Insurance archaeology exists because policies often last longer than the companies that bought them and the insurers that wrote them. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Most people think of archaeology as it pertains to items of historic value – gravesites, buildings, artifacts and the like. They tell a story about a specific period in time and give us insight into what transpired many years ago.

In insurance, long-tail environmental claims create coverage questions that other types of claims may not. When a claim arises years after an environmental event occurs, determining who is liable and which responsible party will pay can take some investigating, which is where insurance archaeology comes into play. Like archaeologists who can determine what occurred somewhere hundreds of years ago, insurance archaeologists can identify the possible insureds for an impacted site, the types of coverage in place at the time, what subrogation opportunities might exist and other factors affecting liability.

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Patricia L. Harman

Patricia L. Harman is the editor-in-chief of Claims magazine, a contributing editor to, and chairs the annual America's Claims Event (ACE), which focuses on providing claims professionals with cutting-edge education and networking opportunities. She covers auto, property & casualty, workers' compensation, fraud, risk and cybersecurity, and is a frequent speaker at insurance industry events. Contact her at [email protected]

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