Life Imitating Work

Everything you do has an ethical tone. Everything that happens has implications that reach into the ethical sphere. If people are involved, there are often issues of right and wrong. You might think that something is too mundane or small to qualify, but it isn’t necessarily so. Take something like a broken water heater that floods the garage. This was a recent frustration because my home warranty company is giving me such a hard time about covering the extensive damages and replacement of the nonfunctioning unit. I presented this case to my class for discussion. They had plenty to say on the subject. The opinions, however, varied.

Several people were outraged, reflecting my own mood, and censured the warranty company for failure to live up to the policy specifications without giving it another thought. It is a blatant case of unethical behavior that is all too common in the insurance business, they claimed. Decision makers will find any way out of paying full boat. The class seemed to agree, which is an indictment of this venerable industry. Perhaps the matter needed further looking into. The policy did include water damage and appliance repair. Is replacement the same as repair? That is the heart of the matter. It makes my water heater issue somewhat ambiguous and even a poll on Facebook couldn’t come up with the answer. Repair could be interpreted as addressing the existing appliance and rendering it capable. However, if I could prove that repair was not possible, it would put the ball into the warranty company’s court as far as providing a new unit. A letter from a plumber would be appropriate. The students took turns playing me and the insurer. The unethical response would be for the company to deny the claim by ignoring the plumber’s evaluation or stating that replacement was not an option. If I were unethical, I would lie or ask my plumber to follow suit. Since I had no intention of doing so and the letter was legitimate, I expected the warranty company to pay what is due.

Taking months to make a decision is an ethical flaw in some insurance companies. You have heard horror stories about life insurance policies I am sure. If a company can put off a claim such as mine for a water heater, they hope to wear you out and get you to succumb to any decision they make. Of course, said some students, no company needs to do the policy holder any favors. They must stick to the letter of the law, meaning what is in the fine print. If there is a matter of interpretation, they should provide it upon request. There are definitely issues for an ethical debate involved in so many insurance claims. You hope that the powers that be have studied ethics and have made them a priority. If they put up a fight, the claimant is often at a loss since insurance companies are well versed in the public’s rights.