What can adjusters learn from the 2003 Cedar Fire regarding litigation and complaints on Claims from CA Wildfires? Blog 4-CA Wildfires

October 25, 2007

Unfortunately, the news media is already reporting on claim issues surrounding the CA wildfires. In order to keep history from repeating itself, we should take a look at just what did happen regarding litigation in CA in the aftermath of the 2003 CA Wildfires so we avoid the same pitfalls in claim handling this 2007 Wildfire season. Here are some issues already in the news:

Public Adjuster Activity– see the reader comments from public adjusters and insurance adjusters going back and forth on this blog found at www.signsonsandiego.com blog:   Click here

CNN Money Article “When Insurers Play Rough- Discussion on 2003 issues on being underinsured: Click here

Note Bob Hunter of the Consumer Federation of America is quoted in the above article

Scams following fires by San Diego District Attorney’s office- make sure to read comments about adjusters: Click here

Great article on CA Insurance Commissioner saying hundreds of lawsuits were filed in aftermath of 2003 for insurance companies underinsuring claims and favorable outcome from insurer standpoint on one of the trials: Click here

5.1 million dollar verdict for insurer, Fidelity lowballing claims in 2003 wildfire- 2006 article- over 120 cases to follow in court (over 200 filed on Replacement cost coverage issues according to article): Click here

2004 Article- Lawsuits  and Class Action against 4 major carriers for renewal premiums charged in after 2003 wildfires on properties that had been a total loss in the 2003 fires(what will they do this year? This was news to me learned while researching this article): click here

Note they site 4 major plaintiff lawfirms in CA  in this article as:

“The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from four of

California’s top plaintiff and insurance bad faith law firms:

Michael Bidart and William Shernoff of Shernoff Bidart & Darras LLP;

Jerry Ramsey of Engstrom Lipscomb & Lack; Tom Girardi of Girardi &

Keese; and Harvey Levine and Richard Huver of Levine, Steinberg, Miller

& Huver, who have been volunteering at fire victim outreaches all

over Southern California to provide highly sought after answers

about insurance policies and coverage.”

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Looking up their websites, I’ve listed below any mention of CA Bad Faith lawsuits:

http://www.sbd-law.com/CM/LP/Homeowners-Insurance-Claim-Denial-LP.asp   Not much mentioned on the 2003 cases

http://www.elllaw.com/mercury.htm   Wow! The Engstrom, Lipscomb, & Lack group was the lawfirm handling the famous Erin Brockovich case!  Click here for a list of the bad faith cases stating they handled Northridge Earthquake suits, Class action against Allstate and cases against State Farm and others following the 2003 fires: Click here for the bad faith info

Levine,Steinburg, Miller & Huver: Click here   I didn’t see any case history here on the 2003 fires although they are listed in the above article

Girard and Keese: Click here        See info on cases 200 million against Farmers for Northridge EQ claims

Here’s another very interesting interview between an expert witness on CA insurance cases and a plaintiff attorney in CA on Replacement cost coverage and claims (replacement cost/underinsurance/lowballing claims seem to the the biggest issues I found in numerous articles I read on this): click here

Miscellaneous Wildfire Articles and news:

Great ISO Report-“Trial by Fire” on Insurers use of technology when dealing with wildfire: Click here

Insurance News Network of CA update- projections 1 Billion in insured losses:  Click here

 

 

NY Times Article- 1,500 Insurer losses- 1 Billion: Click here

The Fires have disrupted the flow of legal work as law firms face numbers of disrupted employees and office closures: Click here  

(Which one of you want to work their personal claims……will we have more Dickie Scruggs/Politicians/ Anti Carrier sentiments in those type of lawsuits in CA? Maybe in addition to adding wind to government coverage with the Flood program , the politicians will now try to add wildfires also to the 2007 Multi Peril Act – see prior blog if you aren’t familiar with those House and Senate bills)

San Diego County State Park closures (for Adjusters looking for RV parking spots): Click here

The Blame Game (good blog on fires)-fingerpointing in fire agencies begins before embers die: Click here

National Interactive Fire Agency declares this Santa Ana wind event to be over and provides status on each fire: Click here

Other news on Insurance response to CA wildfires:

Nationwide responds-press release: click here

Property and Casualty news article 10/25 “Claims Pour In” , total count 1,700 plus/up to 1.6 billion in losses: click here

I don’t have time today to complete all of the intended comments on the 2003 lawsuits and will get back to finishing this up as time allows. I just received a call about a hurricane brewing and will update the blog with that shortly. I’ll be travelling back to FL tonight for the weekend and return to TN for next week’s anguishing surgery for my daughter at Vanderbilt for her recently discovered sacrum tumor. I suspect that I will not be available for blog entries next week with the exception of Monday as she will be undergoing operations on Tuesday followed by the major surgery Wednesday. I appreciate the prayers and support many of our readers have sent following the prior blog about this unfortunate discovery and our earlier absence from the blog at the end of September when we learned of her problem.

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Update 3:40 pm- Chubb at 25, State Farm at 1,579(298 uninhabitable), Farmers at 1,725: click here

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Blog 3 on CA Wildfires- Insurance Company Damage Statistics through 10/25/07

October 24, 2007

We’ve heard from many adjusters participating on ClaimSmentor today that they have either been activated for storm duty or they have been notified of possible standby status.

Miscellaneous information first on prior blogs you’ll want to read if you are going:

We posted our first initial blog on the CA fires with links to many important issues about handling claims in CA : Click here

We posted the news releases on emergency adjuster approval by the CA Insurance Commissioner earlier today: Click here

Here is the prior blog on temporary housing options for adjusters and insureds: Click here

Here is the prior blog on Billingual Translation services: Click here

Here is the blog on standby calls and catastrophe codes for new adjusters: Click here

Here is an excellent guest blog by Steve Ebner on crisis management when dealing with insureds on a storm as serious as the wildfires are:  Click here   (Steve by the way is now on his way to CA to work catastrophe losses)

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Current Carrier Statistics on the storms in the news: Total still stands at 500 million expected

State Farm 1,350 (251 are totals), Zurich 800, Lloyds -unknown #:  Click here

**note the article says State Farm is #1 carrier, Zurich #2- State Farm independent adjusters are usually Eberl, Worley, EA Renfroe, and Pilot and I think IPS Staffing in Chicago handles alot of the Zurich inside commerical work

I-5 Shutdown both directions  Structures damaged in all fires 1,013 if you add up all figures in this article and about 22,000 others threatened (adding up all numbers in my head on threatened structures : Click here for full article

Note how the numbers in the two articles above differ between carrier reports of numbers and other articles.  Just with the two carriers above they are quoted at 2,150 between the two. First of all, many carrier models staff for 50 catastrophe losses per adjuster but they normally would use a different model for total losses versus claims with a lower severity code. Most carriers I have worked with will tell you that during a typical storm, you can count the losses reported day one and muliply that by 10 to determine how many claims to expect thus how many adjusters to deploy to a cat zone. However, on a storm such as this with most parties still in evacuation mode, it is highly doubtful that most insureds have reported their losses waiting to determine the extent of their damage similar to hurricane evacuees so my guess is the presently reported numbers bear no significance on the number of losses actually to be received to include smoke damage, partial fires,civil authority evacuation, ALE,etc

Interesting blog on Suspicious Activities near CA Wildfires- Is this terrorist related (that hadn’t even dawned on me!): Click here (read at own risk- I had no time to view what this site is about and what prior blogs are- just got the hit on a news alert today)

USAA- Adjusters in San Diego and more on the way: Click here   (Doesn’t Crawford service USAA claims? Who else?)

The Democratic Daily- lots of great links to local info on fires in Malibu: Click here

Farmers Insurance, 1100 claims: Click here

CNN Money Article- “The Next Battle for wildfire victims- Insurance”: Click here (Aw- lawsuit talk already?Hmmmm)

Bloomberg article-update 6- “Largest evacuation in CA history- 5 dead: Click here

Day 4- update on status of containment and damage on all 16 fires from The Daily Green: Click here

I’ll update this as more alerts come in this evening with stats. Note, I’m in the process of preparing a blog for tomorrow on the history of lawsuits and wildfires in CA to get a glimpse of what adjusters might expect in the way of lawsuits based on past history and information on 4 of the biggest plaintiffs attorneys who have been involved in prior wildfire lawsuits against carriers in CA.

Please be safe in your travels to and throughout California as you go to your assignments.

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Update 10pm CST 10/24

Update Day 4- Blog 3 on CA wildfires:

Which CA Wildfires  are they calling Arson related?

Santiago Fires called arson: click here

I’ll update this section as more is found on the cause of each fire

**update 1am 10/25: LA Times article on Arson fires in Hesperia-San Bernendino-Rosa Blaze-Temecula-Orange County fire, and the worst was the suspect killed for setting a fire today. Click here for full details on the fires they believe to be arson related (for subrogation purposes?)

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Update 11pm CST 10/24:

CNA opens operation center (must be a claim central operation) in Nashville,TN for Ca Wildfire claims: Click here

Farmers and Zurich update- 400 adjusters now in CA and here are the locations of their catastrophe centers: Click here  2,000 Farmers/ 500 Foremost thus far reported

Hartford– Adjusters on scene and info on their claim central division, contact numbers for Hartford- Interesting Hartford Claims Debit card information: Click here

Zurich- no finanicial impact expected: Click here

Liberty Mutual and Fireman’s Fund discuss their losses : Click here

Updates 10/25/07 8 am:

State Farm General, Farmers and AIG quotes (all less than 2,500 thus far?): Click here


California Insurance Commissioner Clears the way for non CDI Emergency Adjusters to handle wildfire losses

October 24, 2007

Please see the following press alert notice received. I will update the blog by late this evening with information located on current insurance company damage assessments by 10pm CST.

From: California Department of Insurance <communications@insurance.ca.gov> Add to Addresses Block Sender
Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 5:08 PM
To: dimechimes
Subject: Commissioner Poizner Issues Declaration of Insurance Emergency for Southern California Fire Storms
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You are subscribed to Press Releases for the California Department of Insurance. You are receiving this email because new information has recently been released.

You can access the department’s Communications Office Web page by clicking here.

INSURANCE COMMISSIONER STEVE POIZNER ISSUES DECLARATION OF INSURANCE EMERGENCY FOR

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FIRE STORMS

Insurance Adjusters Expedited to So. California to Quicken Recovery by Local Residents and Businesses

SACRAMENTO – Today Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, in anticipation of an onslaught of severe insurance claims, issued an emergency declaration to help accelerate claims from the aftermath of the Southern California fire storms.

“I am issuing a declaration which will expedite additional insurance adjusters to California to assist survivors of the fire storms with the prompt processing of insurance claims resulting from this catastrophic event,” said Commissioner Poizner. “During this state of emergency, I want to ensure Californians that I will do all that I can to help them through this crisis and rebuild as quickly as possible. For many, the first step on the road to recovery is to cut through the red tape, have their loss documented and processed for a claim. We want to remove any unnecessary delays to the system and make sure we have enough adjusters on the job.”

The California Department of Insurance (CDI) proclamation will allow CDI-licensed insurance adjusters and insurers to use the services of non-CDI licensed adjusters, such as those from out-of-state, to assist with the processing of the multitude of anticipated insurance claims arising from the fire storms. The work performed by the non-CDI licensed adjusters must be under the active direction, control, charge, or management of a CDI-licensed insurer or adjuster.

Commissioner Poizner issued the declaration in according with the requirements of Section 14022.5 of the California Insurance Code, which provides that such use is reasonably necessary in order to adequately respond to the emergency situation.

The last time Commissioner Poizner issued this type of declaration was January 22, 2007, in the face of the extreme, California crop freezes.  Prior to that, however, the last insurance emergency declaration was issued in November 2003 in response to wildfires in Southern California.

Text of declaration can be found at www.insurance.ca.gov under LATEST NEWS.

Please visit the Department of Insurance Web site at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP. Callers from out of state, please dial 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

This service is provided free of charge by: California Department of Insurance.

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Special Thanks to Helen Palmer of the Cat-Women@yahoogroups.com for sharing the following two other press releases on this:

Associated Press Release:

Calif insurance commissioner declares insurance emergency

The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner declared an “insurance emergency” on Wednesday because of the Southern California wildfires.

The declaration temporarily removes the ban on out-of-state claims adjusters lacking California licenses. Poizner said that lifting the ban will help insurance companies better deal with the expected crunch of fire claims. He estimated that more than $1 billion in property damage has already occurred.

Poizner last lifted the ban in January during a devastating crop freeze in the Central Valley.

During a press conference in San Francisco, Poizner also said that he is sending dozens of fraud investigators into the burned region to crack down on scam artists posing as claims adjusters and contractors. Poziner said he has already received reports of fraud, but no arrests have been made.

Poizner said fire victims can call 1-800-927-HELP or log onto http://www.insurance.ca.gov for Department of Insurance guidance.

Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 12:04 PDT

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LA Times News Article:

State opens door to insurance adjusters

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Declaration of ‘insurance emergency’ allows companies to bring in personnel from other parts of the country, even if they aren’t licensed in California .

By Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
11:30 AM PDT, October 24, 2007

SACRAMENTO

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner today declared an “insurance emergency,” clearing the way for a more speedy processing of damage claims from the Southern California wildfires.

Poizner invoked special powers to suspend a law that requires insurance adjusters — the people who inspect and calculate the value of property losses — to be licensed by the state.

The declaration of an emergency allows insurance companies to bring in large numbers of out-of-state adjusters to help process thousands of claims. The unlicensed adjusters must work under the supervision of California-licensed colleagues.

“I want to ensure Californians that I will do all that I can to help them through this crisis and rebuild as quickly as possible,” Poizner said at a news conference. “For many, the first step on the road to recovery is to cut through the red tape, have their loss documented and processed for a claim.”

Poizner’s action will help insurers dispatch professional personnel to charred areas of Southern California, said Joseph Annotti, a spokesman for the Property and Casualty Insurers of America, a Chicago-based trade group that includes Allstate Corp., California’s third-largest home insurer.

He estimated that the fires, which are far from contained, would result in companies paying claims in excess of $2 billion, surpassing the state’s most costly fire to date, the blaze in the Berkeley and Oakland Hills in 1991.

“In the wake of [Hurricane] Katrina, we learned that even when insurers called out every adjuster they ever had on their payrolls, [and] people out of retirement, there still weren’t enough folks,” Annotti said. “If this helps get homes inspected more quickly and gets money to the people who need it more quickly, that’s a very positive thing.”


CA wildfires – The claims news on damage comes in- CA licensing/ Carrier Info/ Adjusting Firm Info

October 23, 2007

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I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching available preliminary information on the devastating fires in southern California looking at it from our prospective in claims. The latest articles from late tonight indicate approximately 600 homes burned. Reports indicate upwards of 265, 000 evacuees from Malibu to Mexico as one article puts it. Other reports list less damage and the photos coming in the from stadium bring back horrible memories of Katrina. God be with the families and the brave firemen battling these blazes.

Below you will find links to many things you will need to know working catastrophe duty in California as well as links to licensing information not only for adjusters but adjusting firms, a list of carriers with the data supplied on direct written premium for adjusting firms wishing to market your services to the carriers involved, and a list of many adjusting firms listed on the California Assn of Independent Insurance Adjusters. We hope you find the details both interesting and informative for those of you researching potential assignments in California.

Information for Insurance Adjusters and Insurance Adjusting firms about working out in California on storm duty:

CA licensing link for resident and non resident adjuster licenses – click here (See Adjuster organizations and Branch office’s too on same link with forms)

CA Assn of Independent Insurance Adjusters-Membership list of adjusting firms- click here

CA Insurance Companies- Alphabetic listing with amount of direct written premium listed for adjusting firm marketing efforts if you are trying to get assignments for your teams out there (don’t forget Dimechimes Corporation can assist with filling your staffing rosters if you need more folks www.dimechimes.com for contact info): Click here and here

Prior blogs on overtime issues with employees in CA :Click here

Prior blog on CA classification of employee vs independent-new law-15-25K fines: Click here

**You can also click on the archives in right column for Temporary Housing and for Billingual Translation Services info

The Current reports of damage from the California Wildfires:

Slide show-over 250 slides of the damage: click here  Notice all of the damaged autos as well as homes and businesses

News stories accounting for the damage statistics thus far:

Malibu – 5 homes, 2 commercial buildings:  Click here

Evacuees over 250,000:  Click here

Comments on evacuation from Malibu to Mexico: Click here

Article says San Diego County-500 homes/ 100 Commercial buildings: Click here

Damage Statistics seperated by each wildfire: Click here

Miscellaneous articles and emergency declarations for CA:

LA Times Road Closure listings: Click here

Southern California photos sent in by the public: Click here

Fire Agency updated reports for all 11 fires: Click here

CA Governor’s speech 10/22/07 on the fires: Click here

CA Governor asks for 1,500 National Guard and Navy and Air Force support: Click here

Website for firemen with current stories from their perspective: click here (check their forums as well as news stories)

Adjusters and Insurance Companies in  the news in CA for the wildfires:

Auto Owners-property and auto claims/ Adjuster in evacuation centers-will call insureds within 30 minutes of loss notice-imagine those standards! Click here

I’ll be adding to this all day tomorrow. I also saw a story about Farmers sending 260 adjusters and I’ll provide that link and others on the damage statistics tomorrow as the news is updated.

Music always expresses deep emotions which I am feeling after viewing the slides and reading these stories. I was brought up the daughter of a Navy Commander attending military churches in our childhood. One of my favorite hymns from those days comes to mind all day today as I watched the fire flights distributing water over the devastated communities which was  the naval hymn “Eternal Father Strong to Save”. “Lord guard and guide the men who fly through the great spaces in the skies, be with them always in the air, in darkening storms and sunlight fair” (here’s a link to the entire Naval hymn) so I’ll close this saying God Bless you to the firemen  who are doing the very best they can to protect families and homes under such dire circumstances.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the adjusters who will be dealing in the field with the aftermath of this storm. Let’s all hope that the great state of California treats you much better than the treatment insurers thus adjusters have received during Katrina storm assignments in LA and MS by the politicians and attorneys there. Storms such as this try the best of adjusters due to the emotional and stressful conditions they are dealing with. Let’s support those going. God Bless the USA.

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
Through the great spaces in the sky,
Be with them always in the air,
In dark’ning storms or sunlight fair.                                                                          
O, Hear us when we lift our prayer,
For those in peril in the air.

Here’s a link to the music that accompanies these lyrics if you’d like to hear it: Click here

                                                                                                                    

Photos courtesy readers at LA Times:  http://yourscene.latimes.com/mycapture/photos/Album.aspx?EventID=357460&CategoryID=20832

**Update 10/23/07: Article quoting 16 firemen injured/25 others, up to 300K evacuees, and 655 structures: Click here

**Update 10/23/07 3:40 Pm CST- 2 now dead, 1600 structures destroyed (this is not a valid insurance claim number as there would be partial losses, civil authority evacuation coverage for the almost 500,000 evacuations Fox news is now reporting, fire damage is covered to trees, shrubs, food spoilage and other power interruption coverage, business interruption losses for commercial businesses and other coverages too numerous to list. Many of these Additional Living Expense (ALE) claims can be handled by the carrier claim central in office departments.

 Click here for info on 10K at stadium, 2 deaths, 1600 structure fires and more damage assessment. Excellent photos included.

AIG Insurance Company sprays Phos-Check Fire Retardant on homes to save them: Click  here   for Fox Business news story on this and other insurance measures in CA on wildfire insurance coverage

Army Times news article about where the Army troops will be used at the stadium, fairgrounds,etc to help: Click here

ABC News Excellent article-today’s Governor’s speech, 1239 Federal Firefighters, and tonight’s ABC 20/20 broadcast at 10pm EST as well as comments from FEMA and more damage assessments: Click here

Video and Audio footage of fires at ABC New’s I-Caught: Click here  (The sound of the wind is horrific)

***Updates 5pm CST:

Insurance Network ( IINC)  of CA- list of wildfires with insurance dollar data through 2007:  Click here

Telephone Numbers for Insurance Companies in CA to report a claim (or adjusting firm marketing!): Click here

Insurance Information Institute (III.org) information on US Wildfire Catastrophe 1970-2006: Click here

Insurance Journal information on Carriers Assessing the Damage: Click here

Red Cross Shelters for CA Wildfires and Details on structures damaged and structures threatened per wildfire: Click here

**Update 8:20pm CST 10/23/07  One million now evacuated: Click here

    Carriers report in as of 2pm today to Insurance Information Network of California with 1,760 claims thus far reported and projected insured losses now $500 million: Click here


Lose the Hammer- 8 Characteristics of an Awesome Adjuster-book review by NU Sam Friedman

October 22, 2007

I enjoy following National Underwriter’s Editor Sam Friedman’s blogs on many insurance issues.

Here is a particularly good blog written recently “Lose the Hammer” where he critiques the book written by an instructor, Carl Van of the International Insurance Institute titled 8 Characteristics of an Awesome Adjuster.

Here is a link to the site map for CE courses they have by state. First, this link here is to the Mediation and Arbitration 14 hour CE class they offer ( next select YOUR state on the map here to see what they have for adjusters)in Florida for example. Here is a link to many other excellent “soft skill” courses offered for adjuster’s on their site and it appears these are offered in the field at the carrier sites also (click on their Training Schedule link). Many other classes are also available so just check out their entire claim training section.

We hope you enjoy the book. If you’ve missed our other blogs which contained recommended reading, you’ll find some of our past posts below:

You can’t win a fight with your Client- click here

Dinosaur Brains-if your dealing with ugly situations on claims- click here 

Neandrathals at Work- getting along with a few crazy co-workers and boss- click here

Who moved my  Cheese- click here   (In our version- who moved my claims cheese?)

While your researching reading material to stay current on claim trends, here is also a link to the Claims Education magazine put out by the Insurance Institute on their summer 2007 latest issue here. Here is also a link to National Underwriter’s Claims Magazine here.

We try to do one book review a week if we run across anything we think would be good to share and try to do so on Sundays if you want to check back.

Thank you again to our many readers for staying in touch with our blog. We are proud to announce we reached our 10,000th blog guest Friday night 10/20/07. WordPress has an awesome stat program and you as a reader can also follow our blog stats if your interested by looking at the blog count on the right hand column of the blog or “About us” tab in right hand column as well on the Blog Stats box.


Claims-Portal.com/Clickclaims.com owner Thomas Brown invites you to participate in Claim Technical issues Survey-free Sprint Card and Laptop case drawing for participants

October 20, 2007


Subject: Please participate ASAP in this survey to be presented to ISO Tech- FREE Sprint Card and Laptop Travel Case Drawing 

Date: Sat, 20 Oct 2007 15:40:09 -0400
Thomas Brown, the owner of www.Claims-Portal.com and the CMS system that won the 2006 AM BEST Award for CMS systems nationwide for his www.Clickclaims.com CMS system has invited all ClaimSmentor members and your friends, work associates, members of adjusting firms and carriers to participate in this survey. The deadline to participate is 10/31/07. The survey results will be presented to ISO Tech so all of our input matters and we all love improvement in technology to assist us with our assignments!

Note there are special incentives to do so. Those completing the survey are offered a free Sprint Card and there is a drawing for a travel laptop case. You’ll get an email to thank you for taking the survey with all the information about the free Sprint card and drawing upon completion.

Here’s the link to the survey. Please assist us by taking this survey as improvements in technology helps all of us improve on our jobs. Please make sure to click the box that says you heard about it from ClaimSmentor or the Other block and input Dimechimes Blog. We appreciate it!

http://fs3.formsite.com/e-claim/form737075970/index.html

I have had the pleasure to manage with this system 2 years and as a claim manager, I cannot imagine supervising adjusters without it. You should check into taking a demo of the system if you haven’t used it. The advanced features such as carrier login ids to view live access to any uploaded claim file documents is amazing and a major selling feature for adjusting firms with carriers. It also allows remote claim examiners to review and approve uploaded documents. The enhancements made again this year bar none are the best, I’ve even considered moving my staffing firm roster candidates to the system and use it as a claim personnel HR tool as the features would work so well for that purpose in conjunction with using the program for claim assignments!

Thanks for sharing this opportunity with our members and readers Thomas. Good luck with the survey!

Best Regards,

Deborah K Moroy,AIC,IIA

ClaimSmentor

Dimechimes Adjuster Information Blog reached our 10,000th reader on 10/20/07 just shy of our 3 month anniverary. Thank you for participating both in our forums and on our blog for adjusters!

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Cat Tales by Guest Bloggers Kim and Nelson Stegall- Their first storm experience

October 20, 2007

Ya’ll will really enjoy this story by Kim Nelson she shares with our  members at ClaimSmentor and she has extended permission for me to share their story on this blog. Kim is entirely too shy about their backgrounds and the accomplishments they’ve made during the two years since obtaining their license. I often tease Kim that she is the Poster Child for everything I believed in when I founded ClaimSmentor. She has taken every class we’ve offered in the LIVE online classes, she has followed profile advice and created professional resumes, she has followed every lead we’ve posted in our ClaimSmentor Career Forum, been selected as part of the 2006 Mariposa claims mentoring project they did with our participants, and she and husband Nelson have attended I think just about every claims conference nationwide as well as fitting in many adjusting firm seminars and as many training classes as time and finances allowed. If that isn’t enough, Kim has also completed the AIC Associates in Claims program to add to her already impressive list of designations she earned during her agency career. Kim was also our first member of ClaimSmentor and remains very devoted to helping us by providing mentoring tips to other new adjusters in our forum.

Now…….sit back and enjoy their “Cat Tales” about their experience getting started in independent claim careers and their first storm. Thanks again to Kim and Nelson for allowing others to learn from their stories. Congratulations on setting such a great example for ClaimSmentor members to follow. You have found work when many others have yet to do so due to your positive attitude, persistence, and “can do” attitudes. They say “luck is where preparation meets opportunity” and you give that quote true meaning with your real life dedication to becoming the most professional adjusters you can be. It has truly been my pleasure working with you and mentoring you and brings me great pleasure to read of your successful entry into this field. Best to ya’ll…Deb

Here is also a link to the “Starting a Storm” article by Mariposa adjusters the Lenz’s we previously posted in this blog here which Kim mentions in her story below.

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Cat Tale

Things are pretty quiet around here so I thought I would share the tale of our first cat deployment.

First, some background first for those of you who don’t know us.  We became licensed in 2005.  We signed up for a vendor 5-day training class at the end of Oct. ’05 and it just worked out that Hurricane Wilma hit 3 days before the class.  The vendor offered us 100 Hurricane Wilma claims the day the class ended but even though I had been an insurance agent for 20 years and Nelson had owned a construction company for 16 years, we just didn’t feel ready to jump into adjusting after a 5-day class.  Instead we took another 7-day property adjusting class the next month and then worked as unpaid assistants to some great mentors who were willing to share their experience, knowledge and their spare RV with us.   

During Winter and Spring 2006 we attended vendor conferences and took virtually every carrier cert and training class we could afford.

By late Spring of 2006 we were better trained, certified with several carriers, had worked Hurricane Wilma claims for 30 days and felt like we could do a creditable job of cat claims adjusting without going crazy at the same time.  I have always seemed to have a problem with timing and this was no exception.  Now that we were ready to go, there was nowhere to go.  This was the beginning of the “great void” as far as cats go and it was hard to find (actually, impossible) a vendor interested in our services.  I am, if anything, persistent so I started a campaign to find us work.  I’m sure some of you have found out that when things are slow, it’s tough to get work even if you are willing to do it for free!  In April of 2006 we were lucky to be accepted into Mariposa’s (great company!) mentoring program.  They matched us up with one of their top daily claims adjusters and for about 6 weeks we learned how different daily claims are from the cat claims we had worked with our friends during Wilma.   This was also an unpaid position but we were very happy to have it.

Once we had completed this daily claims apprenticeship, I started marketing our services as daily claims adjusters.  During the past 18 months we have been able to work about 70 daily claims.  The great thing about daily claims is the variety.  We have worked fire, mold, burglary, water, tornado, spilled bleach, sewer back up, liability, wind, hail, you name it! We worked with both personal lines and commercial lines policies.  Because 70 claims in 18 months isn’t exactly a lucrative income we have also done some underwriting inspections and My Safe Florida Home inspections.

So, it’s August of 2007 and although we now feel comfortable saying “claims adjuster” when someone asks what kind of work we do, we still haven’t worked our first cat and, cat work, not daily, is our goal.  We would like to be able to spend time in Iowa as well as Florida and daily claims tie you down even if you aren’t real busy.  We were aware there was a lot of storm damage in several areas of the Midwest in August but, of course, the vendors were calling their long time adjusters for this work, not us.  We found ourselves in the unusual situation of having no open daily claims and a lull in the My Safe Florida Home inspection work.  I sent e-mails to the managers of all the vendors we had dealt with for training, carrier certs, conferences and all those for whom we had completed the necessary items to be put on their rosters.  I recounted our experience and certifications and told them we were available.

Lo and behold, on 8/21/2007 we got a call.  The vendor rep asked if we were still available.  She said “I don’t know if we will send you to MN, IL or NC but start packing and we’ll call you back.”  Of course, we have had close calls before and we knew that packing would jinx this so we just proceeded as normal.  At 8:00 PM on Thursday, 8/23/2007, they called us back and asked if we could be in IL by Saturday, 8/25/2007.    She told us to just start driving towards IL and someone would call us and tell us exactly where we would be working and where the storm office would be.

 We started out for IL early Friday morning and mid-morning we got a call from our new storm manager.  He introduced himself, told us the town we would be working in and said that, since we were new, they would give us 20 claims to start with.  He explained we would be given additional claims as we completed the 20.  We said “great!”  He said the claims were being sent to us via XactCentral as we spoke and we could accept them and start calling them.  He said there would be a storm office where we could go for help if we needed it and he would call us back with the info on that.

We were really thrilled about the storm location.  This town is 50 miles from our house in Iowa!  We had 2 choices; with only 20 claims to handle, we could drive back and forth every day or we could fire up our old motor home and stay in the town where the claims are.  We decided to go the motor home route so we called and made a reservation at an RV park in that town for $24 per night. 

Our storm manager called us back Friday afternoon and he said “We only wanted to start you out with 20 claims but you guys are going to be the first ones there so we need to send you 15 more.”  We said “ok.”  He also said it appeared that this was going to be a “remote managed” storm and that there wouldn’t be a storm office.  We said “ok.”

Our storm manager called us back Friday evening and said “We just found out that you guys are the only adjusters being sent to this cat site that have commercial certification for this carrier so we have to send you 15 commercial claims.  We said “Gulp…ok” We weren’t scared of the commercial claims, per say, because this was the carrier I had been an agent for and I am familiar with their policies but we had NEVER used XactCentral and we knew from the certification class for this carrier that there was a little more set up for commercial claims in Xactimate and XactCentral.  XactCentral was our main worry and the words of the carrier’s rep at the certification class hung over us like a cloud: “A storm is not the place to learn a new program.”  The problem was, we had attended an advanced Xactimate class and they barely touch on XactCentral.  It seems like “trial by fire” is the only way you can learn it.

So, here we are, around Tennessee with another 10 hours of driving ahead of us.  We have gone from 20 claims to about 50, we have gone from a storm office to “remote managed” and we have 15 commercial claims.  OK…. this is what we have been training for.  We can do this.  We pulled into a Flying J truck stop and bought their “all day wireless” for $5 (our Verizon card was working too slowly for this) and downloaded our claims and I started calling them.

This was where I made the biggest mistake of this storm.  I can honestly say that I have read everything in the archives of CADO about storm deployment.  I have also read everything on ClaimSmentor about this subject and I have taken Deb’s excellent Fundamentals class and other classes about working cats.  You’d think I would know how to do this but, prior to this point, the most open claims we had at one time was 8!

I started talking to all those people who had big holes in their roofs, other serious damage, no power etc. and I just started scheduling them as close as I thought we could inspect.  We thought, “With 2 of us we should be able to do several inspections and closings in the same day…WRONG!”  The most important thing that we didn’t take into account was that we had our inexperience with XactCentral still to overcome.

Anyway, we stopped for a few hours to sleep Friday night and got up Saturday morning and sped towards our home in Iowa to pick up our RV and head towards IL.  All the while I was phoning insureds and digging our hole a little deeper with my scheduling.

We arrived in Iowa around 2:00 PM on Saturday.  We had set an appointment for 6:00 PM that evening with the insured with the most serious damage.  We decided we would go scope that loss and then just drive back to Iowa Saturday night.  Our first appointment on Sunday was 1:00 PM so we would have time to take the motor home to IL and get it set up in the morning.  We did that inspection at 6:00 and then headed back to Iowa.  A friend of ours had used our motor home and it was still at his house so we stopped there to pick it up.  Nelson started it up, put it in gear and it wouldn’t move!  It was parked in the grass so we thought, “It’s stuck.”  After a few minutes we realized the motor home wasn’t stuck…the brakes were!  OK, we have 3 appointments Sunday afternoon, 5 appointments on Monday and 5 appointments on Tuesday.  When can we work on the motor home?  We can’t!  Ok, can we just drive back and forth each day (2 hours round trip) with appointments starting at 8:00 AM and ending at 6:00 PM?  No, we really don’t think we want to do that…Ok; we’ll get a hotel over there.  Remember I told you about my timing?  Well, I started calling hotels in this town and quickly found out that besides all the roofers, contractors and adjusters who were heading to the area (and, because they weren’t planning on staying in their motor homes, had made a reservation!), it was the week of the annual Stearman Fly In where people fly their antique Stearman planes into this town and guess what?  They don’t sleep in them!  The only room we could find at this late date was the Holiday Inn Express for $71 per night!

Thanking God for credit cards, we moved into the Holiday Inn Express on Sunday afternoon just in time to make it to our first Sunday inspection.  We did our 3 Sunday inspections and when we got back to the hotel about 8:00PM we now had 4 inspected claims and no estimates done.  Remember we have 5 inspections scheduled Monday and 5 on Tuesday as well.  Another item to mention is that we had “triaged” our claims so the 4 estimates we now had to do were likely the most serious damage of all of our claims.  And also remember, once we get these estimates done, we don’t know how to submit them because we have never used XactCentral.  This carrier wants you to contact within 24 hours, inspect within 1 week and close the claim within 2 days of the inspection.  We were good on the contact, still ok on the inspections but already behind the 8 ball on the closings.

From there on out for the next two weeks it is still pretty much a blur. We didn’t get much sleep the first two weeks.  We are very lucky in that we have several great mentors.  None of them were working while we were at the storm and they were sending us advice and words of encouragement.  It was embarrassing to tell our good friends and mentors Dan & Leslie Lenz, authors of that great “How to Start a Storm” essay, (posted on ClaimSmentor!) that we had overscoped.  We did do pretty well on the “Call the insureds” part of their advice.

The vendor we were working with had an extremely good support system.  The storm manager handled our homeowner’s reviews and took questions about those policies.  Another guy did our commercial reviews and answered questions on them.  Another guy was the Xactimate/XactCentral expert and he saved our butts on getting us up to speed with that.  None of the horror stories we had heard came true with this storm.  All three of those support people were working our storm and at least 3 other storms simultaneously and they were extremely busy.  Most of the time they actually answered their phones and if they didn’t, they really did call right back.  They were very patient and nice.  Since the same reviewers were doing all our reviews, we never got mixed signals or had to change anything more than once.  Best of all, once we got the hang of the XactCentral thing, we hardly had to make any revisions at all.  They really seemed to like our work. 

We started out behind on the closings and didn’t ever get to where we were getting them closed within 2 days of inspection but they were very understanding about that as well.  They said that we had gotten most of the high severity claims because we were the first on site and they were surprised and pleased that we didn’t have any problems with the commercial claims because, apparently they often get a lot of revisions on commercial.  This was a wind storm and most of the damage was caused by wind and falling trees.  We only had 1 or 2 claims over $20,000, 4 or 5 that were between $10,000-$20,000 and the rest were under $10,000.

After the first 2 days of inspections we had to drastically change our game plan.  Every claim we had worked prior to this storm we had worked together and had a pretty good system.  We would both scope the loss.  If it was a large loss I would scope my part and Nelson would scope his.  If it was a small loss we would walk around together and Nelson would dictate the scope to me.  When we got back to our office, Nelson would do the Sketch diagrams (I can only do easy ones!) and he would label the photos while I wrote the estimates and the reports.  I spent more desk time on the claims than he did because I enjoy that part the most.  Before we sent them in, Nelson would check my work.  Sometimes my construction terminology needs a little “tweak!” After the first few days of the storm (because of the way I had scheduled!) we could see that I wasn’t going to have time to go along on the inspections and still get all the other things done I needed to do. By the end of the first week we had about 28 of our claims inspected and about 5-6 sent in!  I started staying in at the hotel and working on the estimates all day and we started getting caught up a little.  The only problem with that was it is harder to work off someone else’s scope when you didn’t see the damage, even with the photos. We had lots of things to go over when he got back each night.

We have discussed all this great at length and have some new plans for our next storm.  By leaving every other day or so without appointments we should be able to handle cat claims the way we do dailies and be more efficient.  I really missed participating in the inspections.  If that doesn’t work we will go to plan B, C, or D…whatever it takes.  The main lesson we learned is the well worn adage “Don’t scope more than you can write”

It took us less than 3 weeks to complete and submit all of our claims except for a couple that were waiting on contractor’s estimates for specialty items.  All in all it was a great experience.  We learned so much!  XactCentral isn’t difficult to use at all and now I’m an old hand at it.  Nelson was glad when the inspections were done because there were a lot of 2 story roofs and he had to lug that big ladder around.  I had it easy sitting in the hotel room pounding away!

 The vendor has paid us exactly as agreed and on time and has assured us they will be calling us again.

I hope all of you who have not yet been deployed have as good a first experience as we did.

 

Nelson P Stegall ACA, NFIP Certified Kim D Stegall AAI, ACA, AICIndependent Adjusters

stegallnk@icqmail.com          

 

 

     

.    Kim and Nelson Stegall on first cat assignment! Great photo of a great team..thanks for sharing….Deb