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Insurance surveyor and assessor: functions and responsibilities

What role does a surveyor and loss assessor play in general insurance claims

Insurance policies are of different kinds depending upon the level of protection required by you in various stages of life. Not just for life and health, a lot of people also buy insurance to cover their home, machinery at business, and cargo, among others.

However, when a claim is filed, there could be differences between what an insurer and the insured believe the actual loss in a particular situation to be. Accordingly, if there is a claim that is expected to go beyond a certain defined limit under a general insurance policy, the insurer sends a surveyor or a loss assessor to determine the damage.

Ideally, the surveyor and loss assessors are expected to observe the damage and submit their report about it independent of the insurer and the insured.

They play a vital role in general insurance claims. Let us read a little more about them.

A surveyor is essentially a professional link between the insured and the insurer. An individual or a corporate entity willing to be a surveyor and loss assessor has to undergo an application process, as decided by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (Irdai). Irdai has defined the specific eligibility criteria for different kinds of surveyors.

For instance, to become a surveyor and loss assessor for motor insurance, one must have qualifications in mechanical or automobile engineering. Surveyor for marine insurance requires qualifications in marine engineering or naval architecture; and surveyor of a crop insurer requires a degree in agricultural sciences. 

Irdai maintains a list of all the surveyors in the country on its website. 

Surveyors come into the picture when estimated losses are in excess of Rs50,000 for a motor insurance claim and over Rs1 lakh in other insurance claims, such as for fire or marine insurance.

Irdai reviews these limits every 3 years. The surveyor can be appointed either by the insurer or the insured. However, the surveyor’s report is not binding on the insurer. In case the insured is not satisfied by the final settlement offered by an insurer, she can approach the insurance ombudsman. 

Technically, even an insured can appoint a surveyor. However, it might be difficult for you to appoint one. The terms related to surveyors and loss assessors in most insurance policies make it difficult for an insured to appoint a surveyor.

Moreover, insurers have an institutional mechanism in place to appoint these professionals and pay them their fees. If you want to appoint your own surveyor, you would have to pay for it. 

A surveyor and loss assessor, whether appointed by insurer or insured, is expected to submit the report to the insurer within 30 days of being appointed—and a copy of the report to the insured as well, with comments on the assessment of loss. If required, the surveyor can seek an extension while keeping the insured informed about the same. However, regardless of any extensions, a surveyor has to submit the report within 6 months from the date of appointment. 

If the insurance company finds a survey report to be incomplete, it can ask the surveyor for an additional report, which needs to be submitted within 3 weeks. Such an additional report can be sought only one time during a single claim cycle. 

So, if you feel that a claim that you are about to lodge could be more than Rs50,000 for a motor insurance or Rs1 lakh for other general insurance policies, maintain all the records of the accident or the insured event. Try not to disturb the scene where the accident or incident took place. It is also your responsibility to cooperate with the surveyor.

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