ArmorPark welcomes Sera Chalayan!

In early May 2019, U.S. Risk brought Sera Chalayan on board to join the ArmorPark team as an underwriter. Here’s a brief story of what led Sera to us!

After graduating from university, Sera Chalayan began her career as a banker. She soon transitioned to insurance, first working in wholesale brokerage and then moving to an admitted carrier, where she spent the majority of her early insurance career. During those years, she worked in customer service, account management, human resources, marketing, underwriting, and sales. In addition, she served as president of the Emerging Insurance Professionals’ Orange County chapter and as a member of the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s associate board.

Then, during 2016 and 2017, Sera spent 15 months in the Czech Republic earning her MBA. In January 2018 she resumed her insurance career on the retail side as Area Vice President at Gallagher, where her sales focus was on non-profits and parking operators. The way we see it, this was all excellent preparation for her becoming part of U.S. Risk and ArmorPark.

Welcome to ArmorPark, Sera!

Are YOU falling into the gap?

A popular worldwide clothing retailer once ran an ad that encouraged us to “fall into the gap.” That tagline got me to thinking recently about gaps in coverage and how they can affect the livelihood and lives of you and your patrons.

Insurance is expensive because—let’s face it—parking operators are in a tough industry that has significant risks. It’s not just the possible theft of a high-value vehicle (and we’ve paid our share of big losses on some pretty rare cars). It’s the risk of human safety that makes parking and valet operators unpopular with insurance companies. But allowing coverage to lapse—or worse yet, going uninsured—can be a major life-changer for you and your assets, your clients, and parking patrons.

In my 25-plus years of specializing in insurance for the parking industry, I’ve seen more than one parking entity decide to non-renew their coverage while shopping around for better pricing. Ironically, some of the most serious claims I’ve seen have occurred during the time the parking client “fell into the gap.”

In just one example, waiting patrons were hit by a valet-driven car days after the parking operator chose to non-renew their coverage because of a 20% premium increase. The packet of attorneys went after the parking operator’s client (a popular restaurant), the parking patron (the car’s owner), and the parking operator’s employee (the valet) because the parking operator wasn’t insured at the time of the accident. When this parking operator was finally able to find an insurer that would cover them, the premium was four times the cost of the renewal premium they were initially offered—and had rejected.

My advice is to consider insurance to be as important as placing your infant into a car seat rather than holding her on your lap while driving. That’s a no-brainer, right? Well, so is insurance coverage!

DON’T fall into the gap!

Connie Fox, ArmorPark program underwriter

The danger lurking around every corner

I’ve interviewed many parking-company owners over the years. When I ask them what single type of claim concerns them most, most of them reply that it’s damage to or theft of vehicles in their care, on their premises.

They’re especially concerned about high-value cars. Even less-expensive cars cost much more to repair than in the past. And disgruntled claimants may insist that their “babies” suffer diminished value after the repairs have been done.

But here’s what rarely occurs to most of these parking operators: Their biggest risk is right down the street or around the corner. Many of the serious claims parking operators experience involve multi-car collisions on public roads—away from the parking operator’s premises. Yet this danger never seems to be at the top of their list.

THE LESSON? When training your employees or developing risk-control measures, always give extra thought to the danger lurking around every corner. Yes, you should worry about damage to your patrons’ cars and take care when handling them. And, yes, you should emphasize repeatedly that patrons are at risk any time vehicles are being moved.

But for every time you worry about your drivers moving cars on premises, worry twice when your drivers take those cars off premises and onto public roads.

So did you hear the one about the five bodybuilders?

Five musclebound bodybuilders pile out of a supersize SUV. Actually, the story starts sooner than that. And this is a cautionary tale, because size doesn’t matter when it comes to lawsuits.

A valet driver pulled a customer’s small sedan out of a restaurant parking lot, intending to take the car down the street to a remote parking lot. He never made it there.

As he entered the public road, he hit a large SUV that had the right-of-way. Out piled five angry men who had just left the nearby gym after a weight-lifting session.

After harassing the valet driver for a bit, the bodybuilders took insurance information from him and then jumped back into the SUV and drove away. The frightened valet later stated that they were clearly not injured in any way. Their SUV had no visible damage either, even though the much smaller car the valet was driving did sustain some minor damage. He probably thanked his lucky stars that this one turned out okay.

But it didn’t. Four months later all five of the bodybuilders filed lawsuits against the parking company for bodily injury “sustained during the collision.” By that time, the driver no longer worked for the parking company.

THE LESSON? If any incident—regardless of how minor it appears—involves human bodies (people in the other vehicle, bicyclist, pedestrian, or whatever), that claim has the potential to blow up into a lawsuit. Train your employees to file a detailed report immediately after any accident.

  • They can use cell phones or portable cameras for taking pictures to document the scene.
  • They should write down every detail they remember about the incident, even if it seems minor and it’s obvious that no one was hurt. It’s much easier to review paperwork that was filed the day of the incident than to try to reconstruct what happened months or even years later—when that employee might be long gone.

And never forget that all potential bodily injury incidents should be reported to your insurance agent and the insurance carrier, even if it’s just an incident report and you feel nothing will come of it.