Contract certainty - the ability of insurer, loss adjuster and policyholder to know the wording of a policy when there is a major loss - emerged as a pivotal issue during the presentations to a joint

Alistair Jacob, business development director of international loss adjusters and surveyors, AXIS, gave a loss adjuster's view of handling the claims following a catastrophe, and Paul Hopkin, director of risk management for the Rank Group, described the losses to his company's Hard Rock Cafe business as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

Alistair Jacob said that after a disaster, the single most common request from insurers is for an approximate loss reserve. One of the biggest obstacles to providing one was 'no policy': the situation where the loss adjuster on the scene does not know exactly what the insurer is expecting to cover because the contract has not yet been produced.

So far, he said, contract certainty has been a failure. He hopes pressure by the Financial Services Authority on the UK market to improve its contract production will soon mean that wordings are available at the time of a loss.

For Hard Rock Cafe, Hurricane Katrina threw up complex claims issues. The restaurant in New Orleans was scarcely damaged but there is still a shortage of staff and customers months later. In Biloxi, Mississippi, the restaurant suffered "huge damage" when Katrina struck. It was brand new, so had no active trading record. Said Hopkin, "The sheer scale of the event means there are policy coverage issues that were not anticipated and perhaps cannot be."