Many mid-tier and smaller personal lines carriers are taking
a longer look at their claims administration expenses. One such
carrier, SafeAuto, a direct writer of personal auto based in Columbus, Ohio, employed a staff of more than 40 appraisers in the 16
states in which it operates. In locations where there was no staff, the
insurer used independent appraisers, according to Leslie Redfield,
director of auto physical damage and claims quality.
“That’s an expensive model for a small company,” says Redfield.
“We had appraisers who were doing just three or four estimates a
day in the field. We were looking to decrease expenses and increase
SafeAuto breaks down claims into three categories of complex-
ity—low, moderate, and high. Redfield points out it doesn’t make
good sense to send expensive independent
adjusters or staff appraisers to examine a low-
Now, through the use of photographs
taken by representatives of claims services
provider OnSource, staff adjusters write an average of 10 claims a day and despite the higher
number, Redfield believes the system has eased
the workload on appraisers.
“We have staff appraisers because we want
those folks where we have a concentration of
customers, but even then they are not going to
look at less complex hits,” says Redfield. “We’ll
send OnSource to take those photos or have the
consumers use OnSource’s mobile app—Express
Inspection App—to take their own photos if the vehicle is drivable
with minor damage.”
Redfield joined SafeAuto in 2013 and previously worked with
OnSource with another insurer.
“When I came here we saw the opportunity to lower our
cost structure around the appraisals,” she says. “We started to use
OnSource’s network to take photos of the damaged cars. They
also came out with the app that we can text to a customer so the
customer can take photos of their damaged vehicles.”
Redfield’s boss, Mike Livermore, SafeAuto’s claims business
leader, also worked with OnSource before. Redfield and Livermore
both had prior experience working with Progressive Insurance, but
found the situation at Safe Auto to be quite different.
“Large carriers have staff everywhere and their philosophy
usually is to have someone look at the [damaged] vehicle,” says
Redfield. “You can’t do the same things large companies do when
you are at a company like SafeAuto. We wanted to find the best way
to look at low complexity hits with less risk associated with them.”
Other companies provide similar services, but SafeAuto
knew what the OnSource results would look like. Redfield ex-
plains turnaround time is fast and if the insurer has a problem
the OnSource staff jumps right in to get it resolved immediately.
About 35 percent of the vehicle claims received by SafeAuto
utilize the OnSource service or the mobile app. When a customer
calls, the SafeAuto claims staff asks about the type of damage and
if the customer indicates it is minor and the vehicle is drivable,
SafeAuto gives them the option to take their own photos and send
them to the carrier or, if they don’t have a smartphone, the insurer
can dispatch OnSource personnel.
The SafeAuto claims reps use the OnSource
portal to enter the accident information and On-
Source sets up inspections with the customers.
SafeAuto’s business rules call for a picture of the
VIN, the mileage (if available), all four corners
of the vehicle, any old damage, plus any damage
related to the loss. SafeAuto does not send On-
Source if the vehicle is not drivable.
“If it’s not drivable, someone (from SafeAuto)
should put their eyes on it,” says Redfield. “You
can’t always see everything through pictures.
We don’t send them for hail damage, which is
notorious for not being seen on photos. We also
don’t send them for vandalism claims because
it can be hard to tell if the damage is related to a
collision or is actually vandalism.”
The app won’t allow a customer to import old photos. “You
have to take a photo through the app,” says Redfield. “That was
an important security piece. We have to combat fraud and make
sure we are looking at something that actually happened.”
OnSource has helped SafeAuto lower its loss adjustment
expense and the insurer’s reps have gained higher efficiency. The
severity of claims has been impacted positively, points out Redfield.
“This has given us flexibility,” she says. “We are a direct sales com-
pany and in the future I see the ability for our customers at the point
of sale to use the app to take photos of their car so we can see what
kind of condition the vehicle is in when we insure it. That would be
great because we don’t have agents to go out there and take a picture
of the car. I can imagine the customer being able to do something
like Skype directly to one of our appraisers. The possibilities are end-
less with the way technology is going these days.” ITA
Smile for the Camera
A service provider’s mobile app helped a mid-tier carrier lower its expenses
on personal auto claims.
“You can’t do
the same things
large carriers do
when you are at
a company like
Leslie Redfield, SafeAuto