The Office of General Counsel issued the following opinion on February 4, 2000.
Re: Use of digital technology in adjusting insurance claims
1. May an independent adjuster collect claims information on a website?
2. Are there any restrictions on using digital cameras, digital note pads, or other electronic devices in adjusting insurance claims?
3. Are there any regulations regarding the storing of information by an independent adjuster in an electronic format?
1. Yes, an independent adjuster may collect claims information on a website.
2. There are no specific restrictions that apply to the use of electronic devices in the adjusting of insurance claims.
3. Yes, there are regulations regarding the storing of information to the extent that you are required to maintain records on behalf of an insurer.
An independent adjuster requested information about any rules or regulations governing different aspects of your business in regard to the use of electronic media and devices.
The Electronic Signatures and Records Act (ESRA), as part of a new State Technology Law, was enacted into law on September 28, 1999 (Chapter 4 of the Laws of 1999). The substantive provisions of the Act will become effective on March 28, 2000. The Act creates a statutory structure in New York State that supports the use of electronic signatures and electronic records in everyday public and business undertakings. A fuller discussion of the act is contained in Circular Letter No. 33 (1999), which may be viewed on the Department's website at http://www.ins.state.ny.us.
A separate discussion of each question follows.
1. The use of a website for the collection of claims information.
There are no specific rules or regulations that apply to the use of a website by an independent adjuster in the collection of claims information. Accordingly, there is no prohibition against an independent adjuster using a website to collect such information. However, since everyone does not have access to the Internet, or the confidence to utilize it, an independent adjuster may not require that all claims communications by the insured (or other person providing the information on behalf of the insured) must be done through the Internet.
2. The use of digital cameras, digital note pads or other electronic devices to adjust insurance claims.
There are no specific rules or regulations applying to the use of using digital cameras, digital note pads, or other electronic devices in adjusting claims. Accordingly, there is no prohibition against an independent adjuster using such devices. Be advised that, in regard to electronic signatures, ESRA establishes minimum criteria that must be met before the electronic signature will be deemed to have the same legal validity as a "wet" signature. The Office for Technology, as the Electronic Facilitator, will be promulgating rules and regulations regarding entities integration of electronic signatures and records into their operations.
3. Storing of electronic information and maintenance of records.
There are no specific rules or regulations governing maintenance of records by independent adjusters, in electronic or other form. However, Regulation 152, entitled "Standards of Records Retention by Insurance Companies", N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 11 § 243 (1996) establishes minimum requirements regarding retention of records by insurers. Section 243.2(d) provides that an insurer shall require, by contract or other means, that a person authorized to act on its behalf in connection with the doing of an insurance business shall comply with the provisions of this Part in maintaining records that the insurer would otherwise be required to maintain." Accordingly, to the extent that an adjuster maintains records on behalf of insurers for whom he or she renders services, the adjuster would be required to comply with the regulation. In regard to other records maintained by an adjuster, there is no requirement for compliance with the regulation. However, it may be prudent to be guided by it.
For further information regarding this opinion, you may contact its author, Supervising Attorney Paul A. Zuckerman of the Departments New York Office.