As we enter a new year, FEMA has issued WYO Bulletin W-16091, “Guidance on the Use of Expert Services.”
The purpose of the memorandum is “to ensure transparent and consistent claims handling for all policyholders” and to provide “guidance on the use of services provided by subject-matter experts as part of specific claims investigations.”
The “subject-matter experts include, but are not limited to, engineers, surveyors, salvors, architects, and certified public accountants.”
Therefore, this is for all experts retained to perform work under the National Flood Insurance Program.
The 5 requirements that WYO carriers are to comply with regarding expert services are:
1. Ensuring Expert Compliance with Applicable Laws and Use of Expert Reports
WYO Companies may only rely upon expert reports prepared in accordance with all laws regarding professional licensure and conduct. For this requirement, WYO Companies and their retained experts may not assert that they are exempt from state licensing laws because they are Federal employees, Federal contractors, or performing work for the Federal Government unless expressly authorized in writing by FEMA.
2. Exclusive Reliance on Final Engineering Reports
WYO Companies may only rely upon final expert reports when making claim determinations. WYO Companies must use such reports in context with all other relevant information and data gathered throughout the claim investigation process when making a claim determination.
3. Retention and Disclosure of Final Expert Reports
For the purposes of 44 CFR 62.23(i)(10), FEMA considers a final expert report a normal component of a claim file. Whenever a WYO Company retains the services of an expert to investigate the claim, the WYO Company must keep the entire final expert report in the claim file. When requested by policyholders, WYO Companies must provide a copy of the requested final expert report in a claim file.
4. Avoiding Undue Influence on Expert Analyses
WYO Companies may not adopt policies or practices that implicitly or explicitly influence the independent opinions of experts. WYO Companies may not request changes to final expert reports. However, WYO Companies may request that experts prepare addendums to final reports.
5. Request for Approval of Type 1 SALAE Expenses
As described in WYO Bulletin W-15010 (March 9, 2015), WYO Companies must request approval for all SALAE Type 1 expenses regardless of dollar amount. FEMA did not intend this bulletin to modify the previous requirement.