The recent wave of storms such as the hailstorm in CO and the midwest flooding has brought on a flurry of new discussions in our adjuster forums about the lack of commitment in the independent firm/ independent adjuster/carrier relationships.
We had previously discussed the reasons for the problem of commitment in this blog titled “Are Adjusters Fungible Units…Are Independent Adjusters a Dying Breed ” here.
Just one example of the problem pointed out recently is an adjuster “Bill” activated to go out on assignment to Colorado for the recent hailstorm by a major adjusting firm. To work, the adjuster needed to activate his Xactimate subscription for an active key code. He indicates activating the subscription and other expenses incurred within the first hours of being activated cost him in the neighborhood of $430.00 before he ever left home. Three hours later, with RV hooked up, work equipment packed and loaded, truck fueled and ready for departure, the adjuster was told the adjusting firm had “made an administrative error” and they cancelled his assignment ( what a waste of his time- hooking up RV, gas expenses incurred, packing, and activation of the Xactimate subscription). The adjuster tried to get the adjusting firm to reimburse him atleast the cost of the Xactimate subscription they told him he was required to activate to no avail although he could not get a refund from Xactware on the expense as of our last update. No apology…no refund…the adjuster had to just eat the expense for an estimatic system he did not need until assignments are received. There was no misunderstanding that this was a “standby” call, the firm had been clear he was activated and was to report for duty. This adjuster and wife worked storms for a major adjusting firm during Katrina and knew the ropes, they were not trainees. Knowing this couple, I also know they incurred over $10,000 in seminar and conference training expenses in 06/07 attending seminars AFTER Katrina duty to improve their adjusting skills for the…next big one. Needless to say, this couple is more than frustrated with the current deployment situation and lack of dedication to adjusters servicing claims for the adjusting firms and carriers.
This reminds me of another storm years ago where another catastrophe adjusting couple were working out in CA doing clean up duty on daily rate (both working managers). Their adjusting firm asked them to relocate to the east coast for a new storm. They moved their RV and equipment cross country to a tune of thousands in relocation expenses to go cross country, set up at a new RV park, and to get utilities and phone service situated for long term assignments in the NY area. They got 12 claims and were sent home when the adjusting firm didn’t get the expected number of assignments and did not get back their daily rate assignment back in CA since they’d been replaced once they accepted the new storm assignment (with the same vendor).
We received feedback on the situation from several experienced adjusters. Rocke Baker agreed to provide advice for adjusters for this blog and provides this commentary and advice:
Subject: Storm Business by Rocke Baker
Most of us old timers have at one time or more been called up, began the trip or even made it to the site only to be told the work is not there or we called too many. Hard feelings yes but that is the nature of this beast. Will firms reimburse you for expenses when it was their mistake? Sometimes, depending on the firm and the carrier. Many will not. I have been lucky that the one time I was called out and was not needed, at least they paid a per diem for 5 days while we waited. Other IA firms did not fight for the per diem and those folks got nothing.
If you have less than 4 years in this business it is extremely tough. There are probably 20,000 adjusters (Just look at Texas DOI. There are over 40,000 adjuster licenses issued out of that state) that have less than 4 years along with those with 5 years or more all fighting for the same piece of the pie. Cat adjusting is like being in the union. Seniority, time in the job and have you worked for them in the past means a whole lot more that classes taken, certificates and the like. If you did a commendable job in any of the ’04-’05 storms, you have a chance of being called up. If you have never worked a storm or have never worked a claim the chance of being called up is slim.
Companies ramped up their cat crews in early ’06 in anticipation of a heavy year. Nothing happened. They will work those people heavy before any of us are called by them. This year is not the year for cat adjusting so far. It has been pocket storms and not many people have been called. I passed up one gig for about 50 – 60 files as one carrier called and said that they would have about 20 – 30 for me at home. Since this carrier had kept us eating at the end of last year and gave us files as overload this year, we declined the out of town run to be loyal to the carrier. Well, that did not pan out. Got 16 and 5 of those had already been inspected by staff, 2 withdrew their claims and the other will not call back or respond to letters out of the first 8 they gave me. And nothing else has come in. That is how this game is played. You have to have other plans of action to make a living until the major hail storms (50k homes hit) or a class 3 or above hurricane hits a major city.
It has been said in Claims Mentor & CADO by experienced adjusters, you have to have something to fall back on during slow times. If you sit back and wait for that call up, it may be a very long wait. This is very true since 2006 and through right now as I am writing this.
Being a cat adjuster is like being a gambler. You buy your tickets and take your chances. The reason that my wife and I got into this was not to get rich. We had been staff for more years than we want to think of. We got out because we were tired of the everyday grind. We wanted to work a few months, make money to live on and hope to put a little away. Well, we are working like plow horses doing day claims to stay slightly ahead of the game. It feels like we are on cat. These files do not pay the greatest but we are fortunate enough to have them. I’m writing this while taking a break.
So many people have been trapped by these “adjuster schools”, being told you have to take this or that to get on a vendor list etc, it is sad. All this has done is make money for firms and have taken money from the folks who can least afford it. As was said in CADO a few days ago, it seems like some of the vendors call up a few under 4 year adjusters for a storm. Maybe they think that if they give them a few files and make some money, they will take more and more “training” classes. More money for the “training” division of that vendor.
Remember, keep the forum comments constructive be it critical or complimentary. Companies read these comments as well and remember who is saying what and when.
Rocke Baker 305-781-1691, Rocke Baker is a long term adjuster. He had worked for years as a staff adjuster and currently serves the claims industry in the capacity of daily and catastrophe loss adjusting.
Let’s take a look at this from the adjusting firm standpoint. What do they have to say? This excellent article discusses the challenges, resources, and investments in activating adjusters from the independent adjusting firm standpoint when reporter Mathew Brodsky interviewed Crawford and Company on activations during 2005. It reflects the expenses adjusting firms also face which often leads to disappointments for them as well as the adjusters they deployed. There are also interesting comments in this article about the former “Indiana-Jones type senior adjuster versus training new adjusters in today’s environment. While the article is long, it is worth the time to read. You can see from this article, the independent adjusting firms receive a request for a given number of adjusters which may not pan out once the carrier’s determine the actual number of claims versus the projected number of loss assignments and face the same cancellations of their requested services.
Watch for tomorrow’s blog with an explanation on these commonly used terms such as standby, deployment, activation and a good discussion on adjuster ethics on handling the many standby calls received once there is potential for landfall due to hurricanes or sudden damage from hailstorms, tornados, and other weather events triggering the need for independents.