What is a Claim?

A claim is a demand made by the insured (you) for payment of the benefits as provided by the policy. A claim event is where you reasonably anticipate that the event is likely to result in a claim or has already resulted in a claim. This includes a claim for payment of mediation, negotiation or other less than litigation fees, as well as for litigation itself.

Will filing a claim affect my premium?

No. Filing a claim means you are doing your job to make sure conservation values are protected. Terrafirma has a mission to protect conservation values and will not penalize you for doing your job. Your premium will not increase as a result of filing a claim and will not increase as a result of presenting your claim to the Terrafirma Claims Committee.

What is a Placeholder Claim?

While both a claim and a placeholder claim satisfy the requirement to give notice to Terrafirma, a placeholder claim is not automatically evaluated and brought before the Terrafirma Claims Committee.

How do I change my placeholder claim to a normal claim?

The process is simple and there’s no need to refile. Please just notify us via e-mail and we will take your claim off hold, and make arrangements for it to be seen by the Claims Committee if necessary.

Submitting Claims

How do I submit a claim?

Members of Terrafirma can submit a claim by logging into their account, and clicking on the link to "Submit a Claim." This link will take you to the claims form. Fill out as much of the claims form as you can and click "Submit" when you are done. You can stop and save your form at any time. Your claim will not be submitted until you click on the Submit button.

How do I submit a placeholder claim?

The process for submitting a placeholder claim is the same as for filing a regular claim (see above). The difference is that, once you have entered all of your information, you will click on “File a Placeholder Claim” instead of “Submit.”

What kind of questions will be on the claim form?

See a blank example here.

Can I just deal with the problem now and send the bill to Terrafirma later?

No. Terrafirma is not a reimbursement policy. To have your expenses covered by Terrafirma, you will need to submit a claim as soon as you discover the issue.

What if it takes several years for my claim to be resolved?

A claim may stretch over more than one year but it is covered under the policy in the year of first occurrence. Details on these points are explicit in the insurance policy.

How do I know when to file a claim?

Please see our short document meant to serve as a general guideline: Indicators of When to File a Claim


How much is the deductible?

There is a $5,000 deductible for each claim submitted.

Is there a copayment or coinsurance?

No. There is no copayment for covered claims as long as the land trust maintains continuous coverage.

Why is the deductible so low and why isn't there coinsurance?

Coinsurance—in which the land trust would pay a percentage of their legal costs—or a high deductible and premiums would not likely have a positive effect on costs or on land trust practices or choices. In practice, unless the coinsurance percentage is quite high (causing the insured to incur a painful level of uninsured cost), it does not significantly affect the insured’s attitude toward defense. If Terrafirma required coinsurance or a very high deductible, it could be a financial burden on the smaller insureds, could make it more difficult to gain their cooperation in a vigorous defense and could be counterproductive. Insurance, while helpful in protecting the insured, will not cover all of their costs even with a low deductible. Staff time, mitigation steps and a deductible would still be incurred, as would potential public embarrassment. 

Claims Management

Who decides what legal counsel to use through Terrafirma?

Land trusts insured with Terrafirma usually have a relationship with an outside trial attorney. Terrafirma prefers to retain attorneys that the land trusts knows and respects, and who understand the local culture. The Claims Committee, nonetheless, is responsible for the selection and assignment of outside counsel in consultation with the member insured land trust. The Claims Committee may choose any qualified counsel to represent the member land trust provided that counsel agrees with the fee schedule and is qualified to handle the claim. Terrafirma's first choice is the outside counsel preferred by the member, if qualified to handle the claim and if agreeable to the fee and work guidelines. The Claims Committee may authorize the engagement of adjusters, third-party investigators, attorneys, or other professionals as necessary. We want to be sure that national knowledge is shared with all land trusts and that land trusts have the best possible representation needed for the particular case, balanced with consideration for local issues and a preference for experienced local counsel. If a land trust does not have a trusted trial attorney, then Terrafirma is likely to play a much larger role in attorney selection than for a land trust with a long established relationship with a highly qualified litigator who is able to work at a discounted rate. Ultimately the decision rests with Terrafirma, but since the land trusts are also the owners and operators of Terrafirma, it results in fair and appropriate decisions about legal counsel.

What does the Claims Committee do and who is on it?

The Claims Committee is composed of land trust practitioners and outside experts experienced with legal challenges appointed by the Members Committee. This group knows what it is to operate a land trust and protect hard-won conservation interests. They are also responsible for ensuring that Terrafirma is well managed and costs are appropriately contained. The Claims Committee is responsible for evaluating, monitoring, approving and managing all of the members’ claims and consists of seven individuals experienced, as a group, in conservation and insurance. It manages the claims and legal strategy for Terrafirma. Alliance Risk Management Services LLC (ARMS) provides the staff for the Claims Committee, and any subcommittees. ARMS staff are the Conservation Defense Director for the Land Trust Alliance, the Conservation Defense Coordinator, and the Conservation Defense Associate. As an aggregate, the Claims Committee maintains sufficient diversity so that its members have the following areas of experience:

  1. Practical experience with land trusts and legal challenges to conservation
  2. Understanding of state and local laws relating to conservation easements, real estate, and insurance
  3. Insurance experience
    • Insurance litigation
    • Experience sitting on a claims committee and evaluating claims
    • Insurance coverage
    • Experience setting reserves for claims loss
    • Customer service (sales, policies or underwriting)
  4. Court room and legal strategy
  5. Real estate litigation
  6. Attorney management and cost control

Who is in the Claims Committee?

Read the Claims Committee member biographies

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