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Writing Tips for Insurance Professionals

Organizing Large Insurance Loss Reports

Gary Blake | November 1, 2013

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Large loss reports are filled with details, but many of those details are not organized properly, despite the use of subheads throughout the report. This article provides a few tips on organizing these reports.

Subheads signal to the reader what is to come. So, a subhead on "Attachments" lists all accompanying documents, such as invoices, bids, and inventories of losses from the incident. Subheads such as "Cause of Loss" and "Subrogation" are also helpful because they can be communicated briefly.

The problem of organization occurs frequently within the broad subhead of "Adjustment," especially as you drill down to a sub-subhead such as "What Has Been Done" under this category, often much later in the document, many paragraphs before a new subhead appears. That means that this subsection of a loss report needs to be written in a way that it can be reread quickly. The way to make sure it can be reread quickly is to present your organizational pattern to the reader (e.g., "In this section of the loss report, I will itemize several invoices received since the last report; they will include status notes, such as 'Related and justified,' 'Unrelated,' and 'Those requiring further inquiry'").

You have just given your readers a road map of your organization of this section dealing with invoices. The reader now expects the topic to follow the order promised in the introduction.

Common Problem Scenarios

A problem I saw in a recent report that mirrors many lengthy reports is that the writer gets so caught up in describing the details surrounding each invoice that the reader is left in the dark about whether he or she is hearing about a related or unrelated invoice.

Related to the Claim or Not?

In one report I came across recently, the writer didn't mention whether the invoice was related to the claim until the end. But, even if he had started with a subhead—such as "Related Invoices"—the reader might, after reading about several of the invoices, find that there's no handy way of finding out the subject matter of the paragraph without having to reread it completely. This can be avoided if the writer uses a little catchphrase or rubric summarizing the issue of the invoice under discussion.

For example, I've added a rubric to the opening of the following discussion about an invoice. Then, I've gone on to suggest other encapsulations that are very helpful to a reader who needs important information "called out" at once and not buried in lots of prose:

Related and Justified Invoices

Cleaning the Cooking Heads: An invoice from Mars Industrial Supply has been submitted by the insured and ServiceHelpers (SH). SH and the insured have both submitted invoices. The insured suggested Mars, who they have used in the past. SH say that they called and directed Mars to clean the cooking heads in the kitchen. The invoice is for $1,829. In my opinion, it is reasonable to pay under SH invoice.…

While the subhead "Related and Justified Invoices" and the rubric "Cleaning the Cooking Heads" do not make up for the meandering of the paragraph, they do at least tell the reader immediately that the writer is discussing a related and justified invoice, and they neatly encapsulate the topic under discussion (cleaning the cooking heads).

Passive, Confusing Language

In many reports, the writer would simply start discussing another invoice. For example:

An invoice for $2,514.74 from Time Construction was submitted by the school for some work recommended by BDR, the school corporations Architect in the Annex Building. We investigated and found it was not claim related. The insured agreed.

Although, the paragraph is short, it suffers from passive language, a missing apostrophe, and an unnecessary capital word ("Architect"). Most important, the paragraph's ending divulges that this claim is not claims related. The writer has broken the promise of his organization pattern by suddenly discussing an irrelevant invoice. What can the reader expect from the next paragraph: a discussion about a related invoice? Unrelated? Who knows?

The writer doesn't specify what the payment of the money is for, so it is difficult to come up with a substantial rubric to use at the beginning of the paragraph. We might have to settle for: "Architect-Related Expenditures."


In brief, a large loss report, which can run to 10 pages or more, should follow the advice of the preacher who summed up his technique for giving a sermon as follows: "Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em. Tell 'em. And then tell 'em what you told 'em."

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