Winter 2018-19 State of Insurance

Insurance insider Matt Peterson is claiming victory for the snow and ice industry, but there’s still work to be done.

Congratulations to the professional snow and ice industry because you are valued. And for that, we declare a victory. North American property owners and the commercial real estate industry will continue to recognize and reward the services of quality snow and ice management contractors. The need remains for individual contractors who can demonstrate mutually agreed upon services were provided in a professional, well-controlled and timely manner.

While the victory isn’t perfect, the progress we’ve forged together as an industry is, in and of itself, a major victory. And come claim time, it’s the quality snow contractors who can assist in providing reliable and accurate documentation and, when appropriate, pay its fair share of the liability.

The Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA) continues to make tremendous progress on the legislative front, for all parts of the snow industry. With the ASCA’s model legislation signed into law in Colorado and Illinois, state assemblies in Connecticut and Massachusetts currently have it on their agendas for discussion in the coming months. As a result of this state-level legislative focus, a stress on education and proper documentation has become an integral part of the insurance process. This, too, is a victory.

Since 2014, Snow Removal Insurance Brokerage (“The Program”) has served retail insurance agents to help them understand what to look for and how they can help the many snow contracting clients throughout the country. If the insurance carrier executives were going to scoff at the idea and refuse to listen to those of us who have fought for change and innovation, then the insurance world would have to hear the message from many different levels, including a wonderful agent base with a caring disposition toward their local client.

The program has performed gainfully, with a clear and stable goal. Its claims analytics show major improvement over other peers, with a 35 percent ultimate loss ratio from start to finish. National media headlines have offered the snow industry a bigger spotlight over the past year, as well. From my point of view, the snow and ice management industry has arrived. Stand up and take a bow!

London’s top insurance market lost $19 billion attributed to natural disasters in 2018, according to BBC, which would include risk involving “extreme weather.” Volatility regarding any type of risk relating to weather is also in the spotlight. Most claims from extreme-weather risks - such as fires to volcanoes, rivers flooding, hurricanes, wind, tornadoes destroying everything in their path – all of the devastation left in their wake require insurance dollars to pay for the rebuilding efforts.

These bigger topics do, in fact, hit home for the professional snow and ice management industry. How insurance claims, dollars reserved, or capital allocated to claims are important to every one of your businesses. The release of capital down through the insurance industry has its impacts. Lack of acceptable profits in the insurance world trickles down – late-season storms or early season storms, polar vortexes and cyclone bombs – these tend to resonate more with our readership. But the overview is important to understand.

Many of the extreme weather-related losses surround property damage, which isn’t a terrible thing as we focus on our insurance issues associated with snow and ice management contractors. Our story is really about the improvements on the liability scale – third-party slip-and-fall claims. In my opinion, the professional snow and ice management industry is a bright spot to the big “extreme weather” headlines that insurance folks read about. We are ‘merely a flesh wound’. The commercial snow and ice management industry could offer a way to diversify out of the heavy exposure of property damage claims, such as losses from devastating fires or crumbling structures.

The loss frequency from slip-and-fall claims in our program is dropping lower. The frequency of snow-related claims being filed has been cut in half over the past four years. Victory. The message is being carried in every state where snow accumulates, by insurance agents, by snow contractors, by attorneys, and by property owners. The respect, understanding, and care for the actual snow and ice management service industry has opened many people’s eyes. Victory … with a hint of amazement.

The demand for a qualified and well-prepared snow and ice management industry is on the rise. We need the entire snow industry to continue to show up (document in writing that you showed up, have proper insurance for any negligence to the extent created by you or your actions), but show up none the less.

The rest may be up to the future leaders. The remarkable changes to an industry that historically had struggled to define its identity, is one item to place in the spotlight. What was once a supporting actor of the industry, is now standing center stage. The importance of the professional snow and ice management industry is shining so bright; it is humbling to sit back and watch.

Matthew J. Peterson is president of Mills Insurance Group in Marlton, NJ. He’s a frequent Snow Magazine contributor.

May 2019
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