Gary Blake's Claims Writer's Letter
Resources, ideas, and tips for improving claims and underwriting correspondence throughout your organization
READING ALOUD ALERTS YOU TO REDUNDANCIES
Here are the kind of sentences that, if read aloud, would have been changed to eliminate the obvious redundancies. They are actual sentences, taken from disability claims letters, in which thousands of dollars hang in the balance:
"Based on the information verbally reported an medical documentation received, we found that you met the contractual definition as defined and continued to be disabled from any reasonable wage occupation as of June 2006."
"You stated that your physician states no ability to work due to neck pain and headaches."
(Hope the physician takes two aspirins and calls me in the morning.)
"We are requesting that you provide us with the following information within 30 days from the date of this letter (June 7, 2007)."
(Are we real clear on that date?)
"The reason for this is because ..."
"IDEAS" AND "CONCEPTS"
These two words seem redundant, but they are not. A concept carries with it the notion of a broader, more complex thought (e.g., the concept of relativity or of gravity). "Idea" seems practically synonymous with a new thought (e.g., "My idea was to go to Burger King for lunch.")
THE EVER-DANGLING MODIFIER
Actual sentence: "On March 26, upon entering the Beaver Street Baptist church, a large amount of water was seen in the room just to the left of the stained-glass window." After the comma the writer needs to identify who spotted the water: an inspector? An adjuster? A human being, not the "water" entered the church.
EFFECTIVE WRITING FOR COMMERCIAL LIABILITY CLAIMS PROFESSIONALS
What do CIGNA, AllState, Aetna, The Hartford, Allianz, Wausau, and Fireman's Fund all have in common? They all write commercial liability insurance.
The Communication Workshop announces a seminar geared for those in commercial liability claims. These costly claims for everything from asbestos exposure and environmental site claims to loss of hearing on a job site often require an adjuster to give guidance, with skill and persuasiveness, to outside attorneys in order to avoid overwhelming legal costs. This course helps adjusters develop information about the claim, negotiate a settlement, and write reservation of rights letters. For a course outline, call 516-767-9590 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
STODGY SENTENCE OF THE MONTH
"At that time you stated that you were physically unable to complete the telephonic interview independently so verbal permission to speak with your wife was additionally obtained."
(Wait a second! I think someone is trying to reach me telephonically.)
JUSTICE IS NOT BLIND TO POORLY WRITTEN POLICIES
In a recent claims writing seminar, we saw a lengthy sentence taken from an insurance policy quoted within a claims letter. Normally, we'd pay little attention to this since the policy language can't be changed by an adjuster and because the adjuster is not responsible for its style or tone. However, when we saw a 103-word sentence quoted from a policy, we spoke up. The laughable nature of a 103-word jargon-laden sentence, especially when read aloud by a sharp-eyed opposing attorney, might just be enough to set your company back a few hundred thousand dollars in damages. Call me at 516-767-9590 or e-mail email@example.com and I'll send you a copy of this seriously overwritten sentence.
HOLD THAT JARGON!
One recent claims sentence begins: "Please have your disabling doctor submit office visit notes..."
(Well, at least he's not an enabler!)
MIND THE GAP!
Here's a sentence from a Life/Health claims letter: "The illustration marked "A" assumes payment of an annual premium of 9,555.00 to maintain the policy to the anniversary nearest your age 92."
Just to make sure that the reader understands the term "anniversary," we'd write: "... to the anniversary of the effective policy date nearest your age 92."
INSURANCE FILMS: A GAME
If insurance people wrote films and plays, we might have such works as ...
"Teenage Annuitant Ninja Turtles"
"A Comedy of Errors (& Omissions)"
If you can think of a worthy addition to this list, send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and you will receive a copy of our new National Claims Writing Test, Part 2.
UPCOMING CLAIMS WRITING SEMINARS
In the next eight weeks, The Communication Workshop will present onsite writing seminars in: Tampa, FL; Plantation, FL; Portland, OR; and Charlotte, NC. If you know of a few claims professionals who could benefit from attending this seminar at one of these locations (or you would like to sponsor a seminar of your own during the same week, saving on expenses), contact Gary Blake at (516) 767-9590 or e-mail: email@example.com.
Gary Blake is available for on-site writing seminars as well as for presentations at department-wide, city, state, and national insurance conferences. For a full package of information about our one-day on-site Effective Writing for Claims Professionals seminar, please e-mail The Communication Workshop at firstname.lastname@example.org