the insurance carrier, their work ultimately reflects positively on the insurance carrier’s approach to customer service and retention.
Trust an Analyst with Real World Restoration Expertise
To provide onsite project management versus post-mitigation auditing, the Onsite Project Manager needs to understand the challenges that come with managing multiple vendors, verifying numerous pieces of equipment, and overseeing the array of moving parts on a jobsite. They need to implement solutions quickly that work for both contractors and insurance carriers knowing the insured is always in the middle.
Engle Martin & Associates’ SAS Team is comprised of professionals with diverse industry backgrounds. This diversity creates the best skillset for successful project management. In addition to the engagement of an Onsite Project Manager, the SAS Team provides services that includes clerking, scope of work development, and moisture mapping.
“All of our team members have managed large losses as a project manager in the restoration industry. Our team has over 100 years of combined experience in restoration,” said Foster, who carries an IICRC Triple Master, Master Water Restorer, Master Fire Restorer, and Master Textile Cleaner certifications. Foster also sits on the IICRC S550 standards committee as a voting member.
“Not every auditor has that real-world knowledge. We bring hands on experience to each assignment to facilitate an agreed upon final invoice using industry standards as our guidelines. Beyond our certifications, we offer the field expertise to manage any size project.”
Every member of the SAS Team holds an adjusting license which is an important credential when negotiating services and pricing in real-time.
“Our ability to negotiate this aspect of an insurance claim, on behalf of the insurance carrier, is an advantage to our clients. When we submit our final report, it requires no further negotiation and is ready to be paid by the insurance carrier,” Foster said.
“We believe we are improving a process in the industry by offering a more comprehensive service that will reduce costs to insurance companies,” Foster said.
To learn more about Engle Martin’s Specialty Audit Services, visit: https://www.englemartin.com/specialty-auditservices/