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The ‘Dumb’ Things We Do

Author: Bill Wilson

Recently, one of our state association "insurance nerds" received the following email from a member agent:

"A good friend of mine owns a home in NY but is renting a home in Arizona for the winter. Attached is the lease. It seems very favorable for the landlord. What is your opinion?"

What is the significance of this request? The agent didn't ask for an insurance analysis. He wanted the staff member to review the lease as to its "favorability" as a rental contract. What is the further significance of this? Likely, the agent was asked by a friend for an opinion about the lease. Such requests are not unusual from agency customers as well.

For example, one of our VU faculty members was in an agency a year or two ago and overheard a conversation between a CSR and an elderly customer who was renting a cabin for a weekend getaway. The customer was not inquiring about insurance implications of the rental. She wanted to know if the rental agreement was "good" or "bad." That's a vote of confidence for her opinion of the CSR's ability to analyze documents, but is it an appropriate service for the agency to provide?

On another occasion, an agent was asked by a commercial property owner about his obligations for compliance with fire codes and sprinkler requirements and sought the state association's assistance. Is this something an agent should be involved with?

A CSR sent an "Ask an Expert" question to the VU. The agency insured a general contractor and he wanted to have all of this subs sign hold harmless agreements. She was looking for "sample wording" for such agreements to give to him? Is that a good idea?

Another new agency customer wanted to know the state's motor vehicle registration requirements, something often readily available on state or local governmental web sites. Should agents be acting as information intermediaries on questions like this, or referring customers to more qualified sources?

Examples of other questions received by our state associations:

  • "Are my IRA and house protected from a lawsuit?" 

  • "Can I drive my golf cart on a public road?"

  • "I insure a homeowners association. Does the swimming pool have to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disability Act?" 

  • "A coworker and I disagree on an issue. She just sold her house and says she no longer needs to carry an umbrella. She said that if she got sued a judge could not garnish her wages. Could that happen?"

  • "My customer's son is 19 years old and Dad wants to put the car in the kid's name and write an auto policy with low limits. The kid is over 18 and the title is not in Dad's name any more. Dad has asked if he can be sued if the kid injures someone. Can he?"

  • "Our customer was rear ended in an auto accident and pushed into the car in front of him. Is he liable?"

These are examples of questions that agents are often asked and, because so many of us are service oriented, we try to help...but should we? Perhaps more important, if you are sued because of this kind of advice, does your E&O policy cover you? 

Last Updated: August 26, 2016

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