In our first of a series of new articles by adjusters on their experience the first time out on the road as a catastrophe adjuster, we have Linda Goodson out of Enterprise, AL sharing her experience as a first time cat adjuster during Katrina.
Linda is a ClaimSmentor Honor Award lifetime member due to her major volunteer contributions on our site assisting with class certificates and preparation of material for exhibit booths we attend at claim conferences. She has spent hours this year attending adjusting firm seminars, obtaining carrier certifications, and also attended our 40 hour Fundamentals class picking up many things she says she wished she had known prior to her first time out on the road. Below you will find a summary of her experience not only on her first cat deployment but in her recent efforts to complete FEMA damage assessor training which many adjusters are doing to supplement their income during non storm assignment periods. Linda also had a short stint with the LA Road2LA program in 2007. Linda’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope new adjusters can learn things to expect from our guest bloggers sharing their experiences. Linda’s bottom line advice to other new adjusters is to accept in office assignments vs field as shown in this following comment from Linda followed by her story:
I worked Katrina and Rita from September 05 to April 06 in the capacity of field adjuster and agent advocate. Volunteered time with adjusters working supplementals and doing some scopes here and there with a small IA firm that belongs to a family member. If there’s a way to save money, this gal can find it. I lived in a pop up trailer most of that time in the field spending around $200 a month for a place to park it. Honestly, that first year, I think I made more in office than in the field just because of the cost of working field versus working office still not knowing the cost cuts that I know about now. It was a guaranteed amount every week. During these two particular storms the going pay was around $10,000 a month. No software costs, low gas usage, and when I retired for the evening, I had no phone calls to deal with as it was 12 hour days, 7 days a week. You just have to decide what you can do and no matter what you decide, do it to the best of your ability. The people your there to help deserve that.
What an Experience-Katrina duty-My First Time Out! By Linda Goodson
Okay I admit it. I’m covering all my bases. I decide to up my chances of work by applying for a position with a Federal Agency.
I was told to get my fingerprints done I would have to drive to their nearest facility which was 1.5 hours from where I live. When I asked why I couldn’t get my fingerprints done at my local police dept., they said they felt more comfortable allowing their own staff to do it since they were more efficient and the process was much quicker for them. Made good sense to me that they wanted to use the people they had trained to do this. So I drove to the facility with social security card and drivers license. Everything I needed in order to make this a smooth process. I didn’t want to slow down this well greased machine they were sending me to.
When I got there, the employee in charge of doing my most efficient and quicker process was stressing that she wasn’t sure what was wanted but she would do her best. It took her approximately 30 minutes to figure out what information her computer wanted. When she couldn’t figure it out she said, “Oh well, whatever doesn’t end up on the fingerprint card, I’ll just write it in”. While she fumbled with the computer, I asked her if she wanted me to go ahead and complete the paperwork. “Oh no! That will take you a WHILE to complete. In fact, you may want to take it home and fill it out”.
Finally, she did enough on the computer to make her feel she had done her job well, and we began the fingerprinting. As a former law enforcement officer, I knew these prints were the worst I had ever seen. I was relieved when she made a mistake of some sort and had to start over. But to my dismay, the second set of prints was just as sloppy. However, she was convinced they were gorgeous and there was no convincing her otherwise. What took 10 minutes to do the week before at a police department for my FL adjuster’s license, took her 1 hour 20 minutes to do and it was incorrect. And as I was leaving I realized they were packing up to go home. Hmmmmmm … I looked at the paperwork she handed me on my way out. It would have taken me no more than 10 minutes to fill out.
Upon leaving the facility, I called the agency that sent me to them but got no answer. Finally 30 minutes later, I got an answer and I’m put on hold for 12 minutes. I hung up when I realized their office had closed 5 minutes ago and they probably weren’t coming back.
When I got home, and began looking over the fingerprint card, I noticed she had switched my birth day and birth month. Once again, I called the agency to hopefully stop this card from being sent to Washington. To my surprise someone answered, allowed me to explain what I was concerned about, politely put me on hold. 15 minutes later, I hung up.
Email!! I would email them. Just a brief email explaining my concern of the incorrect information but I’m still waiting for a response.
As I sit here, I’m reminded of my first year of storm season employment. It would seem if you were doing everything they wanted done, according to how they wanted it to be done, you would go through some sort of desperate confusion. And it didn’t even have to be a government agency.
Really it took me back to my first storm and my first experience with an IA firm. Within 24 hours of being hired, I was expecting that any minute of my training and contract sessions, I would be branded on the butt, or my ear tagged.
My first year out felt like I was spun around blindfolded and turned loose at ground zero with a computer in one hand and a measuring tape in the other.
The first lesson in adjusting was learning how to adjust to my situations. Let me explain.
I passed a training center in my own town, to go to one of their other training centers many hours away, where I had to pay for room, food, gas,GAS, oh my word, gas. Not to mention it took us longer to get where they needed us to be. We spent two days on the road that we could have spent in the class back home. Then our training was cut short. We got three of seven days of training, and we were sent out with a promise that there would be someone there to help us, called a TA. I had seven TA’s in a course of 3 months, and only met one of them. Can I be self-taught? You bet I can. I learned how that year.
Very few classes included people that you would feel confident to learn from. People demanding respect by trying to belittle the people they were put in charge of. Talked down to in classes, help rooms, and help lines only to find out that most of these people were moonlighting until their positions were available again at some casino or local bar. If you were fortunate, an adjuster with years of experience headed your class. As I myself am very talented at many things, I would not be a great teacher. Teaching, in itself, is another gift that I don’t necessarily possess. Trust me, like 7 days of cheese; if you don’t know your software program, your system will lock up. All the knowledge you have is worthless if you can’t correctly get it into that program. It can take you 3 hours to do a scope, and if you don’t know that software, it will take you 6 hours to get it ready to be sent out to the company.
One fellow, whom I was told to direct my questions to, was walking around with people following him, grabbing his shoulder with intent in their eyes to get answers they had obviously tried to get elsewhere.
I thought to myself, “If I could only touch the hem of his coat”. I never could reach him. When there was no one around trying to get life giving information, there was still a wall of conceit, and arrogance. I refused to grovel. There had to be another way.
Research was my only tool and I used it daily. Yes, it slowed me down. I wasn’t able to do as many claims as I should have been able to do with good training and support. Atleast what I did was right and I was able to sleep at night knowing that and it helped knowing that I didn’t have to throw my pearls before swine to get it done right for the insured and the carrier I was representing.
Borrowed a pop up trailer from a friend. Made sure I got my tetanus and other shots before I got started. I brought my handy dandy first aid kit, rubber gloves, hand sanitizers, and 50 cent face mask. After working 3 months of flooded homes, I found out just how important a GOOD face mask is while spending hours in flooded areas. I ended up hospitalized.
I was discharged two days later from the hospital. I was next offered a position in office with the same company. As an advocate, I was able to continue helping and that was very important to me. My slight concern of being cooped up inside was diminished when I saw how busy the offices were. Keep me busy and I can handle anything. This gave me the opportunity to see this storm work from a different perspective and I was grateful for the opportunity.
After working two offices to completely closing the storm, I was given the okay from the doctors and I began working as an assistant to any adjuster friend who needed help out in the field with supplement claims.
In all my dealings, I learned so many things about myself. I can handle any situation as long as I stay positive, motivated and continue to help others.
I can survive a pop up trailer, as long as I stay focused on the people I’m there to help, who lost their home.
I can survive pork and beans and Vienna sausage as long as I stay focused on the people I’m there to help who lost ‘everything’.
I can live away from my loved ones during this time, as long as I stay focused on the people I’m there to help who lost loved ones forever.
When I look back on the monetary gain, I think about the cost of gas, food, tires, air cards, cell phone coverage, and rent. It takes a lot of money to make a lot of money. The largest reward is in knowing that somewhere each day, I helped someone find hope. A way to get back as much as they deserved, to begin a new life while representing with respect and passion the carrier who believed in me enough to let me be a part of this tiring, challenging, and yet extraordinary line of work of Adjusting.
We thank Linda Goodson for sharing her story with her reality based view of her experience. We encourage other adjusters to share your story with our readers. If you were a first time adjuster during one of the worst disasters in catastrophe claim history, we’d love to hear your story and share your advice for new adjusters. You can submit your story to us through our staffing firm. We will publish a few of these stories each week for others to learn from before they go out on the road the first time.
While the majority of carriers require a stated experience level such as 2 or 3 years of experience under normal circumstances, many rules had to be bent during Katrina requiring deployment of many adjusters who had completed training and adjuster licensing but had no practical field experience prior to Katrina.
The stories of their struggles to complete their job are heart breaking under the worst of circumstances during Katrina storm duty assignments. I know of MANY who worked and were not paid a dime after incurring over 10K in housing ,office, and travel expenses. We hope to make a difference for new adjusters by sharing some of the warning signs to look for so they are not taken advantage of by the few firms out their taking advantage of trainee adjusters inexperience. We can tell their stories without naming the adjusting firms involved to avoid libel problems. It’s the key issues such as contract issues, fee bills, warning signs, and other key “red flags” new adjusters need to learn to avoid some of the same problems you will read about as these folks share their stories with our readers.
You may read in many adjuster forums snide comments about “3 day wonders” referring to the many new adjusters coming from the influx of 3 day (some maybe 3 hours!) training schools for some courses alleging to teach an adjuster everything they need to know to earn big six figure incomes. That is far from the truth. It takes years of experience and training to properly understand the serious nature of the adjuster position. We hope by following our blog entries on adjuster income and some of the lawsuits costing adjusting firms, carriers, and adjusters that you will learn more about becoming a true professional representing the Independent adjusting community well to preserve all of our jobs in the industry. Take a look around the prior blog entries on income and adjusting and take the advice to heart. Learn from these “new adjuster” stories and stop the name calling. These folks who went out the first time are people with families to support. We need to learn to work together to help mentor them and to improve the training programs available to new adjusters. They do not know that some of these schools aren’t properly training them until they work with experienced adjusters who point out the error of the training processes some are out their teaching. If you read about “how to overcome the three year requirement by vendors” advice you might consider running to another more reputable training facility. I can’t thank the valued experienced participants of ClaimSmentor enough for their constant sharing of information with others.