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Maximizing Property Claims Evidence Collection: Embracing Technological Advancements for Visual Documentation

June 9, 2023

What You See Is What You Get: Improvements in Property Claims Evidence Collection 

Property claims professionals primarily rely on visual evidence to reconstruct loss events, as-built conditions, and ultimately to establish conclusions. The means of collecting visual evidence and sharing images with experts and clients have undergone significant changes as technology has improved over the past decades. VERTEX was founded in 1995 in the era of film cameras that required experts to manually select and arrange prints to format our hardcopy reports. Since then, digital cameras have moved from specialized to widely available to ubiquitous. Similarly, streamlined digital file sharing and dissemination enable VERTEX engineers located across the globe to simultaneously collaborate on reports to meet deadlines.  

New methods of photography and file storage have also enabled safer and faster property claims investigations. VERTEX staff includes trained drone pilots that can inspect building facades and roofs safely from the ground. Eliminating costly and time-consuming access enables our property claims experts to quickly identify areas of damage or avenues of water intrusion. VERTEX experts are also able to analyze publicly available real estate photos, aerial images, and street-level images. The use of time stamps and improved resolution allow engineers to compare documented conditions often within months of claimed damage. 

Regarding video documentation, surveys of properties have long been completed prior to blasting or anticipated vibrations at construction sites, but the associated videos have only recently been easily shared for evaluation by experts. In years past, litigation was often needed to compel survey documentation to be shared through boxes of VHS tapes that required hours or days to sift through. Now, digital drop boxes of GPS-tagged .mp4 files enable experts to match claimed damage to preexisting conditions. At a claim in Malden, Massachusetts, VERTEX was able to exactly match a preexisting crack at a residential foundation to one identified in a pre-blast video survey. The evidence firmly supported our conclusion that the crack was attributable to long-term shrinkage of the concrete foundation wall and eliminated the potential for disputes with the Insured. 

The most recent introduction to the field of claims imagery improvements is three-dimensional (3D) scanning and modeling. Once the stuff of science fiction, now an instant 3D scan unlocks your phone as soon as you glance at the screen, and 3D scans have entered the marketplace as a means of documenting or modeling the built world. Since 2020, VERTEX’s fire investigation experts have utilized the technology to fully document fire losses prior to enable scene evaluation even after cleanup and repairs have been made. VERTEX has also been able to utilize 3D scans from real estate listings to evaluate conditions at buildings prior to a loss event. At a 6,000 square-foot rural estate, scans for a 3D tour were completed immediately prior to the property sale to the Insured. The scan therefore presented an ideal documented condition of the building from the outset of the insurance coverage. VERTEX was able to visually assess finish conditions, evidence of water intrusion, cracked beams, and even recent renovations prior to the loss. VERTEX identified pre-existing conditions that matched areas of claimed water damage and included image captures in our reporting. The images provided substantial backup to our conclusions that the recent water loss did not extend to the area in question.  

Improvements with software processing of standard photographs have also enabled 3D modeling without specialized equipment. 3rd-party reports are available that use exterior photos to generate full-building models to allow for more accurate cost estimation and damage assessment. Similar technology is available for interiors as well, where inspectors can create floor plans and 3D models using their phone. 

How We Can Help

The methods of collecting and disseminating visual evidence for property claims continue to evolve, and VERTEX is at the forefront of the industry in adopting all available technology to provide the best service for our clients. We predict that further adoption of 3D scanning technology boosted by the real estate industry will provide invaluable information for claims professionals. Continued collection of real estate photographs, aerial photographs, and street-level photographs in publicly available sources will further reduce the uncertainty of building conditions prior to a property claim loss event.

To learn more about VERTEX’s Forensic Engineering and Construction Consulting services or to speak with an Expert, call 888.298.5162 or submit an inquiry.

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