December 3, 2015
A Word With Shefi: David Stegall
Stegall, a frequent expert witness, explains what the Ashley Madison hack and foul balls at Major League Baseball games have in common.
This is part of a series of interviews by Shefi Ben Hutta with insurance practitioners who bring an interesting perspective to their work and to the industry as a whole. Here, she speaks with David Stegall, principal consultant with Risk Consulting & Expert Services, who often serves as an expert witness in insurance litigation.
Describe what you do in 50 words or less:
Risk Consulting & Expert Services is an insurance and risk management consulting firm providing services and counsel to commerce, industry and government on insurance, reinsurance and alternative risk transfer matters. I have more than 37 years of experience and often act as an expert witness in litigation.
What made you decide to start Risk Consulting & Expert Services?
After 30 years, I no longer had an interest in continuing to work within the industry as a purveyor of insurance.
And if it weren’t for the appeal of working in insurance, what profession would you be in today?
Film and/or music production. I like the creative process.
Describe your typical client:
A litigation attorney with the need for an insurance or risk management professional who can offer a professional opinion on the usual and customary practices of the insurance industry or the required standard of care used within the industry and can explain that opinion to a judge and jury in plain, simple English.
Memorable court trial:
Very few cases go to trial, yet I recall the irony of testifying on a case regarding flood insurance at the Cameron Parish Court House in Louisiana, which is about a stone’s throw away from the Gulf of Mexico.
Is there a carrier you would love to testify in court against?
I cannot answer that because I do not think of insurance companies as being either good or bad. They are only as good (or bad) as those individuals who are making decisions for them in a given instance, and even then the good (or bad) decision may be specific to that instant.
You have a talent for explaining complicated risk terms. In your experience, which P&C coverage is most baffling to consumers?
Water damage and flood. Flood is excluded in practically every insurance policy (except flood policies), and water damage may or may not be covered. Most people think of the terms synonymously, but they aren’t. The simplest way to think of it is: If the water comes from above (without hitting the ground) it is covered (note that pipes are considered as being above). If the water comes from below (lake, river, stream, ocean), it is not covered. But please read your policy and ask questions of your insurance representative or call a consultant!
You have more than a few designations, one of which is the Chartered Property & Casualty Underwriter. Has the role of underwriting changed much from when you last practiced it?
There are fewer underwriters now, but they are extending specific yet limited underwriting authority to more general agents (or some form or position of limited underwriting authority) that specialize in a particular industry or product offering.
What emerging technology keeps you up at night from a litigation standpoint?
The same as everybody else: cyber risk. The risks are emerging at the same rate as the technologies.
Speaking of cyber, you recently published a whitepaper on “Cyber Risk & Insurance.” The Ashley Madison hack is now correlated to at least two suicides; where do you think insurers should draw the line?
The same place they draw the line with the idea that, if you attend a baseball game, you might get hit by a foul ball. A person does take some risk by subscribing to any service or website – yes, there is an implicit, if not explicit, responsibility (in the form of statutes) to protect people’s privacy but some activities carry innate risk that insurance can only partially address.
“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” (Muddy Waters and others) and “It is always getting too late and then it is.” I hope I made that one up, but I’m sure I’ve heard it somewhere, and it resonated.
When you are not working, you are most likely…
Playing with my seven grandchildren or playing the harmonica.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
That I feel happy, healthy and terrific! A phrase made famous by a former insurance professional and fellow lover of Chicago, W. Clement Stone.