Banking & Finance

You Insured What? When? Where? How?

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – On its surface, the insurance industry isn’t readily associated with glamour and excitement.   Under that surface, local insurers have written policies that protect millions of dollars worth of assets for clients in the entertainment industry, professional sports teams and have covered breakthrough advances in medicine.

Some clients have even had their insured belongings entangled in political crises halfway around the world.

“We had one client who was a hunter,” recalls Trent Cailor, president of Cailor Fleming Insurance, Boardman. Years ago, that client was on a hunting excursion in Africa. He had taken with him an elaborate gun insured for a considerable sum of money. The hunting party had set up camp very close to the border of a politically unstable country where a coup d’état had just taken place.

Fearing that raiding parties of the neighboring country would cross the border and attack the hunters’ campsite, local police officials ordered their immediate evacuation. Amid the chaos to escape, the client left his prized rifle behind.

When he returned to the United States, the client filed a claim for the value of the lost gun, Cailor says. “The underwriters denied it” based on a provision in his policy that protected the insurance company from risks related to war.

There was just one problem, Cailor says. His client wasn’t technically in a war zone when he lost the gun, and the country where he fled had not declared war – it was the neighboring country that was in turmoil.

“We had to diligently work through police reports and various translations, but we were able to pinpoint where he was at the time he lost the gun,” Cailor recalls. “We were then able to ascertain that the country he was in was not at war.”

The result was a resolution in favor of Cailor’s client, and the claim paid out more than $30,000. “That was definitely one of the most unique cases I’ve seen,” Cailor says.

Another market that Cailor Fleming serves is the prosthetics industry, Cailor says. His company is the endorsed insurance agency of the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics, and has written policies for clients throughout the country.

Today, scientific advances in prosthetics allow doctors to attach nerve endings to artificial limbs that transmit signals to the brain, Cailor says. These prostheses, manufactured with composite metals and materials, allow clients to engage in stressful physical activity such as running.

One client is using prosthetic limbs with a high-end composite metal that allows him to compete in track and field events in the Paralympic Games. Cailor Fleming was asked to insure his artificial limbs.

“There are amazing surgical procedures and implants being done today that I liken to the Six Million Dollar Man,” he says, referring to the 1970s television series in which the main character, astronaut Steve Austin, was severely injured in a crash and essentially rebuilt with mechanical parts.

The costs of these devices are quite high, and Cailor is often asked about insurance policies on advanced prosthetics. “We do a lot here and we write a considerable amount of business across the country,” he says.

There is a seemingly endless list of items and personal belongings that people want to insure, not to mention coverage for those whose livelihoods are considered unusual and potentially high risk.

“We cover aquatic engineers,” says Dave Thompson, owner of Thompson Insurance Group, Girard. Aside from the everyday menu of traditional insurance policies – car, auto, life – the company has made forays into more specialized industries. Aquatic engineers, for example, are underwater divers who inspect the condition of dams and bridges, an occupation that requires specific coverage.

“The day-to-day business is our bread and butter, but we do a lot of unique and different things,” Thompson says. Among the clients his company insures is Swagger, the lovable 120-pound live bullmastiff dog of the Cleveland Browns. “We do the liability coverage for him,” he says with a laugh. The company is exploring coverage for the dog should it accompany the team to London for the Browns’ Oct. 29 game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Moreover, his company has carved out a strong business in pet insurance and related industries. “We insure dog groomers, kennels and manufacturers in the industry,” Thompson says.

It’s a business that is growing steadily in the United States, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. In 2015, the trade group reports, the United States witnessed a 17.1% increase in the number of policies written over the previous year. The Canadian market rose 15%, the association reports.

The Thompson Insurance Group also writes plans for equine insurance, covering everything from pony rides and farms to prized racehorses. “We get calls every day from all across the country,” he says.

In addition to the pet and animal insurance business, Thompson has successfully covered events such as music festivals, holds a contract to insure a film festival in Hollywood this year, and helped write a policy on one of the vehicles – an armored car in this case – used in one of the Fast and Furious movies. “This was on the special events side of the business,” he says. “They rent these cars out for parties and so forth and there needed to be general liability on it.”

Among the most interesting projects Thompson says he’s worked on was insuring vacant properties in Cleveland’s Slavic Village. “We put together a program that transferred a lot of the risk to the contractors,” he notes, “and that was a neat project.”

Even Thompson isn’t sure what the next day might bring. “I look at my job as to what is in front of me right now,” he says. “We try to find a program for everyone.”

Shelley Odille, president of Paige & Byrnes Insurance in Howland, says every business is different and in many cases requires a policy that specifically addresses its needs.

“You really get to learn about each business,” she says. Several years ago, when Odille was starting out in the industry, she was asked to quote a policy for the tobacco industry. “I didn’t realize that it is one of the highest risk industries for theft,” she says.

The agency writes policies for rare items such as collector automobiles. “We’ve insured one of the very early Packards,” she says.

Insuring classic vehicles is always interesting, Odille relates. “There’s often the collector whose on his 10th, 11th or 12th car and wants a policy. And then his wife calls,” she laughs.

Most policies Odille writes are related to the operations of manufacturers, office buildings and restaurants. But every once in a while even these companies submit unusual requests for coverage, she says.

“My father told me once that he had to write a policy for a piece of equipment that was being moved,” Odille recalls. Such a policy shouldn’t have been out of the ordinary, she explained, but in this case the request was a little far afield: “It was only being moved a couple of inches.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.