It used to be so simple: People fell in love and got married. Now, with big settlements involved when serious and catastrophic injuries have been sustained, families need to be wary of marriage predators.

The claimant in a recent case, Kevin Hunt, suffered brain injuries in a tragic ATV accident in 2011 and was determined to have sustained catastrophic impairment. A former girlfriend, Kathleen Worrod, suddenly appeared and whisked him away, successfully marrying Hunt. This incident occurred in Ontario, Canada, where the entitlements under the automobile policy allow for significant benefit limits beyond $1,000,000. Local police located Hunt in a motel room several hours after the wedding. His family was unaware of the marriage until after it had taken place.

In an effort to protect Hunt, the family launched an action in Superior Court in Ontario to have the marriage dissolved. A decision was reached recently, after several years of motions and actions. Although Hunt provided evidence at the trial, his condition leaves him unable to recall and understand the ramifications of the marriage and dispute.

There had been a history of alcohol abuse between the parties, police involvement, and a clear dissolution of the relationship prior to the ATV accident. This historical information and evidence became pivotal in the trial to declare the marriage void. Medical experts made it clear that Hunt did not have the “capacity” to marry.

Superior Court Justice Edward J. Koke declared the marriage void. The decision is being touted as the new protection for all claimants when they may be compromised and a “predator” successfully marries them under suspicious circumstances. The decision to void the marriage is notable because the Ontario Marriage Act allows almost anyone who is not “under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs or any other reason” to marry. The rules are loose, leaving little to stop vulnerable people, often the elderly with dementia, from being pressured to marry.

The result of this automobile insurance case may have broader impact for suspicious marriages across the Province of Ontario. Many feel the decision will offer more protections for claimants, insurers, the elderly and their families.

Laurie Walker, CIP, CRM, SVP, Director of Operations, Canada
Jennifer Rennie, BA, CIP, Senior Adjuster, Vericlaim Canada

Marijuana high on federal radarThe buzz on New Year’s Day was the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, the nation’s most populous state. However, just four days later the focus shifted to federal drug enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act, which still classifies marijuana under Schedule I along with heroin and LSD.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo on January 4, 2018 rescinding all previous guidance documents for United States Attorneys specific to marijuana enforcement that were issued from 2009 through 2014. In the memorandum, Sessions directs all U.S. Attorneys to enforce the laws enacted by Congress and to follow well-established principles when pursuing prosecutions related to marijuana activities.

How does this impact medical marijuana states?

The impact of this change on the 29 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico that currently have comprehensive medical marijuana programs or the 17 states that allow “use of low THC, high cannabidiol (CBD)” products is as hazy as ever. Since December 2014, the federal omnibus spending bills have included the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prevents the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) from using federal funds to prevent certain states “from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

This amendment is temporary and must be approved every fiscal year. In a letter dated May 1, 2017, Sessions asked Congressional leaders to not include this amendment in any future omnibus bill, arguing that the amendment would “inhibit [the Justice Department’s] authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act.” While the 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act signed into law on May 5, 2017 included the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, President Trump added a signing statement that indicated he would “treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

The amendment was included in the last short-term continuing resolution spending bills that expire January 19, 2018 and Sedgwick is carefully monitoring whether the amendment will again be renewed.

How does this impact recreational marijuana states?

Although DOJ enforcement of federal drug laws in states with laws regarding medical marijuana will depend on continued renewal of this amendment, recreational marijuana laws in eight states may face greater risk.

Despite federal uncertainty, the states are seemingly undeterred. Hours after Attorney General Session’s announcement, the Vermont House of Representatives voted 83 to 61 in favor of a bill that makes it legal for adults to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana. The Vermont Senate approved the bill on January 10, 2018 and Governor Phil Scott has said he will sign it, making the state the first to legalize marijuana via the legislature, rather than through a ballot initiative. Efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in additional states like New Jersey and Michigan are currently underway.

Unless a definitive political solution can found, the conflict between federal and state law may end up going before the U.S. Supreme Court. The last time the high court weighed in on marijuana was 2005. More recently, the high court issued an unsigned opinion in March 2016, refusing to hear Nebraska and Oklahoma’s request to declare Colorado’s legalization of marijuana unconstitutional because it is against federal law and violates the Constitution’s supremacy clause, which states federal law supersedes state laws. Since Justices Alito and Thomas dissented, Justice Gorsuch, President Trump’s latest addition to the U.S. Supreme Court, could eventually cast the deciding vote.

What can employers do?

Because the future of federal marijuana policy and enforcement continues to be so uncertain, it is important to stay up to date on the laws and legal decisions concerning this complex and rapidly changing issue in every state your business operates. We also recommend seeking legal assistance to develop and communicate a sound company policy addressing the use and reimbursement of medical marijuana for on-the-job injuries, as well as employee use of both medical and recreational marijuana.

Sedgwick will continue to work together with clients and partners, carefully monitoring judicial edicts and state law to help navigate this cloudy situation. We will continue to offer updates and insights throughout 2018.

Darrell Brown, Chief Claims Officer

Read past thought leadership on marijuana regulations in the edge and our blog.

Navigating 2018: Charting industry trends for the year

At Sedgwick, our colleagues are dedicated to taking care of our clients and helping them stay informed on key changes and emerging trends in our industry. We recognize that 2018 will be a year of change in a variety of critical business areas.

Sedgwick’s thought leaders believe the changes and trends in the spotlight for 2018 will include important topics such as catastrophe planning and response efforts, policy compliance and drug control efforts, self-service options, improving on opportunities for careers in claims management, diversity and inclusion, interdisciplinary care and technology. We are committed to helping our clients prepare for industry changes by highlighting topics and trends like these that may impact their employees, customers and businesses.

The topics below are part of our Navigating 2018 list and our team will continue to write about and create solutions for them throughout this year in concert with our client partners.

Compounding global risks

  • Reacting to catastrophes
  • Preparing for the threat of emerging risks
  • Protecting first responders

Shifting tide of policy

  • Asserting control over the drug crisis
  • Collaborating for compliance
  • Expanding leave programs

Bridging the gaps

  • Racing toward self-service innovation
  • Supporting diversity and inclusion within claims management
  • Broadening the knowledge and capabilities of today’s claims professional

Leveraging interdisciplinary care

  • Putting whole health into practice
  • Capitalizing on the power of integrated resources
  • Exploring alternatives for pain management

Improving experience through technology

  • Engaging workers throughout their recovery
  • Coding care
  • Moving beyond the predictive model
  • Expanding autonomous claims processing
  • Automating healthcare through artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic processes

To read more visit our Navigating 2018 webpage. Let us know what areas will be most important for your company in 2018. We welcome your feedback.

Kathryn Tazic, Managing Director Client Services, Sedgwick

You may need more than bread and milk on hand if the meteorological phenomenon known as Winter Storm Grayson turns out to be as intense as anticipated. The Weather Channel predicts that Grayson may bring the East Coast of the U.S. some of the heaviest snow in decades and even more severe cold than we’ve seen this past week. It snowed in Tallahassee, Florida, for the first time in 28 years, if that’s any indication of things to come.

Frozen pipes

Even if you’re a northerner who’s used to winter conditions or pride yourself on wearing flip-flops in the snow, extreme cold is accompanied by a significant risk of pipes freezing. Frozen pipes can cause major issues in your home, as they prevent water flow and eventually burst, causing damage and flooding.

Here are five quick and easy tips to help you prevent losses related to frozen pipes: 

Tip #1: Keep the heat on.

Make sure not to turn off the heat, even if you’re leaving the house for an extended period. It’s best to set the thermostat above 50 degrees Fahrenheit to provide enough heat to keep the pipes warm and prevent any water inside them from freezing.

Tip #2: Keep interior and cabinet doors open.

Pipes are often located in cabinets; when the temperature drops, it’s a good idea to keep cabinet doors open so the heat from the rest of the house can keep the pipes warm as well. Also, leave all interior doors open so heat can circulate throughout the home.

Tip #3: Allow faucets to drip.

If you’re afraid your pipes will freeze, you can let water drip slightly from the faucets. What causes frozen pipes to burst is the pressure created between a frozen blockage and the faucet. Allowing the faucet to drip relieves this pressure build-up and helps to keep pipes from bursting.

Tip #4: Seal up leaks.

Holes and cracks—especially those located near pipes—on both interior and exterior walls should be sealed up. This helps to keep the cold air out and the warm air in.

Tip #5: Add extra insulation.

If you’ve ever had problems with frozen pipes anywhere in your home, extra insulation could be the cure. Pipes can be fitted with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves to decrease their chances of freezing. This is an easy solution for pipes that are exposed, but it can get expensive if walls, floors or ceilings must be opened to properly insulate the pipes.

Pipes found in areas like basements and attics are likely to need extra insulation to keep them from freezing. Supplementary insulation can also be added to walls and ceilings to keep pipes there warm.

In the event you do suffer damage to your home or business due to frozen pipes, Vericlaim Repair Solutions will be there to help you through the restoration process. In the meantime, we hope you’re safe and warm and have plenty of milk and bread to hold you over.

–Ed Reis, president, Vericlaim Repair Solutions, a Sedgwick company


At Sedgwick, taking care of people is at the heart of everything we do. Our job is to provide assistance and support when the unexpected occurs. But more often than not, our colleagues are not the first ones at the scene when there’s an injury at work, a natural disaster, an outbreak of violence, an auto accident, a fire or a health crisis. It’s the community first responders—police, firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical providers, search and rescue teams, military members and other brave professionals—who are on the front lines, ensuring everyone’s health and safety durin1200x627_facebookg uncertain times and demonstrating how courage counts.

Each year, leading up to the holidays, Sedgwick conducts an awareness and fundraising campaign to support and promote a cause that is meaningful to our customers, community and colleagues globally. Reflecting on some of the painful events of the past year—hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, terror attacks and more—we were drawn to the bravery of the men and women who ran toward danger, rather than away from it, to save the lives and property of others. In recognition of their sacrifice and heroism, we have dedicated our 2017 holiday campaign to honoring all the first responders who epitomize how courage counts in times of crisis.

This year, Sedgwick is donating $50,000 to charities supporting the physical and emotional needs of first responders around the world. This cause holds special meaning for me because of my own experience as a veteran and a firefighter; I am especially pleased to dedicate Sedgwick’s gift in honor of our valued clients and business partners.

Additionally, we have mobilized Sedgwick colleagues around the world to help us demonstrate our collective gratitude to first responders. In support of the communities where we operate, our colleagues are participating in holiday activities at local police stations and fire houses, bringing meals to emergency personnel who are at work—rather than with family and friends—on the holidays, and delivering thank-you cards to the heroes who make a difference in their local areas.

We’re also recognizing first responders within the Sedgwick family—colleagues and their relatives in the armed forces and who volunteer as firefighters, auxiliary police, ambulance corps team members and more. Please visit our website and watch our social media channels to see how our colleagues and offices around the world are participating.

Do you know a first responder hero whose generosity of spirit you want to recognize this holiday season? Help us honor them on social media by using the hashtag #CourageCounts and tagging @Sedgwick in your messages.

I would be remiss not to acknowledge another group especially deserving of our thanks: the tireless team of adjusters that has gone above and beyond the call of duty in the latter part of this year to aid in managing an influx of property claims from one of the most destructive hurricane seasons on record. While we tend to think of first responders as professionals like EMTs, firefighters and police officers, this year we can add to that list the many colleagues from across the Sedgwick and Vericlaim family who have been on the ground from day one to assist in the areas of greatest need (read more about our hurricane response efforts in the article, “Three powerful hurricanes – one extraordinary team,” from the latest issue of the edge magazine). We are grateful to everyone who has pitched in to help those working to rebuild their homes and their lives in the aftermath of these catastrophic storms. Their personal sacrifices, attention to detail, and commitment to demonstrating that “caring counts” have not gone unnoticed.

This past year, first responders were called upon like never before. We look back on 2017 with renewed appreciation for everyone who aided those in times of need, and ahead to 2018 with a sense of hope that their vital services will be in far less demand next year.

Dave North, President and CEO, Sedgwick

> Read additional Sedgwick thought leader articles in our latest edge magazine at

Beautiful, twholiday-tree_pexels-photo-364668inkling lights and the pine scent of a real holiday tree can be part of a cherished tradition that makes the season bright and festive for many. However, all too easily, the tree that may be decorating your living room can turn into a fire hazard that threatens your family and home.

To prevent fresh-cut trees from becoming dry and easily combustible, it is essential to keep them well watered. Check out the video from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for a comparison of how quickly a dry tree burns versus one that has been given adequate water.

Of course, it is only logical that a dry, brittle tree will burn better than a well-watered one. From a scientific viewpoint, water primarily suppresses fire by absorbing heat. In fire tests, holiday trees have shown peak heat release rates that are roughly equivalent to the energy relewetvsdryased by up to three burning sofas. Click photo to watch video.


In another NIST video, you can see just what happens when a dry tree catches fire. Click on photo to watch video.

As the fire flares, it takes little time for the needles to ignite. The flames quickly rise more than a couple of feet above the tree. As the fire reaches toward the ceiling, the flames draw in air from all sides, providing oxygen for the combustible gases to burn.

Next, the flames begin to spread horizontally along the ceiling; in an open setting, the fire would have more oxygen available allowing the flames to burn out in less distance. The flames advancing across the ceiling transmit the radiant heat downward toward furniture and other combustibles in the room. Jets of smoke become visible, traveling along the ceiling. At high temperatures, the soot particles in the smoke transmit a high degree of radiant energy. For radiant energy at high temperatures, a little increase in temperature can result in a large increase in heat transfer.couchburn

Flames appear in the smoke, directly above the sofa, which means the combustible gases within the smoke have ignited. The ceiling is nearly obscured by the smoke.

The end table begins to smoke from the heat created by the radiant energy of the burning tree. The armrest of the chair closest to the fire begins to smoke, even though it is not in direct contact with the flames. The radiant heat energy from the fire in the tree, as well as the flames and hot gases along the ceiling are taking their toll.

Combustible gases within the smoke begin to burn, and flames are visible directly above the armchair. An orange glow appears on the seat cushions of the sofa, indicating combustion due to the heat energy being radiated from the flames along the ceiling.

The orange glow continues to form on the armchair, first on the armrest, followed by the seat cushion and the back of the chair. The combustion on the seat of the sofa spreads to the back and expands rapidly.

The end table ignites and flames appear. Soon after, the fire on the end table spreads and you see the armchair ignite, then the sofa erupts in flames.

An orange glow overtakes the lower portion of the video, which is consistent with the onset of flashover – where everything that can burn, ignites. Through flashover, fire can engulf an entire room. It is typically associated with temperatures of about 600°C (1,112°F) and radiant heat energy of approximately 20 kW/m2.

Once flashover begins, individual elements of the fire are no longer visible, however, the glow can still be seen through the smoke and flames. The fire has raced from ignition to flashover in less than a minute.

Today’s homes typically have more combustibles than houses built just a few decades ago. Newer structures contain a lot of plastic materials, which give off intense heat and emit toxic gases when they burn. In the event of a fire, your escape time is limited.

If you have a holiday tree, take steps to protect your family and home. Be sure your tree stays well-watered, check that your smoke detectors are working properly to provide early warning, and have a plan to get out quickly if needed.

With precautions and care, you and your loved ones can have a safe and happy holiday.

Unified Investigations & Sciences, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc., is a premier provider of multidisciplinary engineering and forensic investigation services to insurance carriers, corporations and public entities. Their highly experienced and licensed fire protection engineers specialize in providing insights relevant to fire cause, spread, life safety and fire detection, alarm and suppression systems.

Ron Langstaff, M.S., P.E. | Forensic Engineer
Unified Investigations & Sciences, Inc.

A Sedgwick company

HRE-graphic-what's-ahead-2018-webHuman resources and benefit managers will have excellent opportunities to demonstrate their expertise in 2018. The complexity of issues they address on a daily basis continues to grow and evolve. Federal, state, county and city laws that govern employment issues are constantly changing.

Organizational structures can further compound these multi-layered regulatory complexities. Departmental silos with their own internal policies and procedures can make it difficult to implement consistent programs that adhere to internal standards and comply with statutory regulations.

To better meet these obligations and program requirements in the year ahead, more employers are likely to tear down departmental walls in favor of a more collaborative work environment. This is where HR and benefit professionals can make a big impact.

The intersection of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and workers’ compensation provides an ideal illustration of how HR and benefit managers can work with risk managers to create more effective and efficient programs for both employees and the organization.

Employment laws related to leave of absence and accommodations also apply to workers’ compensation claims. It is critical for organizations to understand the nuances of federal laws like the ADA and FMLA. However, the departmental structure of many organizations isolates human resources and benefits from risk management; occupational and non-occupational injuries are treated very differently.

For example, an employee that broke his ankle by slipping off a ladder in the warehouse may have a very different experience if he broke his ankle in a Saturday afternoon neighborhood softball game. For the work-related injury, he may be treated by an occupational specialist near the plant, while he might visit the emergency room or see his primary care physician for the softball injury. The employee also would have to determine who to notify at work to report his condition: the HR department or the risk management department. He would communicate with different people at the organization in filing the claim and would complete different paperwork. Because return to work programs are not often the same for those injured on the job vs. outside of work, finding a job for him at the warehouse while his ankle was healing also could vary.

The need employers must address is to create and implement a consistent leave of absence approach across the board, regardless of what caused the injury or where it happened. Further, reasonable accommodation must be provided on a consistent basis whether conditions and injuries are occupational or non-occupational. This is where the interactive process comes into play.

ADA requirements and the interactive process will remain a hot topic into 2018. The interactive process is recommended to help an employer determine if an employee has a disability and whether reasonable accommodations can be made for the disabling condition.

The interactive process is triggered when an organization becomes aware of an employee’s disability and that person has requested an accommodation or displays a need. Also, a company is obligated to initiate the interactive process when an employee has exhausted leave for work-related and non-work-related conditions alike.

Frequently, the employee, supervisor and HR or benefit representative will have a discussion about the condition and potential options for accommodation. Including healthcare providers in this discussion is advised to exchange information related to the impairment, potential restrictions or limitations and guidance as to whether an accommodation likely will be successful.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service of the U.S. Department of Labor, identified six steps an organization should consider when initiating the interactive process. Anyone handling occupational and non-occupational injuries and illness should consider them, regardless of departmental boundaries. Any disabling condition is subject to reasonable accommodation rules under the ADA.

The six steps JAN recommends are1:

  1. Recognize an accommodation request or a duty to start the interactive process.
  2. Gather information needed to assess the employee’s situation, such as impairment or restrictions and a job description that outlines the tasks the employee performs.
  3. Explore what accommodations might be available to the employee and identify what environmental modifications could be made.
  4. Choose the accommodation and, when possible, ask the employee which is preferred.
  5. Implement the accommodation and offer assistance throughout the process as needed.
  6. Monitor the accommodation to ensure it is working as intended.

Because of the technical knowledge, communication skills and professional experience needed to be a successful HR or benefit professional, the future is bright in 2018. Opportunity lies in taking the lead in collaborative efforts and developing innovative solutions that will benefit employees and the organization.

Bryon Bass, SVP, Disability and Absence Practice & Compliance

> This article was originally published in the November 2017 issue of Human Resource Executive magazine.
> Looking for more information on ADA compliance, return to work and opportunities for collaboration? Register to join our complimentary webinar “Don’t forget the ADA! How to build a premier return to work program” on Wednesday, December 13 at 2 PM EST.

blog-image_colorful-abstractAs our population and our workforces are changing, it is important to embrace the ideals of diversity and inclusion in the workplace today – people from different backgrounds, different generations, different cultures figuring out how they are better together. We can look for ways to be inclusive and find the value in others’ unique perspectives and abilities. We can also consider how to adapt our approach to communication, return to work programs and accommodations in support of individual needs and preferences, as well as overall population trends.

I am pleased to be part of the diversity and inclusion discussion next week at the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference. This session was created to increase awareness of the effects of population and demographic changes on the workplace and how these changes impact our workers’ compensation and disability strategies. One of the key tenets of the session is understanding that, for employees to be culturally competent, organizations must focus on:

  1. Uniqueness (diversity): The extent to which colleagues believe they are respected and valued for who they are
  2. Belonging (inclusion): The extent to which colleagues feel comfortable being their authentic selves
  3. Engagement (discretionary effort): The extent to which colleagues are committed to the organization and its goals

In our discussion, we will provide suggestions and show examples of how the largest employer in both the U.S. and the world is embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Not only will this informative, interactive session give all of us a good understanding of the changing workplace, it will empower us with ideas on how we can foster an environment where individuals can better understand, connect, and support one another.

I would value hearing your thoughts and suggestions. Please share now by sending your questions to us via the comments section or our Twitter account @Sedgwick, or bring ideas to the session on Wednesday, December 6, at 2:30 pm PST; we will try to address them during the discussion. This is such an important topic for our industry, and I am excited to learn from you and your organization. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more information on the conference and how you can learn more from the presentation, whether in person or virtually.

Come join us, be engaged, and be prepared to embrace diversity and inclusion! We look forward to seeing you.

Azurely Kerr, SVP Absence Management, Sedgwick

krista-mangulsone-53122-750x500Oh, how things change… I remember, growing up, the family dog slept outside in a dog house. Today, over 62% of our pets share our bed. Our pets are now considered part of the family  and we hold great emotional ties to them. Jump on a plane and you might see a companion pet in the seat next to you. Go shopping at Nordstrom and you might be sharing the aisle with a four-legged friend. This Thanksgiving, you may be making plans to curl up on the couch to watch the annual National Dog Show on TV with your favorite canine companion. Why? There are many theories on why our pets are now so woven into our lives. I share the theory that, in today’s world where stress is high, work is demanding, and news headlines talk of division and cruelty, our pets offer something that is most difficult to find – unconditional love and dedication.

There is no better example than a pooch named Arthur. If you have a few minutes, take a look at this following inspiring and heartwarming “dog story” from ESPN.

According to the American Pet Products Association, the pet industry has surpassed a whopping $63 billion in spending. 65% of our households own a pet, which is an increase of 10% from 12 short years ago. These are astonishing numbers that increase every year.

What does this all mean? The average annual cost of owning a pet can be in excess of $2,000, and that is without complications. Additionally, our love affair with our pets is translating into astronomical increases in veterinary spending.  Statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reveal that in 2016 pet owners spent over $44 million dollars taking their animals to the vet. Costs for some procedures rival that of healthcare. Common ailments such as joint injuries in dogs can cost around $3,480. Removal of foreign objects ingested can average $1,755. Cancer, which is diagnosed in 12 million pets annually, will set an owner back an average of $2,033. However, if an animal is injured or killed due to veterinarian malpractice, the same animal its owners spent thousands of dollars on for treatment is considered almost worthless.

We all know the state of medical malpractice in healthcare, but what happens when something goes wrong with the treatment of your beloved pet? Currently, the majority of courts view pets as personal property and restrict damages to their market value replacement cost, even in the event of proven wrongful death. Until the mid-part of the last century, the term “malpractice” did not even apply to veterinarians (and still does not in some states where the profession is not listed under the malpractice statute). Recently, however, veterinarians have become subject to state malpractice actions. As the value of animals subject to malpractice actions increases from the traditional “market value” approach, it is expected that the number of malpractice claims will increase. To date, most animal medical malpractice cases are settled outside of court and few have won big settlements or verdicts.

Will the law change? The AVMA is set against any change in the law. It threatens rising costs if the law is changed. As to malpractice costs, the AVMA doesn’t collect statistics on veterinarian malpractice suits. The group’s associated Professional Liability Insurance Trust, or PLIT, which offers malpractice insurance for vets, does not release numbers or costs. The mere fact that consumers are spending so much on pet care is directly related to the frustration caused by the absence of equal payment in the event that medical malpractice is sustained. This is the driving force for change in the industry.

There is a growing trend in many states to view animals in a more realistic light and, in response, the veterinary industry is at a crossroads in instituting good risk management. As you can see from the past, there was little financial incentive to engagement of loss prevention and reduction principles. Yet, over the last 20 years, there have been random cases of veterinarian malpractice verdicts and settlements ranging from $10,000 to $75,000. The frequency of cases being brought and those cases resulting in appreciable values is on the rise. A recent case found a court awarding $39,000 for a companion dog after its owner was originally offered a $400 settlement. States such as Florida and Texas are two examples were the law and courts are changing to view pets as more than personal property.

From my personal experience, the number one takeaway in considering veterinary risk management practices is acknowledgment of a failure in the therapeutic undertaking – whatever the cause. Take the example from the progression of risk management and bioethics: disclose and empathize, apologize that the outcome was not as expected. Veterinarians, like healthcare professionals, do not study long and hard and invest energy and resources in developing their practices because they want to do harm; their goal is to help, and when the outcome disappoints, whether because of human error or “fate,” share the experience as one human to another, acknowledging the pain of loss. Empathy and compassion can go a very long way to reduce total loss costs.

In the end, consumers should do the same homework as in any healthcare situation. Research your providers and be aggressive in asking questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion. One area that is key is care after surgery. While your surgeon may be the best, the quality of care from technicians after surgery is important to successful recovery. Remember, your pet can’t tell anyone if something is not right!

Tim Over, SVP, Specialty Operations

The marine cargo industry has changed significantly over the past few decades, especially the way cargo is transported. Before sea containers were introduced, dry cargoes were usually shipped as break-bulk cargo or in bulk. Break-bulk cargo includes items that can be stacked on a pallet or crated, such as steel pipes and coils. Bulk cargo can also be shipped as break-bulk cargo in one- or two-ton bags. Today most break-bulk cargo is shipped in sea containers. Even cargoes traditionally transported on break-bulk ships, such as lumber and steel, are often transported inside sea containers now.

There are several distinct benefits to shipping in containers:

  • Reduced exposure of cargo to physical hazards
  • Easier stowage and securing on ocean vessels and other transport carriers
  • Shorter vessel turnaround time in port
  • Faster and much more efficient shipping across the multi-modal transportation system

Container shipping has a major disadvantage, however. The cargo is not visible once it is inside the container, making it impossible to tell if it is well-packed and secured fcargo-449784_1920-CC0or transport. Those responsible for packing, loading and securing the cargo in the container are the last people to view the cargo before container doors are shut and sealed. Unless the container is damaged or opened for customs inspections, the doors are not usually opened again until the container arrives at its final destination.

Inadequate packing, improper stowage and insufficient blocking and bracing can result in damage to the cargo, the container and the loading/discharge equipment. More importantly, these poor practices can cause serious injury to those handling and transporting the container. Workers in the transport chain have no choice but to rely completely on the skills of those who have packed and loaded the cargo into the container. Incorrect handling puts a number of people at risk, including:

  • Stevedores and dock workers at the load, discharge and transshipment ports
  • Crew members on ocean and inland waterways vessels
  • Road and rail workers
  • Surveyors, customs agents and personnel from other government agencies who may have to inspect cargoes

In addition, the general public is endangered on the roads and waterways by badly packed freight containers.

IMO-LO-UNECEThese safety concerns are addressed by the 2014 IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code). The publication was jointly developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to mitigate risks through a non-mandatory global code of practice for the handling and packing of cargo transport units for transportation by sea and land.

The CTU Code provides comprehensive information on all aspects of loading and securing cargo in containers, taking into account the requirements of all sea and land transport modes. It is intended to assist employers’ and workers’ organizations, governments and the entire industry with ensuring the safe stowage of cargo in containers.

Regrettably, the CTU Code faces many hurdles, including a lack of training, language barriers and the volume and depth of its information. These issues are exacerbated by dramatic variations in the types of cargo now being carried in containers and the complexities of international supply chains. With the many challenges facing the industry in achieving widespread adoption, we continue to see many truck rollovers, train derailments, cargo spillages and fires and explosions onboard ships and in ports.

Credible statistics are difficult to obtain, in part due to state authorities’ lack of engagement with the IMO’s container inspection standard. However, an attempt was made to estimate the extent of the problem based on the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) trade statistics and the results of the relatively few inspections made during the last 15 years. Extrapolating from the UNCTAD data, it is estimated that 24% of inspected containers carrying dangerous goods (DG) were found to be badly packed – approximately 25.9 million containers each year. Considering that the cargoes declared as DG represent only about 10% of all containers, the potential number of improperly packed containers could be significantly higher, posing a threat on their journey through the supply chain.

To ensure the safety of people, equipment and cargo during transport, marine cargo surveyors are often employed to inspect, recommend and ensure that cargoes are adequately packed, loaded and secured inside containers on ships, trucks and other transport vehicles. They are usually familiar with the CTU code and have a wealth of experience with a variety of cargoes.

A coalition of leading cargo industry organizations representing the global supply chain is continuing its campaign for safer practices in packing freight containers and other cargo transport units (CTUs). In a recent meeting at the IMO, the group asked delegates of IMO member states to disseminate the content of the CTU code, as well as encourage and oversee its use within their jurisdictions.

Capt. Ruan Desouza, Vice President, Marine

Vericlaim Canada


International Maritime Organization (IMO)
Global Shippers Forum (GSF)
ICHCA International
TT Club
World Shipping Council (WSC)
Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia