Some of you may know that my academic background and training was in religion and philosophy. One of the areas of study in philosophy is aesthetics, which is essentially the study of beauty. Mostly aesthetics focuses on the arts, i.e., paintings, music, poetry, drama, etc. Rarely, if ever, is aesthetics mentioned in the world of business. There is an exception… and it is in the form of a book. A book of inestimable worth, beautiful in concept, design and execution. A true work of insurance art. The book is entitled When Words Collide – Resolving Insurance Coverage and Claims Disputes. It is written by Bill Wilson, CPCU, ARM, AIM, AAM.
I first became acquainted with Bill almost 25 years ago. I had just become Director of Education for IIANC and Bill was Director of Education for the Insurors of Tennessee. Having read and studied many of the great minds in Western Culture, I became immediately attracted to this person who appeared to have an incredible gift for insurance language and a creative genius. I have gotten to know Bill as a colleague and, more especially, as a friend over this last quarter of a century. I continue to be amazed at his ability to wrestle reason out of insurance forms and his creativity and insights in producing enlightening content on insurance subjects.
When Words Collide should be in every office where insurance issues are considered (whether in an insurance agency, underwriting or claims office or attorney’s office.) It is not a textbook or tome written by an academic, rather it is a compendium of almost 50 years of interpreting insurance forms and applying those interpretations to events in the real world. It is eminently readable and even humorous in places. It does contain a wealth of information about insurance policies as legal contracts and a layman’s approach to the different methods used by lawyers and courts in the interpretation of insurance policies. However, the great worth of this book lies in its treasure trove of actual anecdotes where these legal principles are applied to specific claims and where Bill was able to wrestle reason out of the form and apply it to the facts to obtain an equitable resolution to an insurance claim. Anyone who has spent any time in the insurance business knows the difficulty in drafting generic insurance forms that have a straightforward application to actual events. Claims adjusting is not an exact science. Adjusting is a tough job. I have often said that the job of an adjuster is to pay the claimant every penny to which they are entitled under the policy… but not a penny more because they are spending my money. There is almost an inherent conflict between the interest of the insurance company and the interest of the policyholder. This conflict gives rise to multiple interpretations of the insurance policies intent to cover. The law of contracts recognizes that where insurance policies are written by insurance companies any ambiguities in the policy language should be interpreted to the favor of the policyholder. Therefore, the ability to read insurance policies to determine fair and reasonable interpretations of the policy language is a tremendous benefit to the policyholder and not unfair to the insurer. When Words Collide is a master class in making such fair and reasonable interpretations.