The insurance industry was sifting data long before the rest of us thought it was cool.
At the International Risk Management Institute's construction conference in San Diego this week, insurers told us some of the insights provided by their claims data.
Two defect experts from Travelers, for example, made an entertaining, low-key presentation on project documentation and construction defect claims. The experts, Robert Kreuzer and Michael Koppang, explained the need for careful, thorough documentation of changes, inspections and approvals.
They also pointed out, among other things, that vibration caused by vibratory rollers or  demolition work is a common trigger of claims by third parties who believe their property was damaged.
Property owners just start noticing cracks that they may not have noticed before and start asking, "Could those vibrations have caused the cracks?"
One key message, driven home by the boxes that the two Travelers claims experts used as stage props (and shown in the photo above): document thoroughly. 
When your documentation is good, you are rewarded.
In one claim, according to the Travelers claims experts, a contractor was able to prove with the good records he had kept that his company wasn't even at work on the jobsite at the time a third party claimed the contractor had caused damage.
There was another interesting presentation at the IRMI conference, from Guy LeVan, a vice president of XL. He presented an analysis of his company's construction claims data. It consisted of 6,500 claims during the last decade, 400 on design-build projects.
Breakdowns in project process management, rather than technical errors, led to many design-build claims, with communications problems being a major driver. The claims driven by communications trouble involved misunderstandings, ambiguous emails and letters, or words used in official communications that would have been better expressed in a telephone call. LeVan emphasized the need for clarity and calm, controlled communication by all the parties who must work in harmony toward a successful conclusion. 
An email policy is a very good idea, LeVan said.
Another mistake that can invite claims, or put a designer at a disadvatage when a claim is filed, is a website with phrases such as "error-fee documents on schedule" or the "absolute best in design." Such extreme, absolute language can make it easier for a plaintiff to hold you to something higher than the industry standard of care, LeVan warned.