Shifting to Paperless Accident Management
A few years ago, there was a lot of talk in the information technology industry of the "paperless office." In this vision of utopia, everything would be done through the computer, with a consequent saving of time, money, and trees. It didn't happen quite that way. However, there is one area of fleet management that is successfully going paperless, and that is accident management.
One of the companies providing this service is Corporate Claims Management (CCM) of Richboro, PA. CCM's president, Bob Martines, explained how the company's online, paperless system operates.
Once the driver has called in the claim, CCM's clients are able to oversee the entire claims process without having to make or receive so much as a single phone call.
The Process in Action
The process begins with the initial call in which the driver reports an accident to CCM. When the claim is completed, the file will include a loss notice detailing the accident description, date, time, information on all parties involved, witnesses, and injured parties, as well as police report information. Not only is this information available, but also information regarding the assigned preferred vendors, accounting details, salvage or vehicle remarketing details, and subrogation data. In addition, all insurance details, as well as all the actions taken to manager the claim, the contacting of various vendors, third-party personnel, e-mails, and all history associated with each file is available online for viewing 24 hours a day via a secure website.
A Personal Contact
The driver involved in an accident calls a toll-free number, and is connected with a claims tecnician or adjuster who will assist the driver and offer immediate aid. There are no automatic answering systems to route calls; drivers are handled by personnel training in calming driers who may be under stress, injured, etc., and need immediate attention.
Once it is confirmed that the caller or other parties involved are not injured, the call process moves along in a streamlined process. CCM technicians use point-and-click pulldown menus to gather critical claims information, eliminating unnecessary questions, which gets the claim data gathered quickly and accurately.
This claims information is instantly available on the web for clients to review, and edit, as necessary. Once the claim file is complete, all parties are contacted via email or computer-generated fax. A telephone call is made to ensure the personal contact as well; though technology makes the process simple, Martines insists that personal contact be maintained.
When the Information Is Received
The next phase involves the ongoing receipt and sending of the information needed to manage and close the claim. For claims in process, vendors equipped with email and scanners are able to transmit the estimates and photographs back via the internet. The information received is then linked to the appropriate claim file and clients are able to view pictures of the damaged vehicle and read the estimate within seconds of receipt, regardless of where the client, or the shop, is located.
Martines explained that the time saved going online for information, rather than having to search for hard copy paperwork, can amount to dozens of man-hours for a single claim. Scanned documents and photos can be expanded right on screen, simply by clicking on the magnifier icon.
Following the Claims Process
After the repairs are complete, the normal claims process advances to the invoicing stage. While a number of clients request a paper invoice to satisfy their own accounts payable department, or their internal auditors, very few require written estimates, photographs, or final invoices, since all of this information has already been available on the Web; in the past, this paperwork was mailed along with the final invoice to close the file. Martines provided a graphic "before and after" comparison: in the past, the paperwork and material for all claims on a single page statement stacked a full eight inches high. Today, in the paperless environment, the single page statement was the only paper needed - all other materials, documents, photos, etc. were on the Web. Both CCM and its customers have saved thousands of pieces of paper, cabinets full of files, and boxes full of closed claims.
The reporting capabilities of the system are comprehensive. Reports available include not only the financial data, but also accident type, date, time of day, road and weather conditions, locations, etc. a number of reports are industry standards; however Martines says that customers can request information specific to their operations. Reports regarding costs, subrogation recovery, number of accidents, or statistical comparisons are date-sensitive, and so a client can generate a report for any specific time period, for as short as one day to life-to-date information.
Reports Can Include Non-Accident Material
Reports can also combine all vehicle expense activity, including non-accident related activity such as general maintenance or major mechanical repairs, so each client can analyze the complete spectrum of fleet costs. As an added feature, all records are maintained indefinitely; thus reports and/or claims can be recovered and reviewed at any time.
"Viewing all the processes of the paperless accident management system and its ease of use, one would wonder why any fleet manager would choose the traditional paper-based system. Other than having a 'security blanket' of hard copy, that is, feeling the need to have actual paper in one's hands, paperless is clearly the superior process." Martines said. "The speed and ease of access to information, nationwide and 24/7, is unmatched, particularly when a fleet manager is charged with the responsibility for accident management, in addition to his or her traditional fleet duties."
Doing More With Less
Few fleet managers would doubt that in 2002, they are almost daily being asked to do more with less; fewer staff, fewer resources, and less time. Upper management requires more and more information as companies micro-manage expense. The vast majority of activity in fleet management, as well as managing accident claims, consists of simple inquiry - phone calls and emails asking for dates, times, locations, driver names, etc. In the past, fleet managers had staff to access paper files and other materials from which such information is gleaned. As staff has been reduced, having point-and-click access to this data is critical, and a paperless system provides it.
Martines said that the system is a live process, that is, the company will continue to review and enhance it, using his own staff expertise as well as critical feedback from his customers.