Insurance Academy

Book Review: When Words Collide

By | October 24, 2018

I love books.

I don’t read as much as I ought (mostly because of Amazon video, but that’s not important). I don’t always read books that directly impact my work here. I won’t always report on the books I’m reading (because I’m not sure that you’re all that interested in a biography of Patrick Henry written in the mid 1800’s), but when I do, I’d like to take some time and give you my impressions of the book and its usefulness to you.

When Words Collide: Resolving Insurance Coverage and Claims Disputes by Bill Wilson is a book that you might need in your library. I say you might need it because there are a few insurance people who don’t need to read it.

Who shouldn’t read this book?

  1. If you’re happy with the limited insurance knowledge that you have, you won’t like this book. It’ll stretch your imagination and your thinking.
  2. If you’re trying to sell insurance as a commodity, you won’t like this book. It’ll remind you that insurance is a complex product, built around an evolving contractual agreement between an expert and a novice. That agreement can be brokered by a person who sometimes claims to be an expert and sometimes disclaims any expertise.
  3. If you’re convinced that you already know it all, you won’t like this book. It’ll remind you that there is much that you don’t know and force you to get back to learning about your craft.
  4. If you’re a lazy insurance practitioner, you won’t like this book. It’ll call you out. It’ll remind you that insurance is complicated and that you need to read the specific policy that you’re trying to get an answer on before you try and answer a question.

Do I recommend this book?

Yes; that is unless you fit into one of the above categories. I just thought about someone else who might not want to read this book. If you like to keep your eyes closed to the problems in our industry; or if are causing those problems, you’re probably not interested, either.

I come from an underwriting background. I’ve always been told that the claims people know the policy better than I do so I shouldn’t offer any coverage thoughts. After reading this book, I’ve decided that was just wishful thinking. Not that there aren’t plenty of claims adjusters that do know policy language better than I do, but there aren’t as many as I thought.

Bill makes the point very clearly that for every example of a claims adjuster, or agent, that doesn’t know the policy, there are dozens that do. That’s the point though. With this industry being so complex, it’s easy to make mistakes.

When Words Collide is not a book that you read once and put up on a shelf. In fact, it’ll likely stay on my desk for another read through sometime next year (after I catch up on a couple of other books). It really is a guide to help you when your customers have claims issues (I have already used a few of the ideas he states to help a friend deal with a claim). It fulfills its promise to provide ways to resolve claims and coverage disputes. It isn’t a magic bullet to get all claims covered, but that’s not the point.

Here’s what I recommend.

  1. Buy copies for the team.
  2. Form a lunch time book club. Get together and discuss some of the things that you’re reading.
  3. (If you’re in an agency) Look into some customers’ files and see if you can help disarm potential disputes before they happen.
  4. (If you’re in a company) Look at the policies that you issue and see if there are ways you can improve them to clean up potential disputes before they happen.
  5. Come back to it again in a year or so.

If you’re in insurance, or are an interested observer of the insurance industry, you really should read this one. It’ll help you understand why some of our customers struggle with paying so much for what they think they’re getting.

**NOTE: in the spirit of openness, the link above is an affiliate link. If you buy through that link, a small affiliate commission comes back to us. pmw

About Patrick Wraight

Patrick Wraight, CIC, CRM, AU, is director of Insurance Journal's Academy of Insurance. He can be reached at

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