"Jim’s background as an Air Force pilot, Airline pilot, and aircraft owner allows him to see things not just as an insurance broker but also as a colleague. Having a broker of his character and professionalism gives me the peace of mind to know that my broker is on my side, making my interests his interests."
Director of Aviation, VQBGS, Ltd.
President of Fast Aircraft, Inc.
Jim Gardner, President The James A Gardner Company PO Box 680905Marietta, GA 30068 Phone: 678-278-2100Fax: 678-398-7038
Consider the following adaptation of an actual incident several years ago. The pilot of a turbine helicopter wasn’t paying close enough attention to his fuel management. He ran out of fuel trying to make it back to the heliport on the return leg with his owner. While no one was hurt, there was considerable damage to the helicopter as well as third party property damage at the emergency landing site. The owner blamed the pilot for the accident and dismissed him almost immediately. Needless to say they departed company on less than good speaking terms. Now the owner is faced with the task of filing and processing the insurance claim, but he has a problem—incomplete records.
Every claims adjuster is obligated to collect information on the pilot, aircraft, and operation as part of the accident investigation. He is required to ascertain that the operation was within the scope and provisions of the policy prior to authorizing payment for repairs or a third party claim. Pilot records such as a copy of the pilot’s FAA license, medical certificate, certificate or record of last required proficiency check or recurrent training, a current and signed pilot history form, and even pertinent pages from the pilot’s logbook are part of the data collection. If there becomes a question as to whether the accident or incident was an insurable occurrence or some vital part of the insurance policy has not been complied with, the insurance company will issue a “reservations of rights” letter. This is not a claims denial, but merely gives notice to the claimant that there may be the potential that the claim could be partially or wholly denied based on the evidence once the investigations is complete.
In the above situation the fired pilot refused to cooperate with the adjuster’s inquiry or complete any documentation needed for the claims processing. Now the owner faced an additional and avoidable delay in processing the claim while he reconstructed the necessary records and information.
Most owners and operators keep originals or duplicates of aircraft maintenance records such as maintenance and engine logbooks, aircraft registration, airworthiness certificates, and other documentation of on board equipment and systems in a file or safe at their office. It is prudent that an owner/operator check pertinent pilot information at the hiring interview and at least once a year as proof the pilot meets the minimum standards set forth in his insuring agreement. How hard would it be to make copies and keep pilot records in the same place as the maintenance records? In addition, forwarding the pilot and training records to you insurance broker in a timely manner will provide an additional back up. If this owner had done that, he may have found the claims process to be far less painful and time consuming.
Why not go a step further? Why not develop an emergency response checklist complete with a key personnel contact list and a copy of the insurance policy to keep on the aircraft as well as the office? Depending on the severity, an accident can create confusion and chaos. In addition it is not certain who may have to respond to the accident. Unless it is written down, they may not know what to do and who to call to report the incident.
Accidents happen far too often to even the best operators. It doesn’t matter whether you are a fixed or rotor wing operator, the principles are the same. Everyone involved in your flight operations should know what to do in the aftermath of an accident. Having good, complete records, documentation and an emergency checklist with contact numbers in a safe and accessible place as well as in the aircraft will sooth a lot of headaches as well as make the claims process go much smoother.
For more information about claims reporting, visit our website at www.jagardner.com/claims. For your convenience a common sense checklist is provided below.
About the author: Jim Gardner is a retired U. S. Air Force officer, a former professional airline pilot, and an aviation insurance broker with The James A Gardner Company, out of Marietta, GA