The news as you know is just full of news organizations analyzing BP response to the claims resulting from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill disaster.
It might help, without throwing accusations around, to just compare a few numbers and several major differences between the disastrous 2004 and 2005 hurricane season in Florida and the Gulf Oil spill numbers as of yesterday, June 12, 2010.
Let’s look at this article dating back August 2008 by the Florida Insurance Council. The article states in part that:
” The Department’s Bureau of Licensing issued 17,488 Emergency Adjuster licenses for the four-storm 2004 hurricane season and 12,284 Emergency Adjuster licenses during 2005. Florida was again impacted by four hurricanes that year, but most of the damage was from Hurricane Wilma. In addition to adjusters working with emergency licenses, hundreds, if not thousands, of resident adjusters handled claims from the 2004/2005 hurricanes. “
Keep in mind that they are talking about emergency adjuster license numbers only. This does not include FL resident independent adjuster licenses, FL non resident independent adjuster licenses, nor staff adjusters (those who work directly for the carrier as employees) so you can just imagine how many more thousands of independents and staff adjusters just FL required in 2004 and 2005. Now add the Katrina claim statistics and number of adjusters also out working in 2005. Louisiana did not have adjuster licensing in 2005 so I’m not sure where I can get the 2005 statistics on Katrina as a comparison.
Emergency adjuster licenses are temporary licenses that allow a non resident adjuster to work in the issuing state without an adjuster’s license in that state. The other way to work out of state is to obtain a permanent non-resident license. In addition, of course, we have permanent resident licenses. Normally, if your state of residence requires a resident license, FL and other states requiring an adjuster’s license will allow you to work for a short period of time in the disaster zone under an emergency license. These are typically only approved by a state department of insurance once a Governor has Declared a state of emergency. They are normally good for anywhere from 60-120 days and can be renewed if the state licensing department extends the deadline. The limiting factor is an adjuster operating under a temporary emergency license can only work claims for a particular declared disaster. They cannot be utilized to work non disaster related losses.
Recent trends have carriers, thus independent adjusting firms, requiring adjusters obtain a number (usually 7-15 different storm prone states) of non resident licenses. The reason being that the carrier can deploy an out of state adjuster into a state when there is NOT a Disaster Declaration by the state Governor should they have a permanent non resident license. The advantage is they can be deployed out of state to help with the smaller storms like small hail storms and the like. Worley adjusting company who is the firm appointed by ESIS to handle the BP oil spill claims and their site on the home page shows a typical example of the non resident licenses required of independent adjusters. Each non-resident license requires a fee typically about $65.00 and reporting on CE so this is a large burden and expense for independent adjusters.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners had proposed a Model Independent Adjusters license back in 2007. While we were all hopeful it would be adopted by state insurance commissioners, the NAIC committee looking in to it later scrapped the proposed recommendation. What a darn shame considering what we are facing today handling BP oil spill claims along multiple gulf coast states. It is needed for more prompt deployment of adjusters during major disasters rather than having delays caused by waiting on emergency adjuster licenses. Adjusters seem to think the issue is the fees acquired by each state are substantial considering the thousands upon thousands of resident, non resident, and emergency licenses each year. However, it was not to be. The American Association of Independent Claims Professionals, AAICP still has the documents up on their site to include their letter to NAIC requesting they reconsider passing of this model act. The Winter 2010 newsletter on AAICP’s site provides an update on adjuster and producer national licensing and where we stand today on this pending model act for a national license. It cannot be passed too soon as far as independent adjusters are concerned. I also wrote about the independent adjuster license issues in this blog in July 2007 when NAIC cancelled further recommendations for the act and here in my “Who Moved my Claims Cheese” blog.
Should time permit, look back on my blog “ Are Independent Adjusters a Dying Breed or Fungible Billing units ” ? This is definitely applicable SHOULD BP/Esis or others be placing non licensed adjusters in BP or ESIS claims offices. I should definitely hope this is NOT happening. Those I’ve talked to this week that are being deployed atleast by Worley have all been very seasoned experienced adjusters who have been highly complimentary of Worley’s induction and training process prior to deploying them to ESIS claims offices (ESIS is the insurance company for BP as explained in other blogs here the past two weeks).
Going back to my open letter to President Obama and Admiral Thad Allen, I still recommend some kind of emergency order be made waiving non resident emergency licenses as long as it can be documented that an adjuster is properly licensed in their home state. In cases where a state does not require an adjuster’s license like Tennesee and Colorado,(this is unimaginable), most independent adjusters have obtained a Texas or FL non resident license so they can then apply to multiple other states who will accept those non resident licenses to then provide them a reciprocal license in their state. See info in this blog about Model Independent Adjuster Act recommendations for immediate implementation as a further suggestion to improve the BP Oil Spill claims process.
Now let’s move to look at the deaths and damage from the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons:
2004: click here
This says in part:
“The season was notable as one of the deadliest and most costly Atlantic hurricane seasons on record in the last decade, with at least 3,132 deaths and roughly $50 billion (2004 US dollars) in damage.”
2005: click here
The initial sentence outlines the 2005 damage and death statistics as follows:
“The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history, repeatedly shattering numerous records. The impact of the season was widespread and ruinous with an estimated 3,865 deaths and record damages of about $130 billion (2005 USD).”
Also, it is very interesting to look back at this Insurance Journal article on “Lessons learned from the 2004 hurricane season“. In spite of the horrible hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, what we are facing as a nation and as adjusters is unprecedented. This is due to several factors and many potential unknowns as this oil spreads along our coastal communities:
1 ) Hurricanes, for the majority of claims, are first party claims meaning they are claims to an insured’s property. The insured has signed an insurance contract with an insurance company while the oil spill cases are considered third party liability claims meaning that one party is responsible for the damages to another if their actions are the proximate cause of the third party (non contract) has suffered as a result of their negligent actions. Adjusters from the BP side of claims do not have policy terms in the contract to fall back on such as “An Insured’s Duties after a Loss” in the Conditions section of a first party policy. We will be at the mercy of following directions for handling these liability claims from the instructions of ESIS and I guess BP. In addition, Admiral Thad Allen and President Obama have their hands necessarily involved in this national disaster so we just do not know how the claims handling will proceed or these claims will be settled. There are many acts such as pollution acts, EPA clean water acts, and many more that control what type of damage BP is responsible for. We’ll expand on that information in a later blog. Many of these requirements are far outside the typical experience adjusters have so leadership direction is crucial for training adjusters unfamiliar with handling oil spill damage and losses.
2) Hurricane losses may take a very long time to settle depending on the amount of damage to a property and the period it will require to restore the property. These BP claims on the other hand are going to be continuing open claims with a long period of time in pending status. We do not have a known “period of restoration” for the clean up in the gulf coast, we have no definite date as to when the oil will stop entering the ocean, we do not know what hurricane season may bring as far as further moving the oil contamination and disperants inland, it is unknown what illness and bodily injury will be related in the long term to the disperants or for that matter how it will affect properties. We do not know the ramifications of the oil spill on ripple effects as businesses close, lost income for the gulf coast workers and now the oil rig workers who may be laid off now that off shore drilling is being addressed by President Obama and a six month moratorium on off shore drilling.
3) Even insurance companies may be suffering greatly this hurricane season as massive numbers of independent adjusters may be deployed to handle oil spill claims and not be available as expected for hurricane season (whoa to those carriers 80% or more whose catastrophe plan relied in the majority on independent adjusters). Unless they become reasonable in their fee schedules and consider paying a daily per diem, they are going to have a very tough time competing for independents getting per diem and a good daily rate on the BP oil spill claims as insurance companies do not normally pay per diem allowances for independent adjusters. The other consideration independents will have to make are whether they are willing to walk away from a long term BP assignment to go for a month or two of wind losses for an insurance company especially given that those hurricane losses may require exposure to oil and disperants when inspecting field losses. No amount of pay can make up for exposing yourself to the possiblity of permanent damage or death from these unknown exposures. The paid statistics on claims for BP claims does not mean these claims are settled. Far from it, from most news sources, claimants are very unhappy that $2,500 and $5,000 advances is what they have received thus far.
4) In addition, this update on the Deep Water Horizon response site shows that Admiral Allen has issued instructions for BP claimants unhappy with their BP claim to notify the Coast Guard. What????? Will the coast guard then be just passing these complaints on to the ESIS claims offices handling the BP claims or will they then just pass them on to the Departments of Insurance who normally handles complaints on insurance claims for insureds (yet again we are dealing with claimants here). I haven’t seen any instructions from the insurance company side on how they are going to deal with this but they need to know while they have time in their disaster planning before a hurricane hits.
5) On the same link in #4 above, near the bottom, you will find Admiral Thad Allen’s new Media Access requirements in this Media Access pdf strongly encouraging media access and prohibiting responders from denying access to the press unless they would be endangered in a prohibited area. Will this change insurance companies Code of Conduct forms adjusting firms and adjusters must abide by to allow media discussions by adjusting firms and adjusters with the media which are also prohibited as oil spill workers alleged they were prohibited by BP for responding? Something else to be reviewed by insurance company attorneys before a major hurricane hits this season.
I cannot even begin to list all of the effects and costs incurred by claimants (third parties) with their loss of property values in areas seriously impacted by oil. This weekend, we saw a new for sale sign up at the beach here in Jacksonville that said “Marshfront” property for sale. I told my husband it might as well have shouted ” swamp land for sale due to looming oil spill expected to make the bend up the east coast of Florida” because I cannot even imagine an interested buyer until we know if oil will or will not make it’s way to the Florida east coast.
The trauma on all Americans, especially those on the gulf coast, are real. Even for those of us far from the current and ever spreading damage, it is traumatic just watching the wildlife covered in oil and tar, the grown men crying outside of their homes, offices, and claim centers. God be with them all and with the adjusters working at the claim offices and also those that are going to be handling hurricane losses should a major hurricane make landfall in any of these zones.
The June 09 2010 update by Huffington post on BP claims states that 18,000 claims have been paid, and $84 million has been paid out. It does not provide the total numbers of claims received thus far. According to this article, only 600 adjusters were currently working in claims offices. No wonder this article quotes a policyholder saying they have called numerous times and get no answer on the phones! Look back and compare this to the 2004 and 2005 numbers just for Florida where over 10,000 emergency licensed independent adjusters worked both of those years not counting thousands more deployed who were staff adjusters and you decide……..how would you rate the BP claims response on as of today? This updated article found on the BP website dated 6/14/10 states a total of 51,000 claims received and about 26,000 payments made totalling $62 million dollars. There is no mention in the current update on the number of currently deployed adjusters since the 6/9/10 stats I had above.
Make sure to read this this article by www.Money.CNN.com indicating predications are that BP will spend between 3 billion and 40 billion in their response to this disaster while at the same time predicting Florida alone will have a 10.9 billion dollar economic loss along with potential for the loss of 195,000 jobs. The current top prediction at 40 billion is just 10 billion shy of the cost of damages in the 2004 hurricane season and about one third of the damage costs in the 2005 hurricane season thus far.
Reuters news service is reporting that President Obama will require BP open an Escrow account when they meet June 16, 2010 to meet their obligations on claims. Here’s the link to this story.
God be with us all. Amen.
It is now 2:35 am ET so it will be tomorrow after A.M. liability classes before I can go back and review this for grammar, etc so bear with me.