The Industry Will Shine In The Midst Of This Tragedy

Even a week later, words are hard to come by and hardly seem sufficient to convey the horror of what happened to the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, as well as the four hijacked planes.

We here in the Hoboken office of National Underwriter experienced the tragedy viscerally, located as we are directly across the Hudson River from the Twin Towers. Many of us were eyewitnesses, watching the second hijacked plane crash deliberately into the WTC, as well as the collapse of each of the two towers.

Many of us had a special attachment to those mighty buildings. Some here commuted through the WTC every single day. Many of our contacts and friends, readers and advertisers in the insurance industry who worked in the complex may be lost in the rubble.

The memories of the events of this devastating day will never leave us.

But we will recover. And the insurance industry will play a crucial role in this recovery.

Robert A. Rusbuldt, chief executive officer of the Independent Insurance Agents of America in Alexandria, Va., noted that “the entire industry will work together to help victims recover and to put their lives back in order. Insurance will play a huge role in the recovery of hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses affected in New York City and the hundreds of thousands of people impactednationally.”

Rusbuldt, who conceded sadly that “unfortunately, [insurance] policies cannot replace the tragic loss of life,” noted that IIAA and its New York affiliate would be establishing a fund “that will help victims and their families pull through these trying times.”

Granted that nothing can replace a life lost, but the life insurance industry will provide financial balm in the weeks and months ahead so that families that have lost loved ones do not also have to suffer an equally calamitous loss in the way they live.

There is every indication that the industry will rise to the occasion and fulfill its role nobly. Life insurers seem quite anxious to reassure the public that there will be absolutely no attempts to try to wriggle out of paying claims.

Indeed, at this writing, there is talk of life insurers pushing to find ways to work around state laws that might interfere with life policy claims being paid to victims of the attacks who cannot be found or identified.

Life-related claims will undoubtedly be in the billions of dollars. But very shortly after the attacks, the American Council of Life Insurers issued a statement, saying, “Our industry is financially strong and prepared to make good on our promises to policyholders.”

Fortunately, there seems to be a widespread recognition in the business that any attempt to weasal out of responsibility for paying claims by using tactics such as the acts of war exclusion would be tantamount to courting a public relations nightmare.

If there were any doubters, however, they should be warned by remarks in the draft of a letter from House Financial Services Committee Chairman Mike Oxley, R-Ohio, to Kathleen Sebelius, president of the National Association of Insurance Companies.

In that draft, Oxley said, “Any attempts to evade coverage obligations by either primary insurers or reinsurers based on such legal sophistry would not only be unsupportable and unpatriotic, but would tear apart the faith of the American people in the insurance industry, which as been one of the foundations of our economy.”

We are fully confident that the industry is already way ahead of Oxley and that life companies and agents will find in this tragic situation the opportunity to prove how valuable they are in the worst of times.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, September 21, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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