Virtual Reality (VR) could shape the future of general insurance says third party claims expert Peter Tomkins.

“Traditionally, the biggest challenge insurers face is understanding risk. Modern technology has come a long way to address this need – insurers are now using car monitors to understand driving behaviour , and Fitbits to understand a client’s health . VR is another powerful tool that an insurer can use to fill in their understanding of a risk profile,” says Tomkins, General Manager, Specialty Markets at Gallagher Bassett.

“Imagine a scenario where a risk assessor is making a judgement over insuring a building. They can base their decision on a few poorly shot pictures, or expend time and resources to view it in person. A better option may be viewing a 360° video of the site, allowing them to identify hazards that a limited view might miss.”

Tomkins also states that for brokers, the benefits of VR are clear. “As a Third Part Claims Administrator, Gallagher Bassett recognises that virtual reality has the potential to reduce costs, offer coverage anywhere, and provide more accurate results. There’s no doubt over whether this technology will be an intrinsic part of insurance; the only question is how soon.”

An expert from Accenture has written in a blog that altered reality seems made for insurers handling catastrophes. It can be very difficult to mentally reconstruct an area when a hurricane, earthquake or a manmade peril has flattened a neighborhood. In extreme cases, building footprints may be missing. Enabling a cat adjustor to walk around a destroyed neighborhood with goggles that allow him to see what had been there before could eliminate some of the barriers to claim settlement and improve satisfaction for employees and claimants.

Motor insurance in particular could feel the impact of VR soon Tomkins says.

“What if insurers could gain an accurate assessment of an individual’s driving ability before they step in a car? Drivers could undertake a VR test to assess all potential driving hazards in a scene, and how quickly they react to it. This offers a good indication for how well they will do on the road – in fact, many official driving tests now have a VR component to them.”

“In the event of a car crash, insurers can make more accurate decisions when they have a complete picture of situation. In all likelihood, the cars of the future will be equipped with 360° video feeds, completely removing any doubt about the events leading up to a crash.”