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Insurance claims via smartphone

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CarInsurance.com

Video collision coverage claim appraisalAre you tired of posting 6-second videos to Vine?

Looking for more creative and productive ways to use the video camera on your smartphone?

Recently been in a car accident?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, Esurance has an app for you.

The technology-driven insurance company has taken the claims appraisal process to the next level. In a move that it hopes will dramatically speed up the claims process and reduce customer frustration, Esurance recently added video appraisal functionality to its mobile app, Esurance Mobile.

Now, after filing a claim under your comprehensive or collision coverage, instead of waiting for an appraiser to come out and look at your car or taking it into an appraisal center, you can video chat with an Esurance appraiser and receive a claim estimate (and possibly payment) immediately, all without leaving your driveway. 

 Best for minor scrapes

 Currently video appraisal is only aimed at low-value claims.

According to Esurance’s Christina Curas, “the app was built for smaller and less severe occurrences.” In the event of a major accident, an in-person appraisal is required. It’s difficult to see a bent frame via video chat.

Is it possible to get an accurate appraisal using the same camera you use for those not-so-interesting Vine posts?

Experts who don’t work for Esurance think so, for minor accidents, anyway.

Tony Rached, a licensed car appraiser with Car Appraisals and Claims, says it’s a good idea on small cosmetic claims of $1,000 or less.

Penny Gusner, consumer analyst with CarInsurance.com, agrees but warns consumers that it may not be appropriate for more serious accidents. “If there is major damage, especially if you’re concerned about structural damage, you need a hands-on appraisal,” she says.

Some claims settled immediately

It doesn’t matter if you are an Esurance policyholder, or a non-policyholder with a claim with Esurance, the process is pretty simple. You schedule an appointment with a video appraiser via the app who tells you where and how to video the damage. The appraiser will work up a damage estimate and in some cases can transmit a payment electronically to settle the claim immediately.

According to Curas, customers will have all of the details -- the total cost of repairs, parts use, and supplement process – by the time the chat ends.

How much time does a video appraisal save? The numbers are not out yet, but early results look promising. Curas says: “We have instances where the customer had a completed appraisal on the same day they reported the loss.”

If you are unhappy with the video appraisal amount, you can request a physical, in-person assessment.

You asked for it, you got it

While Esurance is leading the pack with video appraisals, many insurance companies are embracing mobile technology both to speed up the claims process and keep customers happy.

According to the Accenture 2013 Consumer-Driven Innovation Survey, consumers are demanding companies they deal with provide a personalized, technology-driven experience, even stodgy old insurance companies.

Accenture found that 71 percent of consumers were willing to purchase insurance online and 37 percent of consumers had interacted with their insurers via mobile phone. While the number of consumers that had used a cellphone to make a claim was only 9 percent, that number is bound to rise as insurers introduce more mobile features.

The survey results seem to back that up. Accenture found that 44 percent of respondents wanted the capability to send accident photos from their smartphone to back up their claim and 31 percent expressed interest in interacting with their insurance representative through a video chat on their cellphone.

Is video appraisal ahead for your company?

A number of insurance companies now allow claimants to send in photos during the appraisal process.

Chicago-based Snapsheet helps insurance companies handle claims via photos. Snapsheet handles both the technology and appraisals for more than 15 insurers and is cranking out roughly 50,000 claims a year.

While Snapsheet has the capability to video chat with claimants, it is sticking to photos for the foreseeable future. “We have found that customers are typically outside and do not have the best network connections, so video becomes more of a hindrance than an advantage,” says C.J. Przybyl, co-founder of Snapsheet.

One major difference between the Esurance program and Snapsheet is the severity of the collisions each handles.

Snapsheet doesn’t draw the line at fender-benders. “We are able to handle all claims, from very minor to extremely severe and regularly estimate on total loss claims,” Przybyl says.  “Over 50 percent of our claims close same day, and the vast majority close within two days.”

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