Risk Manager: Jessica Neill Hoyson
Risk Management Policies
A. Statement of Purpose
The mission of the Risk Management Department of Skagit County is to minimize the cost of risk and to maximize protection of County employees and its assets. The Risk Management Program at Skagit County establishes a coordinated program for the processing, adjudication and determination of claim and litigation against the County, its elected officials, officers, and employees.
B. Risk Management Statement
The Skagit County Board of Commissioners recognizes the need to manage public funds wisely. The intent of this policy is to proactively preserve and protect from losses the assets of County operations in the most economical and efficient manner. Further, the intent is to provide a safe, secure, and healthful working environment for County employees.
The Board provides for a program of risk management within the financial ability of the County consistent with related legal requirements. This policy applies to all risks of accidental loss, such as fire, liability, theft, property damage, malpractice, illness, and injury, both direct and indirect, as relates to all County business and County employees including elected officials and documented volunteers.
The success of the risk, claims and safety management program is impacted by the sincere, constant, and cooperative effort at all levels of management and the participation of all Elected Officials, appointed officials, department directors, managers, supervisors, employees, and volunteers. Therefore, the Board of Commissioners anticipates the full support of all elected officers, appointed officials, department directors, managers, supervisors, employees, and volunteers regarding risk reduction efforts associated with this critical program.
The County has chosen a structure of retention of some risk through deductibles and transfer of risk through coverage through the Risk Pool and other policies as needed. That the ratio of SIR to transferred risk through insured loss may be evaluated and adjusted if determined necessary.
- Risk Management. The management and control of the County’s Risk Management Program shall be the function of the Board of Commissioners as delegated to the Risk Manager and each Elected Official and/or Department Head.
- The Board of Commissioners, subject to the appropriate rules, appoints the Risk Manager for the County as well as other individuals as deemed essential.
- The Board of Commissioners at their discretion may depart from this policy as deemed necessary. As long as such deviation does not result in a violation of policy coverages as provided by the WCRP or other purchased insurance policies.
- The Director of Human Resources/Risk Management or their appointed designee shall be responsible for reviewing, assessing and controlling the exposures to County employees, property and public.
- The Director of Human Resources/Risk Management or their appointed designee shall identify and analyze risks to the County and make recommendations to the Board of Commissioners and County Administrator regarding insurance coverages, reserves, SIR levels and general risk issues.
- "Covered Claim" means a formal demand by a third party for monetary damages because of an occurrence as defined in the applicable Joint Self Insurance Liability Policy (“JSILP”).
- “County” means Skagit County.
- “County Claims Administrator” means the official or employee designated by the Human Resources/Risk Management Director to administer the member’s civil claims and to serve as its liaison with the Pool regarding the administration of its claims.
- “Joint Self Insurance Liability Policy” (JSILP) means the coverage document which defines who is covered, the events that are covered and the extent of coverage for the named insured.
- “Member” means a county of the state of Washington that is signatory for the WCRP Interlocal Agreement.
- “Pool” means the interlocal cooperative, a joint local government entity, known as the Washington Counties Risk Pool that was established under Chapters 48.62 and 39.34 RCW, to provide its member counties with joint programs and services including self-insurance, purchasing of insurance, and contracting for or hiring of personnel to provide administrative services, claims handling and risk management.
- “Risk Manager” means the person responsible for the county risk management function and serves as the liaison between the County and Pool (the county designee) as to risk management.
- "Risk Management" means a coordinated and continuous program for the identification, analysis, control, and financing of risk and exposure to loss, including, but not limited to property, liability and personnel.
- “Safety Officer” means the person assigned the responsibility to ensure that safety rules and regulations adopted by local, state and federal regulators are followed, and shall consider all recommendations of the Pool concerning the development and implementation of a loss control policy to prevent unsafe practices.
- “Suit” means a civil proceeding brought on by a third party in which monetary damages are alleged due to bodily injury, property damage, personal injury, errors and omissions or advertising injury.
- “WCRP” see #6 “Pool” above.
E. Risk Management
As required by the WCRP Interlocal Agreement, each county shall appoint an official or an employee of the County to be responsible for the risk management function of that County (“County Risk Manager or designee”), and to serve as the liaison between the County and the Pool regarding risk management.
- Designation. The Human Resources/Risk Management Director is designated as the Skagit County Risk Manager and serves as liaison to the Board of County Commissioners. The Risk Manager or designee is given authority to manage the responsibilities jointly with the board and in conjunction with other selected staff. The Civil Prosecuting Attorney, or his/her designee, shall serve as the legal advisor to the Risk Manager or designee.
- General Duties. The goal is to minimize risk and provide for loss from damage to County property, for injury to officers and employees of the County, and for loss or injury to the public.
- The Risk Manager or designee shall meet the requirements and perform the duties as defined as a participating county by the WCRP Membership Compact.
- The Risk Manager or designee shall work with elected and appointed officials and managers to identify, measure, analyze and finance risks which face the County and shall make periodic recommendations to the Board of Commissioners concerning insurance procurement, deductibles, risk rate structure, loss prevention, and alternative techniques for the sound management of risk.
- In conjunction with the Board of Commissioners, County Auditor and Civil Prosecuting Attorney's offices, the Risk Manager or designee shall maintain complete and accurate records with respect to insurance, claims against the County, lawsuits filed against the County, losses incurred by the County, all accidents or incidents giving rise to possible liability against the County, and an inventory of all property in which the County has an insurable interest.
(c) Authority. The Risk Manager or designee reports directly to the County Administrator and the Board of Commissioners.
- Insurance Information. The Risk Manager’s Office shall be the repository of all insurance policies, certificates of insurance and contract bonds (with the exception of road construction and certain other construction bonds which shall be retained by the Public Works Department) in which the County is a named insured. Such policies shall be maintained in an acceptable manner and shall include all riders and endorsements.
- Authorized insurance shall include:
- Fire Insurance covering all buildings owned by Skagit County in amounts determined by property value and assessment.
- Comprehensive liability covering elected County officials, the County officers, agents and employees while acting in the discharge of their duties within the scope of their employment and/or under the direction of the Board of County Commissioners.
- Fidelity bonds protecting the members of the Board against loss occasioned by fraud or dishonesty of officers and employees of the County.
- Workers Compensation insurance coverage in accordance with the laws of the State of Washington.
- Crime insurance to manage loss exposure resulting from criminal acts such as robbery, burglary and other forms of theft.
- Boiler and pressure vessel property damage insurance covering steel boilers and other pressure vessels.
- Marine coverage for hull physical damage and bodily injury for all owned watercraft owned and operated by Skagit County.
- Cyber liability coverage that protects Skagit County from Internet-based risks and from risks relating to information technology infrastructure and activities.
- Pollution coverage for underground storage tanks owned by Skagit County.
- Other insurance coverage deemed appropriate or necessary by the Risk Manager and authorized by the Board of County Commissioners.
(f) Civil Prosecuting Attorney. In respect to risk management, the prosecuting attorney’s office shall as requested and/or required:
- Review contract forms entered into by the County to identify and reduce any contractual liability being assumed by the County, and attempt to transfer such liabilities
- Serve as the legal advisor to the Risk Manager
- Notify the appropriate authorities of changes in State/Federal statutes and common law which affect municipal liability
- Provide assistance to the insurer(s) in the investigation and settlement of claims against the County from both employees and the public
- Provide legal assistance in the examination of insurance and bond contracts entered into by the County
- File and serve Notices of Appearance if circumstances delay formal assignment(s) of Pool-designated defense counsel.
F. Claims Administration. Washington Counties Risk Pool Claims Handling Policies and Procedures govern claims administration in addition to what is included in this Policy.
(a) The County Risk Manager or appointed designee shall be responsible for sending copies of all claims/lawsuits to the Pool as follows:
- All claims where monetary damages will equal or exceed 50% of the member’s deductible amount within seven days from formal presentment to the county.
- All claims where monetary damages will not exceed 50% of the member’s deductible amount within thirty days from formal presentment to the county.
- All lawsuits shall be sent immediately, but not later than five days from the date of service.
- No County official, employee or volunteer, not even the County Risk Manager or a member of the Civil Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, shall accept service of process, except as provided by statute.
- The Civil Prosecuting Attorney or assigned defense counsel will file a Notice of Appearance for the County with the court. A copy of the Notice of Appearance will be sent to the Pool, which shall coordinate the defense with the County.
(b) General Duties. In general, the County Risk Manager will play a significant role in claims handling.
- The County Risk Manager or appointed designee should report to the Pool all known incidents which could involve the following within thirty days of knowledge:
- Ultimate liability may exceed $100,000;
- Brain injury or spinal cord damage, real or specific (quadriplegia or paraplegia);
- Impaired or loss of use of limbs (amputation of major members);
- Injury significantly affecting the capacity of sight, taste, smell or hearing;
- Significant disfigurement;
- Injury to the reproductive organs;
- Significant highway design/maintenance liability;
- Significant law enforcement liability;
- Extended disability (six months);
- Severe burns;
- Multiple persons injured in a common occurrence;
- Significant psycho-neurotic involvement; or
- Other incidents that may merit special notification.
(c) Service of Process. Service of process for lawsuits shall be made upon the County Auditor.
(d) Receipt of Claim. Upon receipt of a claim for damages, the Pool determines after discussion with the County Risk Manager or appointed designee whether the claim will be handled in-house by the County or assigned to an independent adjuster for investigation and evaluation. An acknowledgement form is sent to the County Risk Manager identifying the Pool claim number, date of loss, reserve and who is handling the claim. The claim is entered into the Pool claims database.
(e) Immediately upon receipt of a lawsuit from the County Auditor, Risk Management shall distribute copies of all papers involving the lawsuit to the Civil Prosecuting Attorney, named defendants, and to the Pool (based on WCRP Claims Handling Policies and Procedures). Along with the copies distributed, Risk Management shall maintain a log of claims and lawsuits.
(f) Upon receipt of a Summons and Complaint, the Pool will determine after discussion with the member (County) if defense counsel is required and assign the lawsuit to defense counsel when appropriate. If the Pool assigns defense counsel, then defense counsel shall, in the discretion of the County’s Civil Prosecuting Attorney, substitute for or associate with the CivilProsecuting Attorney.
- All claims filed against the County in error will be tendered to the responsible party.
G. Property Loss Reporting.
Although most property loses are not insured a property loss reporting system enables the gathering of loss data that aids in determining the following:
- Property deductibles
- Budget line items for replacement of uninsured losses.
- Property inventory updates.
(a) Property Losses that should be reported are:
- Theft. Any theft of County owned property should be reported to the law enforcement agency of that jurisdiction and Risk Management.
- Automobile and Equipment accidents should be immediately reported to the law enforcement agency of that jurisdiction and Risk Management.
H. Claims Adjudication.
(a) Claims Adjustment and Settlement. Skagit County may adjust and settle claims within itsdeductible limit if the claim does not involve reporting to the reinsurance carriers. The Legislative Authority following consultation with the Risk Manager will make this decision.
(b) Insurance Reserve Account. Each County should establish a claims reserve account and fund it adequately pursuant to Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement No. 10 topay claims, deductible amounts and costs as they come due. The Board of Commissioners will manage the reserve account.
(c) Reserves. Claims reserves are established and maintained by the Pool’s Claims Manager or designees on all open files using the Jury Verdict Value process. The County may appeal any claim reserve determination utilizing the procedures established by the Washington Counties Risk Pool.
(d) Transmittal by the Auditor. Immediately upon receipt of a lawsuit, the County Auditor shall transmit a copy to the Risk Manager or designee.
(e) Duties of the Civil Prosecuting Attorney for Lawsuits. The responsibility for litigation shall be with the Civil Prosecuting Attorney or assigned outside counsel in conjunction with the Risk Manager, County Administrator and Board of Commissioners.
(f) Reporting Status of Pending Cases. The attorneys defending a lawsuit shall report the progress and significant developments (updated status) to the Pool and Risk Manager.
I. Risk Transfer/Contract Review.
(a) Uniform Procedures. The County shall adopt uniform procedures for the review and monitoring of all County contracts, interlocal agreements and other agreements for risk transfer and indemnification. The sole contracting authority of the County is the Board of Commissioners. No elected official, employee or agent can commit the County to a legally binding contract without the express, written consent of the Board of Commissioners. Upon occasion, the Board of Commissioners may delegate authority to bind the County in contracts and agreements that have pre-approved language, form and hold harmless/indemnification clauses to certain key operational personnel.
(b) Contractor Insurance. For the duration of each contract and until all work specified in the applicable contract is completed, the contractor shall be required to maintain in effect all insurance as required and comply with all limits, terms and conditions stipulated. Work under any contract shall not commence until evidence of all required insurance and bonding is provided to the County. Evidence will be in a form acceptable to the County. The policy shall be endorsed and the certificate shall reflect that the County is an additional insured on the contractor’s general liability policy with respect to activities under the contract.
The policy shall provide and the certificate shall reflect that the insurance afforded applies separately to each insured against whom claim is made or suit brought except with respect to the limits of the company’s liability.
The policy shall be endorsed and the certificate shall reflect that the insurance afforded therein shall be primary insurance and any insurance or self-insurance carried by the owner or County shall be excess and not contributory insurance to that provided by the contractor.
(c)Contract-Agreement Approvals. Prior to the signing of any contract, personal services agreement, lease or rental agreement by the Board of Commissioners, the following approvals should be secured:
- Civil Prosecuting Attorney: Review to ensure proper contracting authority, form of legal document.
- Risk management: Review to ensure acceptable hold harmless and indemnification stipulations.
- Budget/Finance Director: Review to ensure that funds exist and expense is properly allocated.
Review by all parties listed above may not be necessary for certain contracts and/or agreements. As such, the Board of County Commissioners may at times determine not all approvals are necessary prior to signing.
After securing appropriate approvals, the proposed contract/agreement should be submitted to the Clerk of the Board for inclusion on the Commissioners’ agenda for approval.
J. Defense of County Officers and Employees.
The County has adopted the following procedure for defense of County Officers or Employees as required by RCW 4.96. Skagit County Resolution No. 10492, Resolution No. 11268 and Skagit County Code, section 2.20.
K. Duties of County Officers and Employees.
(a) Cooperation. All County officers and employees shall cooperate to the fullest extent with the Risk Manager or designee, Civil Prosecuting Attorney, and outside counsel toward reviewing and resolving claims and defending lawsuits in the following particulars:
- provide information, testimony, exhibits and documents for the investigation, settlement and/or trial of claims and claims lawsuits;
- provide information which will assist in the implementation and/or operation of the risk management program;
- Issue directives to subordinate officers or employees necessary to implement the risk management program.
(b)Reporting Accidents and Incidents. County officers and employees shall immediately report to their supervisors any accident or incident which a reasonable person would expect to result in the eventual filing of a claim or lawsuit. Supervisors will then immediately report the accident or incident to the Risk Manager.
(c) Responsibility. The Board of Commissioners anticipates that elected officials and management will:
- communicate and support the intent and contents of this policy,
- establish, supervise and enforce procedures to assure a safe and healthy work environment,
- identify and correct potential risk and safety hazards,
- communicate uncorrectable risk and hazards to Risk Management.
- provide appropriate response to recommendations by office staff and Risk Management to eliminate or reduce risk,
- implement recommendations by Risk Management or demonstrate other acceptable mitigation efforts, and
- support completion and follow through of the accident review process.
(d) Prohibited Acts. Without prior authorization of the Board of Commissioners or the Risk Manager or designee, County employees shall not:
- attempt to affect the settlement of a claim or lawsuit,
- make an admission of liability involving a claim or lawsuit,
- speak to new sources about potential or ongoing litigation, or
- discuss incidents, decisions, or issues with a person not serving as a County officer or employee when a reasonable person would understand that such discussion may lead to a claim or lawsuit against the County