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Insurance work

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  • Insurance work

    Jim Conway brought this up in another thread, and it sounded like an excellent topic to explore further.

    Who here has experience working with insurance companies for disaster recovery? There are so many questions, I hardly know where to begin.

    Who files? How? Does the work come from the owner, or the insurance company? What considerations are there? Any reference works on this topic?

    Anyone care to lecture or at least start this dialog on this topic?
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  • #2
    When we had the home remodeling business, we worked with insurance companies frequently. Normally, the customer would file for the coverage, and a check was usually (although not always) made out to both the homeowner and our business name. This is usually done to insure that the work would actually be done, and done to a certain standard. It might be handled differently with the restoration business?



    • #3
      Business or home insurance

      Losses are usually covered up to $1,000 on homeowners without additional cost and up to the limits set by the coverage requested in business policies. It's primarily been used for "art" claims and although many photo restorers have never considered this a potential source of income, the work is readily available if you want to get involved.

      A good starting point is to contact the companies in your area that are in the home restoration business that come in after flood damage and clean up carpeting, dry the place out, etc. None that I know of is the least bit interested in the photos and will welcome a source to refer the work to if you contact them.

      The fun begins with the Claims Adjuster - some Companies I've found are great - Allstate for one - and others would think if the Mona Lisa went through a fire, it wouldn't be worth anything more than a new roll of film!

      You have to have a bit of legal clout as well - or at least a good attorney that you can refer people to that can let them know what their rights are (based on the policy of course) ...for years the Insurers have gotten by with replacing old photos (regardless of value) with a new roll film even when the policy states replacement cost, so they are often reluctant to break precedent and need a little nudge in the right direction. Usually a phone call from a qualified attorney will suffice to up the settlement offers!

      I'd be glad to provide a copy of the estimating forms that I've made up for the purpose to anyone who is a Retouch Pro, interested in this type of work and qualified to handle the assignments.

      It's not a business without some pitfalls, I learned to charge 12% of the damage assessment up front after having several prospective clients use us to get their claims satisfied , then pocket the money and never having any work done. Guess that's common but, because I was acting in good faith, I had to learn it the hard away!

      And a final thought here - "replacement in kind" doesn't mean an oil photo original from the 40's can be replaced with an inkjet copy. It's good business ...and will be unless or until the greedy (non-pros) get into it to capitalize on the inroads that we have made with the insurance industry to date.

      Jim Conway


      • #4
        Jim, Do you carry any bonding or insurance to protect yourself and your business as related to the work you do as regards disaster recovery work or is that even necessary? Thanks, Tom


        • #5

          Forward any forms, insurance or otherwise, that you own the rights to, and that you'd like to share, to me here and I'll post them for all to access via our resources page. Email me with questions or to coordinate.
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          Take responsibility for learning


          • #6

            Tom we carry a special policy that covers customer originals while they are in our care against loss or damage from fire, flood, theft, vandalism etc., much the same as any museum would for exhibits that they do not own. I do not carry anything out of the ordinary business insurance otherwise.

            The policy covering customer originals has a $3,600 base for work in process however, I have an open end arrangement with our agent and put higher coverage on things of high value for the limited time that they are in our care. The highest extra charges have been for things like a set of 15 limited edition Norman Rockwell prints, a Lincoln letter - and I've had some rare collector photos, like a gold leaf Curtis and a MBW that had declared values in excess of 10,000.

            It's really not expensive, around $170 a year plus an extra $20 to $40 for the collectors items that I get in once in awhile and knowing they are covered lets you (and your clients) sleep easier! Check with your local historical society or art museum and find out who handles their insurance - they are usually up on this type of coverage and can help you with anything you need.

            We require the customer to declare value if an original is over $200. I recently turned down a job on an MJ baseball card that needed a very minor touchup because the guy valued it at over $10,000. I doubt that it was worth more than a few hundred and thought it might be a flaky deal so I wasn't about to get involved with it. I think the declaration is good policy for anyone in the business, it's best to know ahead of time what your customer thinks their property is worth - just in case.

            In making up the damage assessments for insurance claims we are the ones that put a "replacement" value on the photos and I base that on the going market rates. We do not put a "salvage" value on the damaged goods, it would be up to the insurance company to say they still have some value (like a demolished car) and I've never had that happen.

            Jim Conway


            • #7
              Thanks for the quick response. Excellent info and suggestions. Tom


              • #8
                Hi all

                This is a great topic. I've had some experience with insurance and salvage companies. They can be a bit of a hassle.

                I've had the companies bring work in and also the individuals. I've even had someone from UPS come in.

                Like Jim I always provide something in writing. I usually will do a complete examination report that describes the piece and it's condition (damages) and proposes a treatment for the piece. This is typical for a conservation treatment but it could be applied to digital restoration as well. Their is always a charge for the written report.

                If the piece is brought in by the client I insist they must pay for the piece upon completion and work it out with the insurance company. I will provide the written information and the estimate but it is up to the client and the company to work out if the piece is covered and how much.

                The big problem comes in when the company brings in the piece. They can be very slow to pay and often leave me stuck with the work for long periods of time (either incomplete or complete). Some salvage places will use your space as a storage area for pieces that can't be put back until restoration/rennovation of a building is complete! UGH! It is good to include a clause on an authorization form that says a storage charge of X dollars will be charged if the work is left past a certain time period.

                For those interested in insurance policies for pieces that you are working on to insure against any damage you may accidently do during restoration you can contact Huntington Block. As far as I know they are the only company that provides this type of insurance. AIC the American Institute for Conservation worked with the insurance company to provide this specialized type of coverage for conservators. Last time I checked it was about $850.00 per year for it as well as regular insurance (fire/theft and contents etc.).

                I have to say I don't go out of my way to contact/advertise to insurance and salvage companies but they do seem to find their way to me.



                • #9
                  Heather, When you bill the Ins. Co. upon completion , do you add an interest fee for late payment, if, say, the payment is more than 30 days deliquent plus a storage fee? Sort of sounds like working directly for the Ins. Co. is more of a bother than a boon... Tom


                  • #10
                    I haven't but that sounds like a good idea to me.

                    And yes, they can be a pain sometimes!



                    • #11
                      Any source of income ( if it fits your business operation) is well worth the bother! Most people here would not be interested in Disaster Recovery work because it entails too much work on the originals, but it's still (or can be) a real profit center for others.

                      I have only one DR order in process at the moment but I've already been paid over $4K on it and it's less then 50% completed. I use a "completion phase" billing system because some of the jobs take months and months for ME to finish because I make them low priority after the initial cleanup. There is seldom any kind of a collection problem, probably because all of it, including the payment terms, is worked out with the Claims Adjustor in advance.

                      Another thought on "declining jobs" that you don't like or do not want to handle, I'd suggest that you not let any inquiry go to waste! If I can't do the work, we don't just let the customers hang out to dry, we find someone who can handle the work for them. That's not just hype either - go to the business card that we use for out of town inquiries.

                      That's part of my reason for being here - most Conservators know each other (by reputation if not in person) and have no trouble making referrals - finding qualified Pro Retouchers on the other hand is very difficult. They have no associations representing them, so it's much harder to determine skill levels or interests. In all good faith, I cannot recommend someone unless I know they are qualified to bid the jobs properly and deliver what's actually needed rather than "bending" the job specs to fit their own facilities. A color snapshot reprint from an old 35mm slide or cleaning the Mona Lisa - neither job would fit in my shop but it's important to me to point the customer in the right direction!

                      Doug has done an exemplary job in creating a place for Retouchers to come together and learn from each other. I see it as more than a learning center, it's a network in the embryo stages with the potential to save millions and millions of old photos. Only time will tell, but putting the clients needs before your own is the only way that this (or any other network) can grow.

                      I've belonged to numerous organizations - all "academic" in nature. This one is different - it's hands on. The sales adage that "nothing happens until someone sells something" can be applied here. All of the research and academic papers in the world are not saving our heritage of old photos, that's your job and a priority to consider even when it's not a "do-it-in-my-own-shop" type of a project..

                      Jim Conway


                      • #12
                        I would respectfully disagree about one point Jim, and that is that any source of income is worth the bother. Some sources may involve unethical or immoral type material and I am not willing to compromise myself simply in the quest for the almighty dollar. Additionally there are persons who are so disagreeeable,dishonest or hard to please that it is more destructive to one's business and reputation to deal with them than to simply refuse service. There are some threads concerning this very thing in the work/jobs section. Regardless of how much the job is worth, if you spend months fighting a bureaucracy to finally get paid, or, have to spend time sending letters, making phone calls, etc., you are loosing valuable time, plus, not being compensated in a timely manner is a real drain on the bottom line when you consider that the time you spent doing the job could have been spent doing work for those who pay promptly. Somewhere in the work/job section there are a couple of threads addressing referrals, which pointed out what you wisely said reference referring certain types of jobs to others more qualified, a very good piece of advice by the way. Again though, if an Ins. Co. has a track record of "foot dragging", I would be hesitant to commit very much time or effort to them, unless the customer was paying me directly and then submitting a claim for reimbursment to the Company. Waiting months to get paid just isnt a way to run a successful business... if I try telling the Power Company I'll pay 'em as soon as "XYZ" Ins. Co. pays me, I suspect I would be reading the mail by candle light... Tom


                        • #13
                          Hey Tom, I would hope that the insurance companies that I deal with are not lacking in morals but who knows, probably a lot of people paying the premiums rate increases might think so! :-)

                          In any event this is a good post for me to bow out on and get back to that pile of work I reminded myself is still sitting there waiting for me. I've made my business an open book here so everyone pretty much knows my views and I don't want to get into that "old man" trait of being overly redundant in expressing them. At my age that's a much needed form of "energy conservation"!!

                          So, best of luck to all of you - and if any of you are out this way, stop in - the welcome mat is always out.

                          Jim Conway


                          • #14
                            Tom you had me laughing by candle light reading your post. You have a sense of humor.

                            Just to set the record straight. Although insurance companies and salvage places are a pain in my butt, I still deal with them. I just have specific policies in place in the hopes of reducing the hassles, and not waste my time and money (making phone calls, writing letters, paper work, looking at pieces left in the studio for months or years on end). I always like to do the best I can for all my clients because it's all about saving the art/documents/ Jim said. BUT like you said Tom if they have a track record of not paying and such I likely won't deal with them again. Well maybe if they pay up front. It is a case by case basis.

                            Anyway as Jim has said this is a forum for all of us to learn from in a practical sense and I think anyone who wants to gain the business of ins and salvage companies should be aware of the pitfalls. And who better to learn from but those who have dealt with them.

                            Tangent for a moment....

                            which reminds me...there was a thread somewhere on the site where people were asking how long you have to keep someone's piece if they don't pick it up. The answer is 7 years, and you have to show you've made attempts to contact them (registered mail receipt will do this). My goal is to not have any pieces left in my studio. So far so good.

                            The referal thing is a bit iffy though. I'm not so sure my good colleages would appreciate me reffering one of my dead beat clients to them as I would not appreciate them doing that to me.

                            On the other hand I have a long list of conservators, appraisers, museum quality frame shops and so on that I refer my clients to all the time. These are people I know personally or have been told by conservators I trust that they are reputable. I certainly don't leave anyone hanging if I can help it (with the exception noted above). Just the other day I spent an hour hunting down the phone number of an old colleage for someone on the east coast that was desperate to find her and found my name and number because I used to work at the same place and that's just one example of
                            the efforts I try to make. And it's not all about making money it is about providing a service and helping people preserve and conserve their valuables.

                            As I've said in the thread about referals, being helpful and nice to the clients ensures that they've had a possitive experience and hopefully they will express that to their friends!

                            Business is half about the service you provide and half about the way you go about providing it.

                            I don't know about you guys but all I need is someone to rub me the wrong way and I won't frequent a business anymore. The other one I hate is no pricing on goods for sale in a shop! Especially a big store that is understaffed.

                            Ok that's all for me for now...I'm getting off topic!

                            Before I go...Jim it sounds like you are leaving us? Is that true? We all appreciate your comments suggestions and questions. I hope you continue to write in the forums, I look forward to reading what you have to say!

                            Talk to you later eh? :o
                            (hehe...sorry my American husband is watching Molson Canadian commercials on his laptop and it's bringing out my Canadianisms...ooot and aboot!)

                            Last edited by Lampy; 02-20-2002, 09:22 PM.


                            • #15
                              Heather, I like what you said about frame shop referrals and others. I remember Stanley Marcus writing about the lady who came into Nieman-Marcus to buy her husband socks and the salesman sold her suits, shirts, everything. Not because he took advantage of her but because he met her needs.

                              That's all part of caring for the people we are with each day, customers, family, friends - we all appreciate people who care for us and meet our needs.

                              Professional service stands out.



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