Alternative Methods for Securing Evidence in the COVID-19 Era

As a follow-up to the latest blog about in-person evidence inspections (Fire and Evidence Inspections in the Age of COVID-19), evidence can also be collected by methods other than having an engineer, property adjuster, or technician secure the evidence. This information applies to any time it is not economical to send someone to a loss site, not just in times of maintaining physical distance.

There are a few factors that should be kept in mind whenever gathering and shipping evidence in this manner.

First, all evidence germane to the loss must be secured at the loss site. This includes not only the part or piece that failed, but any pieces that may have broken off, and any other pieces of the assembly that may be of interest. If there are any questions as to what pieces of evidence should be retained for inspection, please give our office a call.

Next, the chain of custody should be established for the insurance claim file. While a formal chain of custody form may not be necessary or available, the adjuster should at minimum document who found the failed part, where it was kept prior to being shipped, the condition of the part when it was discovered, who packaged the failed part for shipping, and who ultimately shipped the part. The individual that receives the evidence can then note and start a formal chain of custody form from that information. It is critical that the evidence remain as close to its original state as possible, so manipulations or modifications should be avoided.

The final piece of the puzzle is shipping the evidence to an expert or the insurance carrier (that has a proper evidence locker system) for further analysis or safekeeping. Shipping evidence always has downside and risk because a shipper’s insurance carrier will not allow you to insure the package for more than the cost of the product, which is often far less than the value of your subrogation claim. This risk may be magnified if an untrained individual is packaging the evidence. However, a reliable expert should be able to assist and send a shipping package that can adequately protect the evidentiary product.

Recently, an insurance client contacted me with an insured that suffered property damage due to a failed sump pump. The insured was immuno-compromised and, due to the Covid-19 concerns, did not want anyone to come into his home to collect the sump pump. In order to secure the evidence, an expert was retained on behalf of the client, who sent the insured a prepared shipping kit that allowed the insured to safely package and ship the sump pump himself, without coming into physical contact with another individual.

While not ideal, there are options for shipping evidence when an insurance company representative cannot be on site to handle the process. Prior to moving forward with your evidence collection and shipping, give Aaron Plamann a call at 414-271-5400 to discuss other issues, your options, and the best way to proceed with your subrogation recovery.