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April 17, 2019

Imagine you just received an email with the subject line “New Assignment – April 15, 2019 loss – Paris, France.” You open the email and learn that you will be assisting in the rebuilding of Notre Dame.

Immediately you realize this is not just another assignment. Notre Dame has served as a place of worship and a symbol of cultural heritage for nearly a millennia. People immediately gathered to mourn the tragic loss. Celebrities and politicians around the globe tweeted their condolences and wealthy benefactors donated millions in support. It truly feels like the entire world had an insurable interest in the cathedral. The historical consequences would have a sobering effect on even the most seasoned of insurance professionals.

This is how we should approach each loss. While I am not ignorant of the significance of the fire at Notre Dame, the insureds we deal with on a daily basis each remember where they were when they learned their home or livelihood had been destroyed, just as the world remembers where they were when they heard about the fire at Notre Dame.

We need to handle every loss with the same professionalism that we would have had we received the Notre Dame email. In our world, the insured is typically speaking with us because they just experienced some sort of traumatic loss and are asking us for our help. They may have lost a family business or home and could be underinsured. While we hope to always be empathetic and compassionate in our response, it would not shock anyone to hear an insured’s grief can occasionally go unappreciated. We handle hundreds and thousands of cases each year and it is easy to become numb to the fact that, to the insured, a loss is not simply a new assignment; it is a day they will remember for the rest of their lives.

There is no single right way to handle a loss or to deal with an insured’s grief. But there is a wrong way. Part of our role as insurance professionals is to be positive and to use best efforts to make the insured whole like the world must do with Notre Dame. We cannot forget the insured was most impacted by the loss and that perhaps a hastily written second day follow up email demanding additional information or documents could have been communicated differently. To quote from The Things We Think And Do Not Say, Jerry McGuire’s memo in the movie of the same name, “Life is all about personal relationships.”