Spring has Sprung- A Timely Reminder about Adjuster Safety Concerns is Due!

March 23, 2009

We’ve previously posted numerous blogs about adjuster safety issues. With spring’s arrival Sunday, now is a great time to bring these old blog entries back up for new reader’s viewing our blog:

Safety Equipment/Ladder Safety issues for Adjusters:

http://dimechimes.wordpress.com/2008/06/18/ladder-safety-concerns-for-adjusters-safety-equipment-suggestions/

Center for Disease Control Shot Recommendations for Emergency Workers in Disaster and Flood Zones:

http://dimechimes.wordpress.com/2008/06/16/what-shots-does-cdc-recommend-for-disaster-workers-watch-for-more-flood-adjuster-training-info-this-week/

Adjuster Shot in TN in March 08 while on storm duty:

http://dimechimes.wordpress.com/2008/04/10/adjuster-safety-another-warning-march-08-nationwide-adjuster-shot-in-vehicle-in-tn-while-on-storm-duty/

Field adjuster safety concerns- Remembering Katie Froeschle of Tampa, FL murdered while on a field appoint:

http://dimechimes.wordpress.com/2007/09/14/field-adjuster-safety-concerns-be-careful-remembering-katie-froeschle-of-tampa-fl/

Defusing an Angry Insured:

http://dimechimes.wordpress.com/2007/09/15/defusing-an-angry-insured-dealing-with-dinosaur-brain-lizard-logic-thinking-co-workers/

Crisis Intervention while Catastrophe Adjusting-Guest blog by Steve Ebner

http://dimechimes.wordpress.com/2007/08/16/crisis-intervention-while-catastrophe-adjusting-by-guest-blogger-steve-ebner/

Please be safe while out there working this season!


New Source for Temporary Housing in TX and LA area for Adjusters and Insured Additional Living Expense-Temporary Housing Part II-Updated 9/25/08 1PM CST

September 20, 2008

Thanks to a participating Claim Manager on ClaimSmentor, we have a new source for Hurricane Ike territories in and near the Houston, TX area.

We had previously blogged with links to many Corporate Housing vendors who are familiar with insurance housing for additional living expenses and for adjuster housing in this prior blog if you missed it:

http://dimechimes.wordpress.com/2007/08/15/temporary-housing-links-for-adjusters-temporary-housing-optionsadditional-living-expense-training/

Here is the newest source highly recommended by a claim manager who recently had the opportunity to work with them in Houston. Please let them know you heard about this from our blog or ClaimSmentor when contacting this group:

Melanie Levy
Owner
Houston Apartment Insiders
832.721.6748 (direct)
1.866.869.9192 (toll free)
melanie@houstonapartmentinsiders.com
www.houstonapartmentinsiders.com

**Update 9/25/08- 2nd new source who contacted us wishing to find adjusters and displaced insureds rental property for additional living expenses and adjuster catastrophe housing:

Kate Sansom
Marketing and Military Contracts Specialist
kate@corporates.com
 
Preferred Corporate Housing
³Your Permanent Solution for Temporary Housing Nationwide!²
(800) 960-0102 ­ Ext. 16
(713) 722-9013 ­ Fax

For Nationwide Furnished Corporate Housing:
http://www.corporates.com
 
To Submit a New Housing Request:
http://web.corporates.com/pch/leads/request.php

DUNS: 838451920
NAICS Codes: 531110, 531190, 531210, 531311, 721110, 721199, 721310
CAGE Code: 3B8H4
SIC Codes: 6513, 6519, 7011, 7021
PSC Codes: V231, V301, V999, X161, X163, X169

Here is a 2nd contact there as well:

 Business Development Director, Stacey Sugg

Cell  (713) 857-8093
Office  (800) 960-0102 

Email at stacey@corporates.com


Errors and Omissions Coverage- Guest Bloggers- Dale Moore and Michael Hale for CPLIC

February 8, 2008

We’d like to thank Dale Moore, Client Relations Director and Michael Hale, President of CPLIC at www.cplic.net for providing answers to initial E & O questions posed by members at ClaimSmentor which we share with our blog readers as well today. Please feel free to pose additional questions in reply to this blog posting and we’ll get Dale to answer them in reply to this guest blog entry!

1)    Question:  Is Errors and Omissions (E & O) occurrence based?  Does it only cover what happens during the policy period?

Answer:  A few companies do offer E & O on an occurrence form but most professional liability insurance, of which E & O is a part, is written on a claims made basis and has been since around 1985.  On a claims made policy you can purchase retrospective coverage back for as long as you have been continuously insured.  Since this cost money you should look at the statue of limitations where you do your work and buy what you need.  Then as long as the inspection that you made or the event occurs that brings about a claim is within the retrospective period and you report to your carrier as soon as the claim is made against you, coverage at the time of your report would apply.

 2)    Question:  How long should the policy be kept in effect to cover one?

Answer:  The coverage should be in effect when you first start handling claims and should remain in effect by annual renewals until you retire or leave the business.  Most companies will offer you a one, two or three year extended reporting period after you cease handling claims for any reason which will apply to any claims brought against you during that time as long as the error occurred before you elected to start that extension. 

3)    Question:  What are the normal limits of Liability?

Answer:  Most companies offer limits from $500,000 to $5,000,000.  Most adjusters buy limits that are required by their clients as they do not have those size assets to protect. 

4)    Question:  What are minimum and maximum limits?

Answer:  A few companies will insure you for limits lower than $500,000, say $100,000 or $250,000 but not many above $5,000,000.  To obtain limits above you would buy an excess policy. 

5)    Question:  Do the different states regulate E & O?

Answer:  If you insure with a traditional insurance company that is admitted in the state that you do business then your state would regulate that insurance company.  Increasingly, adjusters are choosing to belong to and be insured by the only Risk Retention Group specifically created for adjusters. As a Risk Retention Group it is regulated by the state of domicile and registered in all other states. 

6)    Question:  What are the policies for Florida?

Answer:  Many of the traditional insurance companies would use the ISO forms to support their policies.  Some of the surplus lines companies may use some type of manuscript.  Claim Professionals Liability Insurance Company, RRG uses a manuscript policy written specifically for independent claim professionals and it may be viewed at www.cplic.net by clicking on the bar for policy.

 7)    Question:  If I already have E & O and work a storm for a company that offers E & O, what happens then?

Answer:  Your E & O is to protect you.  The company you are working for may also have a program that will protect you but you will have to see and read their actual policy to be sure.  However, their policy would not normally protect you from claims brought by them against you.  You are always better protected to have coverage specifically in your name.

 8)    Question:  Are attorney fees and court costs covered by E & O?

Answer:  A primary policy would cover defense costs if the claim against you is covered.  Defense costs would include both.

 9)    Question:  Are costs to travel to a different jurisdiction for depositions or court appearances covered?

Answer:  When your insurance company instructs you to travel that cost is generally covered; however, your lost income is not generally covered.  You will have to look at the specific language to be sure.  

10)    Question:  Is E & O higher when you are new and does it go down with experience?     

Answer:  The basis for charging for the coverage is generally the revenue you produce.  Therefore, your premium will generally increase as you become more productive.

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Note that we also think this article  from Sept 2007 which includes quotes by another CPLIC representative to be excellent info on E and O as well over at the Roughnotes.com site:

http://www.roughnotes.com/imp_cybercast/Archives/v004_September2007/index.htm

Direct contact information for Dale if you are more comfortable directly contacting them is: 

 

Dale Moore, CIC
Director Client Services
CPLIC, RRG & Carter Claims
17742 Irvine Blvd., Ste 102
Tustin, CA 92780
Tel: 877-572-7542
Fax: 714-731-4605
www.cplic.net
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CPLIC is endorsed by both the National Assn of Independent Insurance Adjusters (NAIIA) and the National Assn of Catastrophe Adjusters (NACA) based on information on both of their websites.
There is also informative information found on the Claim Professional Liability Insurance Company (CPLIC) website.
Here is also a link to their E & O survey application form found on their website.
http://www.cplic.net/Short_App.pdf
***********************************
Again, feel free to post your additional questions on E & O by replying below or in the ongoing topic at ClaimSmentor for replies by CPLIC. We’ll be sure to get the links to your additional questions to them for a response.
I’ll start off the first additional questions I’ve recently received below:
**********************
1) What should an adjuster ask the adjusting firm for IF they are going to use their E & O carrier for coverage? At minimum, I would think they should get the carrier appropriate information such as policy number and limits and contact information. How about the coverage forms? Do you know if this is normally supplied by the Adjusting firms?
2) You mentioned the limits available. What do you recommend as a minimum for adjusters?
3) Is it hard for a new adjuster to be approved with no experience for E & O coverage?
4) What are some of the common reasons for claims…i.e..mistakes of adjusters/adjusting firms that bring forth claims under their policies?
5) Do attorney fees/ court costs mentioned in your Q & A reduce the E & O limits to pay a claim?
6) What are common exclusions on an E & O policy and typical reasons besides non payment for cancellation of an E & O policy?
7) Do needs differ for catastrophe adjusters who travel nationwide vs a daily adjuster working claims in a fixed territory?
8) Given the large number of adjusters named in lawsuits after Katrina, have you seen a large increase in E & O claims since 05 creating a need for higher limits and a definite higher priority that adjusters carry their own individual E & O policy?
9) If an adjuster does carry their own E & O policy and they are covered on an adjusting firms E &O, what is a typical “other” insurance clause as to which policy would be primary?
10) Should an adjuster work claims for multiple adjusting firms, would that change their coverage needs?
**********************************************
Stayed tuned for E & O Part II when we get responses to the 10 new questions we’ve received!

 


Major Changes in the Way Carriers Recruit and Train adjusters…is there really a lack of available adjusters?

November 20, 2007

This is an excellent article from Risk And Insurance regarding changes afloat in the adjusting world. While I agree that the training aspect has drastically changed since I entered the adjusting ranks in the early 80’s, I do not agree there is a lack of available adjusters. (The article points out that the opinion on this depends on who you talk to!)

Handling our staffing firm and talking to hundreds of adjusters each month, I am very attuned to who is available. In spite of what you may read on many forums that there is a glut of new adjusters, we receive calls from hundreds of very experienced adjusters who are available and looking for assignments. Is what the carrier doesn’t understand is that the lack of available adjusters depends solely on the human resource efforts of different adjusting firms. Some are extremely proactive while others rely on adjusters to come to them to apply. I am always amazed at the high quality of adjusters we hear from who cannot find assignments.

I’d be interested in receiving comments from many of you reading this article and your opinions on the recruiting, the training comments, and the availability based on your findings in the market.

Here is the article “Taking Time to Adjust” by Erin Fogg online on Risk and Insurance:

http://www.riskandinsurance.com/story.jsp?storyId=16725831


Independent Adjuster vs Employee?

September 27, 2007

Storm season always brings up the topic “are you an independent adjuster or are you an employee” as independents start receiving new contracts from adjusting firms for the season.

We wrote a blog about the caution new adjusters need to use when signing independent contracts in our blog called Splish Splash don’t go takin’ a bath. Here is a link to it.

While we are still hoping for a great employment attorney to provide an opinion on some of the issues Independent adjusters commonly face, (am I dreaming someone will come forward and volunteer to interpret these things for us as a guest blogger employment attorney or volunteer employment attorney participant)? I’ll post some links to some interesting things we found while researching this topic.

While I’m not sure we entirely understand the issue as it relates to court decisions, we think we’ve come up with a consensus that the issue relates to “independent judgment”  and “control” issues vs whether or not you or your adjusting firm considers you as an independent.

The majority of independent contracts the adjusters have shared with us state the adjuster understands they are a 1099 reporting independent but there are several such as ASU which states on their website here that their adjusting firm is 100% employee owned. I had the opportunity to meet several of their members at the 2007 NACA convention and find this approach most appealing for adjusters to have benefits, educational assistance, 401K plans and many other benefits independents normally don’t have access to with the majority of firms. Do you know of other firms providing employee status vs independent? It would be great to hear about these opportunities via reply to this blog if so!

I found an interesting site called The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Here is a link to their website. They say they are the largest professional organization devoted to Human Resource management.

Their website points out that there are many agencies that have statutory jurisdiction over the “independent vs employee” issue. Here’s an excerpt from their site about this:

“The many statutory jurisdictions that cover classification of independent contractors include the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Internal Revenue Code, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and individual state-by-state unemployment insurance codes” thus the comment above about not being sure we understand all of the issues because there are just too many federal and state laws involved in the classification determination.

An employment law attorney and member of their site addressed the House Labor and Education committee on July 24, 2007 stressing the need for guidance for employers to properly classify employees due to the confusion with all of the programs listed above. Here is a great article about her testimony. I think the following statement in her testimony best addresses the problem independent adjusting firms, carriers, and adjusters face as they create and sign contracts:

“Every new working relationship brings with it the challenge of asking the right questions to ensure the employment situation is being properly classified as an employee or non-employee worker,” said Walters. “In my experience, employers do on occasion unwittingly, misclassify employees as independent contractors,” she said.

Here is a link to the House Committee July 24, 2007 hearing that includes links to the webcast of the testimony at this meeting and to the presentations of several other speakers to include Paul DeCamp, Wage and Hour Administrator from the Department of Labor. Note that the question in the title of the hearing was “What Policies and Practices Best Protect Workers“. 

Chairman Andrew’s  opening statement is found here  and Chairman Woolsey’s opening statement is found on this link. These are worth the read as they outline the reasons employers may misclassify employees…basically to avoid health insurance and workers comp and other benefits such as social security payments they would have to pay or an employee would be due. From information gleaned in Woolsey’s opening statement, CA considers the problem so significant ( see yesterday’s blog too on CA and adjuster overtime issues) that they have State Assembly Bill S.B. 622 that if passed would assess penalties of up to 15K per violation or 25K  per violation if employers have engaged in a pattern of misclassification. This document here says that this bill passed the Assembly 9/10/07 and the Senate on 9/12/07. Those are pretty hefty fines and I hope that adjusting firm owners have been advised of these new provisions by their employment attorneys and have reviewed these issues as they pertain to using independents for each various operation such as carrier daily branch assist on daily claims, inside adjusters in carrier claim central operations, as well as their classifications for catastrophe independent adjusters especially for the types of contracts I’ve seen that require exclusive work with the independent firm or carrier. Would the use of independents as inside adjusters be cause for concern about classifying them as other than 1099 employees? How about daily assist or daily adjusters working under an exclusive contract? I don’t know but I bet a good employment attorney would know the proper classification. I would also want to know about how a bill such as this one passed in CA would apply to an adjusting firm going out to CA to work earthquake claims. There are many firms holding California Earthquake Certification classes in preparation for an inevitable earthquake out there but have they done equally thorough research into classification of adjusters and if those rules would apply to out of state adjusting firms coming in to work catastrophe assignments? I’m not sure how those laws apply when your working out of state as a vendor vs it being the permanent state of your adjusting firm office.

Paul DeCamp’s testimony found here is longer but if I were an adjusting firm owner, I’d certainly take the time to read this and look at the list of 7 items he calls relevant factors to determine if a worker is properly classified. The one I found interesting the most from the independent adjuster standpoint is the relevant question of “Permanency of the relationship”. Page 2 of his testimony also goes into interesting details about “the process” of reviewing these factors and payroll records and how they conduct their inspections. I had no idea that the Wage and Hour Divisions primary responsibility was dealing with complaints as the testimony says 70-78% of their work is addressing workers complaints on these issues. It is  also very important to read the comments further down on page 5 that says that temporary help is often in the most commonly misclassified category. I’d also read the comments  since this is a national program and the testimony states that they are recommending misclassifications  found by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) for many other violations for some of the other agencies(listed at the beginning of this blog) that they find value in sharing that information nationally with other state and federal programs(page 6). Pg 7 indicates that GAO feels that employers should be notified when they make these reports to other agencies to investigate while WHD did not think it was appropriate for them to report them due to the fact they do not know the rules nor administer the programs for the other agencies looking at independent classifications. 

Another point interesting to property and catastrophe adjusters would be the comments on page 4 indicating that construction companies are in the group receiving the largest findings of misclassifications. The findings in Decamps report about this are echoed by Sara Stafford with a construction firm who testified that firms such as hers are often penalized by losing contract bids as they include the cost of employee benefits in their estimating costs (overhead and such) when other construction firms improperly classify employees as independents which costs the complying firms work by abiding by the classifications. I imagine this would be the same for independent adjusting firms who would have to increase fee schedules to cover their overhead for employee benefits if they were required to provide workers comp and benefits. Here is the link to Sara’s testimony. I didn’t have time to get to the testimony of two other speakers you can find on the links above.

Other research we found in the past few months includes:

This informational article from the state of Texas on form C-8(0406) found here which contains 20 relevant topics to test your classifications.

Here are some interesting comments on independents here with several more good factors to consider.

I really liked this 20 factor check list for small businesses to determine employee vs independent contractor check list to determine under common law what factors apply found here.

This article here from another law firm discusses NY’s “right to control” factor. It’s an older article from 98 but a good article. This website is full of employment articles at www.ebglaw.com.

Here is a good weblink for IRS information on independent contractors which refers also to links for several publications  you would want to refer to found here on their website.

I found this case from Vermont that the Insurance Journal posted quite interesting from May 2007 where at home workers for a knitting company were determined to be employees versus independent contractors. Here is a link to the article.

It took several days to have time to finish up this blog entry due to weeding out alot of repetitive information and narrow it down to some of the most concise current information you might find useful. The research has been well worth the while as I’ve learned that these issues are not set in stone but very active current topics of discussion, court cases, and federal and state agency hearings and discussions right here and now in 2007. The National Law Journal  at www.NLJ.com on their 9/27/07 article update says this will be a banner year for Supreme court labor and employment cases as they have granted review of many cases in this overview of the article:

September 27, 2007

TODAY’S NEWS

FROM THE UPCOMING ISSUE  |  Supreme Court loads up on employment cases
Besides adding such high-profile issues as the constitutionality of lethal injection executions and voter ID laws to its docket, the Supreme Court ensured, through its latest grants of review, what is likely to be a “banner” year for labor and employment law.

********

This appears to be the time for independent adjusting firms to update the opinions from their employment lawyers if they haven’t already done so to verifiy if their current practices meet all of the 2007 regulations with all of these current discussions going on. All Independents are waiting on weather (wow as independents call it) for assignments so while everyone is waiting you might want to take the time to double check the classifications to make sure everyone is compliant with their state and federal 2007 regulations. I am most curious about how the state laws apply when an adjusting firm from one state ventures into other states to handle losses. Are they subject to those other state laws too? This feels like going to college! The more you learn the more questions you have!


Insurance Adjuster Overtime Pay Issues and Complaints in the news

September 24, 2007

I’ve been trying to find time to write about the big ongoing question about adjuster overtime pay and a related issue on the commonly asked question ” am I an independent or am I an employee”.  The new suit brought by two AIG adjusters   in September 2007 again brings this topic to the forefront and we’ll watch this case to see if anything new develops to help us understand these issues. We would appreciate any comments by employment attorneys to help us clarify these issues. Today we will provide information on the overtime issue and tomorrow we’ll blog about the Independent adjuster vs employee questions which we are frequently asked about by adjusters when signing independent adjusting firm contracts.

Here is a link to the news article about the AIG adjusters new suit. Here is also a link to the Bloomberg article on this new suit.It’s not just carrier staff adjusters and employees filing these suits as this article shows adjusting firms are the subject of such suits also in this article saying Pilot Catastrophe  Services  also received a Complaint in 2004. I’d like to know how the adjusting firm case was resolved but could find no information on the web about the outcome of the case.

The AAICP -American Association of Independent Claims Professionals wrote an excellent article on this overtime issue in June 2004 found here. This article in part says:

“Insurance claims adjusters are still exempt from federal overtime requirements under the United States’ Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division’s final version of the controversial changes to the white collar exemption regulations. As requested by the American Association of Independent Claims Professionals (AAICP), an association of independent claims adjusting companies, the Labor Department specifically noted in the new regulations that claims adjusters are generally exempt from overtime pay requirements regardless of what kind of company they may work for – an insurance company or an independent. The new regulations also make some adjustments to exempt salary requirements that may affect claims adjusters, including raising the minimum exempt salary and creating a new pseudo-presumption of exempt status for higher wage-earners.”

Here is more important information in this article:

“As requested by the AAICP, the new regulations specifically use insurance claims adjusters as an example of an exempt administrative employee:

Insurance claims adjusters generally meet the duties requirements for the administrative exemption, whether they work for an insurance company or other type of company , if their duties include activities such as interviewing insureds, witnesses and physicians; inspecting property damage; reviewing factual information to prepare damage estimates; evaluating and making recommendations regarding coverage of claims; determining liability and total value of a claim; negotiating settlements; and making recommendations regarding litigation.  “

Please read the full article for other important details.

Here is another article from the AFL CIO which specifically addresses insurance adjusters and overtime issues which concurs with the article from AAICP stating in part:

“Insurance claims adjusters—Again, court cases on whether insurance claims employees receive overtime pay have gone both ways—some courts have said they are exempt and other have said they should receive overtime pay. This is a very heavily-litigated field, and corporations have not been able to win a blanket victory. The Bush Administration has handed them that victory by changing the nationwide regulation to specify that these employees are generally disqualified from receiving overtime pay. (New Section 541.203(a)) A quarter of insurance claims adjusters make less than $35,000 a year. “

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In a more recent case involving Farmers, White and Case provides this analysis of an overtime case in multiple states in this February 2007 article on Farmers prevailing in a case on the claim adjuster overtime issues. Here is the link to their article.

*****

 

One of the most excellent articles I could find (here)is  from Holland and Knight in December 2006 which addresses the duties of adjusters who alleged use of computer estimating systems and claim manual among other things took away their individual judgment thus they were entitled to overtime pay. Some important comments in this article include:

 

 

“The Farmers claims adjusters asserted that they were not exempt from the overtime pay requirements because the work that they performed was part of the “production” side of the business, not the “administrative” side. They also argued that because they had to follow claims manuals and guidelines, and use computer programs to determine loss values, they did not exercise sufficient “discretion” and “independent judgment” to fall within the exemption.The trial court found that all of the claims adjusters were doing “administrative” work; that is, that their role was on the administrative side of the business, not the “production” side. In addition, the trial court found that most of the claims adjusters used a sufficient amount of discretion and independent judgment in their work to qualify for the exemption. However, the trial court found that some claims adjusters, such as automobile adjusters and adjusters who mostly handled claims less than $3,000, had to follow so many guidelines and rules that they did not exercise an adequate amount of discretion and independent judgment to meet the exemption”. 

I found this article addressing the size of the claim particularly interesting in light of all of the claim central operations handling smaller losses.

Here is another good article by the Jackson Lewis firm from November 2006 outlining more duties of adjusters and providing more information on the Ninth Circuit ruling that claims adjusters are exempt from overtime pay while noting that CA courts reached opposite conclusions. This brings us to this September 19, 2007 article  here by National Underwriters discussing some recent CALIFORNIA cases where Allstate, State Farm, and Farmers agreed to pay millions on other cases out there. Is this because they are cases in CA subject to other laws or is it because of overtime regulation interpretations prior to the new overtime rules of the Federal Labor Standards Act?

This MSNBC article here from August 2004 explains what changed with the new overtime regulations when they went into force. I’m not an employment attorney so I am not sure of the answer to this question as to why some carriers were settling these cases but it may be due to the regulations in CA differing as an article  addessing several CA cases settled by carriers in Los Angeles Business Journal explains here. 

 Here is an interesting article from October 2006 by CFO.com indicating the 2004 update to the FLSA has increased the confusion on overtime pay and the number of suits filed. Particularly interesting on page 3 of this article is the list of FLSA auditor “red flags” indicating things they look for to see if a firm is in violation of overtime issues such as having all employees on salary versus some time card employees. Adjusting firms should read this article.

The bottom line in all of these articles seems to verify that adjusters are not entitled to overtime pay with the exception of CA (see this 2nd article here from Holland Knight on CA regs opposed to Federal regs) . I’d make sure your adjusting firm is compliant on these issues especially during catastrophe operations when many firms are working employees at the required carrier hours of 7am-7pm 6 or 7 days per week. Check with your employment attorney to verify you have your firm properly classifying your employees and adjusters. There are many new in office programs adjusting firms are participating in such as running call centers, using an increased number of adjusters in claim central operations at carrier catastrophe centers, running additional living expense and contents claim units from their adjusting firm home offices or field catastrophe centers.

Due to the increased number of suits as a result of the new 2004 FLSA decisions as indicated in these articles, it appears wise to get a legal opinion on your overtime decisions BEFORE your firm is subject to such a complaint. Review of this Department of Labor article found here says it best:

 “The status of an insurance claims adjuster, however, does not rely on the “claims adjuster” job title alone.  There must be a case-by-case assessment to determine whether the employee’s duties meet the requirements for exemption. “

In my earlier years as a staff adjuster, we were never paid overtime pay except when moved to “time card” status while attending claim schools as they advised us training status required overtime pay while normal work did not. We were never paid overtime as claim managers in line field units, claim central operations, or while serving as catastrophe claim managers working 7 days per week 12 hours per day. In more recent years when performing temporary catastrophe management duties with independent adjusting firms, they also paid us on salary with no overtime. I can assure you in both staff and independent positions that adjusters normally work far beyond a 40 hour work week to keep up with carrier performance guidelines and Department of Insurance mandated deadlines during catastrophes. This 28 year carrier career was all prior to 2002 with the independent experiences from 2003 to the  present.

 I am curious what adjusters today (after the 2004 changes) are experiencing on these salary, time card, and overtime issues and hope to hear from many of you in reply to this blog. Please list your position, your state of employment, your carrier or adjusting firm, and your method of pay both for regular 40 hours and overtime. Should you not wish to comment in the blog, you can send emails to us and I can post your input anonymously in reply to this blog. We’ll also post this in our  forums at ClaimSmentor for continuing ongoing discussions with our members.


Field Adjuster Safety Concerns- Be Careful ! Remembering Katie Froeschle of Tampa, FL

September 14, 2007

News of  hurricanes always brings to mind the many safety concerns for both new and experienced catastrophe adjusters. There are many precautions adjusters need to take for protection of income due such as serious consideration of independent contracts talked about here, personal protection against lawsuits via proper insurance talked about here when we discussed Errors and Omissions coverage, medical safety for your health such as obtaining the proper shots before entering flood zones, (here is a link to many other health safety concerns by CDC you should read )but nothing compares to the safety concerns for your life by being ever prepared and cognizant of your surroundings when out in the field working losses alone.

This sad reminder in the Tampa, FL news  about a tribute today for insurance adjuster, Katie Froeschle in Tampa, FL reminds us of the horrific events in 2004 when Katie was murdered while inspecting a loss. While I did not know Katie, we do know an adjuster who did work with Katie. He recalls her calling into their carrier office when she could not find the insured’s home and that is the last they heard of her. He says there is NOTHING she could have done differently. The home was tenant occupied. This article from 7/4/07  says Forensic Files  ran a story on Katie this past summer. The details in this article indicate she was beaten over the head with a motorcycle muffler pipe and her partially clothed body was dumped in the Hillsborough river. The tenant was arrested and is serving life in prison. Here are some additional stories I could locate on this horror story here and here providing more details about the arrest and the perpetrator. Katie apparently was an adjuster at Florida Farm Bureau and only 25 years young. A very bright promising upcoming adjuster and individual based on all stories in these accounts.

Carriers have policies for both staff and independent adjuster’s as do adjusting firms in Code of Conduct forms which include company policies on carrying and the use of weapons. Here are a few examples we could locate on the web. The first from Citizens of FL found here on page 36 provision 5.4 states an adjuster may not carry any type of weapon on Citizens property or a Citizens policyholder’s property. Here is another example from one of the Scruggs group evidence exhibits on E.A.Renfroe’s (an independent adjusting firm) code of conduct form on page 4 specifying it applies to “firearms and other weapons” on their property, clients or their customers or while conducting their firms’ business”. Here is one other carrier’s code of conduct form found in some  Worley IDL preparation documents online here which basically says you can’t carry firearms or other weapons on their property or while conducting their business (see page 6 under workplace safety). None of these forms we’ve located online  to share define “other weapons” or expand on what “while conducting their business “means. I’ve seen many independent adjusting firm documents that are similar while some are silent altogether on the issue but the carrier code of conduct form would apply if the adjuster has signed on atleast from the carrier standpoint. This is an important issue I would not think any adjusting firm would be silent on.

Adjusters in the forums are concerned about these weapon requirements when they are sent into some very bad neighborhoods in cities nationwide. One senior adjuster states it best saying “I’d rather be tried by 12 than carried by 6 ” if he had to shoot. Others argue that by a carrier or adjusting firm not allowing them to protect themselves that they are creating an unsafe work environment and they will “shoot first and ask about the code later”. I can’t advise you here but suggest you clear the air on this BEFORE it’s necessary with your firms.

Here is a summary of mentor advice compiled from input of several senior adjusters on ClaimSmentor we hope you will view to help protect yourself from those who have been there:

USE YOUR WITS

Have someone local mark a local map with unsafe neighborhoods so you aren’t in one unexpectedly

If you have a bad area assigned to you, get in and get out early

Find out from local utility firms when is the best time to be in the neighborhood

Ask the insured to have their contractor present for the inspection in bad neighborhoods so you are not out there alone

Suggestions are made you call the insured on your cellphone and let them know you are out front so they come to the front door so you aren’t out in the neighborhood alone

Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you

Don’t enter unsafe neighborhoods with a low tank of gas or any vehicle maintenance issues in the rush of getting your job done and forgetting to stop and take care of transportation safety issues

Don’t put yourself in a corner when so caught up in inspections and measuring that you can’t see what people behind you are doing

Listen to your gut and leave if you are uncomfortable

Never deny a claim while on a roof

Do not deny a claim during a heated argument with an insured in the field

Always have your cellphone accessible- don’t leave it out in your car

Always have your manager’s number programmed into your cellphone as well as the number of an insurance adjuster buddy that you partner up with to exchange daily agendas

Always carry pepper spray, mace, other protection (what would firms say? Ask!)

Hire an assistant to travel with you and to stay on a lookout in bad neighborhoods while you are inspecting

Turn claims in if you just can’t deal with the situation because you find it unsafe

If you have draft authority and it’s a dangerous denial situation- remember- you can stop payment on the payment AFTER you get to safety- do not argue when endangered and report to claim manager immediately (good discussion topic at an induction center if your running a mobile response unit or other facility with payment issuance capability)

Leave an itinerary with a co-worker or manager with atleast claim numbers for appointments for that day so someone knows where to begin to find you if there is a problem

These suggestions are just tips of the iceburg. We hope you will make sure to take the time to read the carrier and adjusting firm code of conduct forms as you need to know their position on all forms of behavior and their weapon policies but your life is of the utmost importance. Clear these issues up before you go out, use your wits and talk to your managers if you are experiencing any safety issues in the field. They will not expect you to work under unsafe conditions.

We hope many more of you will add your comments to this topic to help prevent the loss of life for any more of your fellow adjusters. We wish Katie’s Family the best on their fund raiser today. There is contact information in the news article about this should anyone wish to contribute in Katie’s honor.

Update 9/15/07:

We just learned that Forensic Files is running this story again according to their schedule on 9/22/07 at 6:30 pm ET “Muffled Cries”. Here is a link to their schedule. Roy Cupps, owner of CADO, has posted this link to a 2004 forum discussion on this murder which you can access here. We have notified Tampa10 who ran the fundraiser notice this past week that we have distributed information about the fundraiser to all 735 members of ClaimSmentor via mass distribution email, we have posted this in our forums on ClaimSmentor, on this blog, and a new forum entry on CADO forums here trying to pass on information about the need for safety precautions and about their fundraiser in hopes they will let Katie’s family know they are in the thoughts and prayers of the adjusting community nationwide.


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