In the film To Catch A Thief, a reformed cat burglar must prove that he’s not responsible for the rash of jewellery heists along the French Riviera in order to win the lady. The real thief is eventually unmasked, the shiny baubles returned to their rightful owners, and everyone lives happily ever after on the Mediterranean coast. While no insurance brokers had cameos in the film, it’s a different story away from Hollywood.
“I’ll get a call,” says Diane Ram, senior vice-president of the private client group at Hub International, “‘I can’t find my diamond ring.’” But if the ring was lost just a day ago, clients should look a little longer before filing a claim.
“I’ll tell them to check with the cleaning lady, look around. After [several weeks], if it’s still missing, they’ll file a claim and get paid. Sometimes I’ll get calls up to a year later, ‘I found it!’”
While jewellery––which is small and easily slips behind sofas and fridges––is the most common item that falls under the “mysterious disappearance” claim, insured art, heirloom glass and china have also gone missing. This typically happens during a move, after which the objects may be recovered. “The larger the item, obviously the easier it is to find,” says Janece White, vice-president and jewellery specialist at Chubb Personal Risk Services.
There are only two avenues of recourse that are acceptable to an insurer from an ethical standpoint once a claim was paid and the missing item was recovered, she adds.
“Give either the item or the money back. If someone finds the item and tells us, we view that as a positive and appreciate it.” There shouldn’t be penalties, premium increases or extra scrutiny. “It’s a sign of individual character… and we smile upon someone who does it.”
But if the client is new and submits a claim soon after obtaining the policy, or submits multiple claims, White says suspicions would arise. “In this case, the client may be interviewed under oath to tell us honestly what happened.”
When a client receives a settlement, the insurer technically owns the lost item, says Michael A. Moyer, senior vice-president and national claims manager for Canada at Hub International. “If the insured ‘discovers’ a previously lost item and chooses not to advise the insurer or broker, this will be reflected on their claims history for the future.” Of course, that’s only if the insurer finds out.
Moyer recalls a case where the insured lost a multi-thousand-dollar camera, found it after receiving money from the insurer and kept both the settlement and the camera. A year later, a disgruntled former member of the household staff reported the duplicity. The insured eventually reimbursed the company but their policy was cancelled on renewal. Since the client was particularly well suited to that insurer, Moyer says, it was hard to find comparable coverage elsewhere.
Brokers can navigate the discussion between the client and the insurance company. “A good broker will have a relationship with the claims team at most insurers… and foster a fair outcome with no negative underwriting for the future.”
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