“This tragedy in Ohio is something different” – Crawford’s Law

“This tragedy in Ohio is something different” – Crawford’s Law

The earthquakes in Syria and Turkey, an offshore oil spill, or reckless exit from wildfire are a few examples that grabbed the headlines while also raising a multitude of claims and concerns for adjusters to evaluate.

The train derailment and subsequent burning of corrosive chemicals contained in the freight in East Palestine, Ohio, is another recent event that has various implications for insurers and, more importantly, the city’s residents.

Proceed with compassion

For Michael J. Law, vice president at Crawford Global Technical Services and a claims adjuster with years of experience in the field, the first and most important step in assessing a situation like Ohio’s is to approach it with a compassionate attitude.

“When you’re dealing with people who have experienced events like this, the most important thing is to have empathy right away,” Law said. “You have to put yourself in their shoes and understand the deep frustration and innate fear these people are experiencing right now, especially with all the variables and unknown outcomes as a result of this gaffe and the burning of caustic chemicals.”

From an underwriting perspective, a loss adjuster needs to understand how the entire city will be affected, especially for both property and business owners.

“No one is going to restaurants, buying anything from convenience stores, or filling up, which puts a strain on local operations that can continue to provide services,” Law said.

“People will also have to reconsider moving to another city, but where will they go when their greatest asset is now worth nothing? Mortgages still have to be paid off.”

Unusual Circumstances

While natural disasters of varying severity have become the norm in modern times, cases like this one are a relative anomaly in Ohio.

“We’re used to seeing naturally occurring events, whether they’re hurricanes, ice storms, especially in places where they don’t happen that often, and demolished buildings,” Law said. “But this tragedy in Ohio is different and you need to keep an eye on the long-term impact on the city. Will people’s businesses be able to recover, will the land be considered toxic and uninhabitable?”

After monitoring the situation from various news outlets and reports firsthand, Law noted that “on the side of homeowners and consumer claims, we’ve seen vehicles and homes where a lot of soot has accumulated.”

However, these more aesthetic concerns pale in comparison to the more pressing environmental impacts. Residents are tired of trusting the air they breathe and the water they are told is safe, which unfortunately is not an easy fix for insurers or public health officials.

“There will most likely be a lot of water and air quality testing over the next few months, and even then we may not yet know what the long-term health risks will be,” Law said.

“I’m going home and I can’t feel safe. I don’t want to get sick going to my house. This is my home. I live there. My child should grow up there,” said a mother from East Palestine. https://t.co/qAzRGuM21C

— ABC News (@ABC) February 27, 2023

This can result in a significant drop in real estate values ​​while alienating city dwellers from important business relationships such as real estate and travel.

Timeline indefinite

Events involving ecological impacts beyond mere physical destruction generally have a more hypothetical framework for how long and arduous the road to resolution will be.

Referring to a previous incident, Law recalled the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 and spilled hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. “It took five or six years for the area to recover,” he said. “It wasn’t just about the fishery, it was also about air and water quality and the impact on surrounding businesses.”

Similarly, it will most likely be some time before the full extent of any entropic agricultural, health or economic impacts in eastern Palestine can be concretely assessed.

“In the end, it’s probably going to be some combination of private industry and government resources that gets this done as quickly as possible, so we’re not talking about that event in nine months,” Law said.

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