I have been following consumer advocate attorney, Chip Merlin’s blogs since Hurricane Katrina. Rather than present blogs from an ambulance chaser” perspective , I have watched him try to educate consumers about coverage issues and warn them about looming statute of limitations coming, for instance in MS post Katrina.While it may be strange to study from free information from an insured plaintiff trial attorney website and standpoint, I have found it quite educational. Just don’t wear your feelings on your sleeve when you view his blogs as there are comments you may not agree with from an adjuster, adjusting firm, or insurance company standpoint.
It is virtually impossible for independent adjusters themselves to find such quality educational material since this kind of training is rarely presented at the many fly by night Catastrophe adjusting 101 courses. Carriers and Adjusting firms could help put a stop to this by requiring applicants have significant training from them or a state approved CE course and instructor. I know the adjusting firms do not like it any better than we do.
The value I have found in viewing his blogs (there are several on his law firm site at www.merlinlawgroup.com is the fact that first he has an insurance defense background prior to becoming a consumer advocate trial lawyer so he knows both sides of the fence. Second, he posts links to active cases involving current claim litigation with links to important court documents we can learn from. I often link to his blog posts on this adjuster information blog when training new adjusters on Bad Faith as he has many great postings and articles there on the subject as well as other issues we need to know about.
Personally, I think a well rounded informed adjuster whether staff, independent, or public adjuster needs to understand all aspects of what is going on in the claims industry.
As Staff and/or Independent ( I do not know anything about the Public Adjuster side but welcome a reply from NAPIA or a PA firm OWNER to this blog commenting from their standpoint) we are not allowed due to privacy laws and carrier guidelines to share file documents. We are often the last to know that something huge is going on in the claims industry as we are usually not told until something bad is about to be published or aired like the ABC news interviews involving Katrina cases. Did you ever see our blog on the ABC show which advertised a carrier’s managers yellow sticky note? You should read it (and we cover this in our 50 Hour Fundamentals of claims class that thorough activity logs are the only place for adjuster and management activity notes and instructions):
I am much more informed about cases as they develop now than I ever was in claims (with exception of meeting presentations on what not to do but not why…) through all of the new social networking blogs. Isn’t it sad to have to get our education that way? The training I had with my employer was exceptional but nothing available now from an independent standpoint. There are often outstanding speakers at claim conventions independents can participate at such as the Florida Windstorm conference, and NACA conventions, but often adjusters are out on assignment or just do not have additional dollars available in their education budgets when it has been slow in years such as 2006 and 2007 for independent adjusters. The other frequent complaint is these seminars and great conferences are often so far away from locations with a large pool of adjusters they just cannot afford them in today’s economic environment. I will be thrilled if they start offering them annually in a home base such as Atlanta AND Houston where claims adjusters can generally find cheaper flights since they are major hubs. Nashville , TN would be an outstanding place and it sure would save me quite a bit being temporarily home based here!
If enough of us request it, can we ever get these large insurance and claim conventions to consider offering independent adjusters (not the adjusting firms who can afford them…we are reasonable..smile) a discount to attend these since they do not have a carrier paying their fee or the adjusting firm paying their fee like staff managers and staff adjusters do? How about getting the carriers to FORBID independent adjusting firms to charge for carrier certification exams. The way many adjusting firms include them in their yearly conference now the adjusters are having to pay huge fees to attend the conference just so they can get the certification! Two USAA Certification classes were presented that way this month and both were charging $300.00 for the adjuster to attend! This is getting entirely out of hand. As the adjusting firms do incur costs to host these, why is the carrier not picking up the tab? All of these expenses contribute to the reason for why there are not enough adjusting firms with enough qualified adjusters! I normally post these certification classes for the adjusters who are looking for them but have decided I will not be part of the problem by posting them on a public blog like this! We do post all carrier certification classes we know about in our Carrier Certification forum at ClaimSmentor so adjusters can decide which they want to attend and they can also get their certifications by comparing the prices different independent adjusting firms are charging for them.
Anyway- sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee while you read this new post over at Chip Merlin’s blog:
By the way, if you never saw this presentation Attorney Merlin made to the FL Citizens of FL Task Force on Claim Handling providing SUGGESTIONS for claim handling improvement to HELP not hurt the claim insurance industry (specifically Citizens of FL) you should read it. It is my opinion if independent adjusters and even staff learned from information found on lawyers websites (not the ambulance chasing kind but professional firms) there is so much you can learn and their articles and posts often come from presentations made to annual conferences you missed!
**Scroll down to his presentation in June 2007 to view . Take some time and look at all of the other presentations as well. One that surprised me the most was a letter presented from an independent adjuster saying that he is an independent in some states and a public adjuster in others. I had no idea that this was even possible. I think if carrier’s knew this was going on it would be forbidden and I not think that the independent adjusting firms would deploy them either. I just don’t think you can wear both hats! It goes to show insurance department regulations in all states need to forbid this as part of their licensing regulations! Scroll down on this link to the February 26, 2008 presentation on Catastrophe Specialist by Dan Montgomery:
Merlin provides some great resources also in a recent blog where we can find good articles from his foes ( lawyers on our side of the fence!) here:
**this is the article that tells about his work on on our side years ago and has links to the Butler Pappas firm and Sandy Burnette’s firm. I have often referred in training classes to fantastic articles on the Butler Pappas site as well. It is just amazing to me to find such great informaton online FREE! I remember from the carrier side how expensive it was to get a coverage opinion when we had questions. I shouldn’t have had my head buried in claim files without looking around the internet during my staff career or I would have found very good articles to view and THEN referred the file for things pertinent to that specific claim! My guess would be that most major carriers have PA and consumer attorney websites blocked but hey there is always the evening (smile). You become engrained as a staff employee and overwhelmed just with the internal training that it never even occurred to me to search the web (or I’m giving my age away as I still remember the horror of getting my first laptop on storm…out with secretaries I had as a field manager and in with new technology. Thank God we had outstanding claim automation folks travel with us. (Independents don’t have that luxury).
Last but not least, Merlin was named to the new Citizens Mission Task force as the sole consumer advocate for Floridians. See this link to the information about his appointment by the FL Governor here. He has links to this information and to their meetings where the mission was to return Citizens to the insurer of last resort. The final report of their findings is posted on one of the links above. All of my family and the majority of my friends reside in FL. We are consumers as well and I read religiously about consumer concerns and hope you are too.
Sam Friedman , Editor of National Underwriter had an excellent topic posted on his site the other day where many in our industry were discussing the Florida insurance crisis you should read. The first thing I thought when reading it was that I feared for the safety of adjusters working out in the field. I remember years ago after one of the storms in south FLorida working out of a storm office with metal detectors required before an insured could come in. (Geez- now that I think about it…where were the independents housed there?)
We were comforted by safety measures for adjusters by having security guards as well. While doing what is known as a “ride-a-long” with one of my experienced female adjusters, I was horrified when I saw her territory. I think that all managers should have to go out and do a territory survey BEFORE they zone new files to determne which adjuster would be best suited and protected to be out there but I can imagine the huge HR issues this would cause. How I wish there were enough adjusters available to require that TWO adjusters be required to handle claims together as the environment in FL is going to be unsafe for adjusters with so many insureds angry over the Florida insurance crisis:
Well, enough for today so I’ll end this humorously:
As I tell trainees in classes when I refer to blogs such as these…..”I sure am glad I never met Chip Merlin, glad I never had to talk to him as a claims manager on the carrier or independent side as a manager or an adjuster, and still have never spoken to him by phone to this day. He makes my knees grow weak with fear just reading some of his blog entries when I understand the trainee issues and worry about them improperly being trained on claims in the field yet I do not think he would be unapproachable. He has been quite successful in resolving hundreds of claims formerly handled by Dickie Scruggs prior Katrina Litigation Group prior to his conviction when consumers had to then locate a new firm.
**Update…by the way..Lexisnexis is hosting an Award for different types of attorneys and one category is best consumer advocate attorney. My guess is he without a doubt will win the award since it is well published throughout FL that he was appointed to the Citizens Mission Task Force as the onlyconsumer advocate representve on this task force mission and appointed by the FL Governor.
Here is a link to his blog on this:
LexisNexis is sponsoring an award for the Insurance Persons of the Year for 2008. Here are the categories: Policyholder Attorney of the Year – the attorney who did the most in 2008 to effectively advance policyholder positions and improve insurance…