The Text Trap: Why 160 Characters
is Not Enough
Approximately, 40% of the U.S.
population is under the age of 30, which means that a significant part of
our workforce is composed of young people who bring new ideas and
technology to the workplace. This is as true in insurance agencies as it is
in any other business.
People are growing up in a world where their primary forms of communication
include texting, Snapchat and Instagram. Forget about emailing or calling
someone on the phone. Our young employees want immediate responses, which
is what they have come to expect from technology. I challenge you to find
one person under 30 years old who does always not have a smartphone with
Unfortunately, with these forms of communication, agencies open themselves
up to significant potential exposures. Take the case of a 21-year-old
producer who had just obtained his license and was starting out in the
world of insurance. A longtime friend reached out to him to procure
coverage for a newly purchased Dodge Charger. The friend had contacted the
producer via text as that is how they always communicated.
These texts, which were limited to 160 characters, included pertinent
information about the car's make and model, vehicle identification number,
coverages and available limits. The producer didn't think there was
anything unusual about getting information in this manner as that was how
the pair always shared information.
Once the producer received the initial quote, the key information was
transmitted via text. Within that text, the producer indicated that he
would be able to obtain better coverage but never explained what the better
coverage included. In another text, the producer advised that there was an
option for lesser coverage at a lower premium. Again, coverage differences
were never explained to the client. Most significantly, the client rejected
UM/UIM coverage via text and never actually signed the mandated rejection
form because the producer never sent him an email or met him in person.
You won't be surprised to hear that the client was involved in an accident
where the at-fault driver had the state-required minimum liability limits
and the medical bills alone far exceeded those limits. A New-York minute
later, a lawsuit was filed that named the producer and the agency as
The plaintiff and former client will be able to submit all the text
messages as evidence, which means they become public documents. In addition
to the fact that the producer's method of gathering information was
inadequate, much of the language within the texts was very unprofessional,
which will undoubtedly cast a poor light on the producer before a jury.
As composer Libby Larsen observed, "The great myth of our times is
that technology is communication." That's particularly true when you
allow the means of communication to dictate your message instead of the
An insurance producer must communicate fully with a client to accurately
determine the client's needs and clarify what they are requesting from the
agency. Texting does not lend itself to fulfilling the duties of an
insurance agent. Moreover, by foregoing in-person, email and telephone
communication, an agency opens itself up to error & omission claims.
Barbara Rocco is an assistant
vice president and claims specialist with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions and
works out of the Chicago office. Insurance products underwritten by
Westport Insurance Corporation, Kansas City, Missouri, a member of Swiss Re
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