Guest Blog by Ray Hauser of ClaimSmentor-Ray Shares His Personal Story in our “Luck Where Preparation Meets Opportunity Series”

March 17, 2009



Claims Education Magazine published my article in 2008   “Luck…where Preparation meets Opportunity”.

To continue with our strong recommendation that newly licensed adjusters seek reputable training opportunities that are recognized in our industry, Ray is a prime example of  what independent trainee adjusters are going through to get a foot in the door for adjusting assignments.

Here is Ray’s story on the long  journey post license to fill in the squares due to  insurance company and adjusting firm requirements before he can receive assignments. Ray, we appreciate your time contributing to this series of articles. I thoroughly enjoyed your participating in our January/February 50 Hour Fundamentals of Property adjusting course. 

This article link will also remain on our Guest Blog page above with all other entries by contributing bloggers. I do think it is important to highlight what those wanting a career in claims can expect  (from the independent side) and we have several interesting blogs by others when they were new in the field. If I asked Ray what he has spent thus far on licensing, rope and harness classes, and all of his other course fees plus transportation and lodging, I would guess he is in the 7,500 to 10K range. I see this regularly thus my push on looking for other sources for this education.

                  Getting Started in Adjusting by Ray Hauser


After I completed my 4 day licensing course I became aware very quickly that the process of finding work may be just a little harder than what I had expected. Many of my fellow course-mates fell by the wayside believing the task was next to impossible. Company after company stated on their websites that they required either a  4 year degree, or at least 2 years of experience, neither of which I had. Here I am, just a few months down the line, with a totally different perspective in terms of what it takes to find a job. What’s changed? Knowledge! The claims companies want knowledge, and they need to know you have the ability to settle a claim and leave the insured with a good experience. Knowledge and customer service drive this train! We adjusters have to understand that the claims companies are not going to hand out jobs to people with just a 4 day crash course in insurance and a 3 day course in Xactimate! That kind of knowledge is only the starting point. So the question becomes, “What else do I have to do, and where do I go to get it?” Of course it’s always beneficial if you start with some construction and customer service experience. I’m a new adjuster too, so believe me when I say “I don’t have all the answers”. But here’s my opinion.


First, you should register on web sites that offer information that can help you build your resume.


There’s no better place to go than to ClaimSmentor.  Here’s a website that’s a source of information not readily found anywhere else. Anything to do with insurance is found right here. The gal that runs it, Debbie Moroy (, has dedicated her life to training new people. She started her career in 1973 with State Farm, and started the adjusting aspect of it over 26 years ago. Who better to learn from? Reading her resume is like reading a dictionary:


State Farm Basic, Intermediate, Commercial, and Management Schools. Vale Tech Residential Estimatics,Haag Roofing School, Georgia Arson Fraud School, many others too numerous to list. Have all 5 State Farm certifications to include wind, estimatics, commercial, earthquake, etc.. Have completed IIA, AIC, and 9 parts of CPCU.


Because of her reputation in the industry and the fact that she’s so well respected, and knows so many people after these many years, it’s my opinion that having her knowledge as your foundation in claims adjusting is absolutely paramount and priceless!


Once you’re registered on her site, you have access to up to the minute information on certification courses, other website links, insurance industry news bulletins, magazine articles, and far too many other items for me to list here. Everyone getting started should take her 50 hr Fundamentals of Property Claims course. In that course you’re taught : Contents Claim Handling Guidelines, Additional Living Expense Claim Handling, Condo Master and Condo Unit-owner Claims , File Documentation Requirements , Carrier Service Standard Expectations,  Insured/Agency Communications, and so much more. “ The class is designed to fill in major gaps of important things you need to know. The course does not cover the estimate software programs and scoping classes but concentrates on the majority of other things that are a must to know before you handle your first claim. You cannot go out in the field and “wing it” and learn as you go when dealing with consumers who have bought a policy expecting “above and beyond” service”.Then, you use the information from that course and on that website to move forward in your search for more certifications and courses.


Another very good idea is to get as many licenses from as many different states as you can. That way, if a hail storm hits Georgia, and you have a Non-Resident license for that state, you can be used to work the storm without having to wait for a state declared emergency. You become far more valuable to the claims companies than other adjusters only having one license from their State of Residency. Sircon is a great site for acquiring other licenses for a nominal fee. In most cases, another licensing test is not required.

If possible, pair up with another adjuster you’ve met at your local Claims Association or elsewhere, and mentor with them for a short time. 


Immediately after I got my license, Hurricane Ike hit the Gulf coast states. Everyone was in demand. I worked a number of claims for The Mission Group  in Beaumont, Texas. Fortunately, I had a great CEO with a lot of patience. I’d partnered up with somebody who had procured the job, but had about as much experience as I had. Ultimately, the number of mistakes we made was embarrassing. But Mr. Phil Spotts went into the training mode and demonstrated the finest managerial traits I’ve ever witnessed. To this day he’s still a hero of mine! Talk about performing under pressure by training a couple of newbies in the art of adjusting. It was a pleasure to witness, yet embarrassing to be a part of. 


Shortly thereafter, I joined a couple of other course-mates and proceeded to take a Two Story/ Steep Roof Rope and Harness course from Kevin Kramer  ( in Montgomery, Texas ( great course!). Apparently, for those that have that certification, they’re the first to be called out and the last to leave because they can handle all roofs, not just the easy ones. Kevin also sells an OJT Training Manual that has lots of very good information in it concerning construction, scoping, roof calculations, roof pictorials, estimating interior damage etc etc. It’s a very good manual to have in your library when you’re trying to gain knowledge.


Another great manual to have is one published by Richard Beckner . He gives in depth details and step by step instructions in using Xactimate. It truly is geared for the adjuster having problems in using the software. It’s one of the best manuals I have. It can be accessed at: .


After my R & H course we proceeded to Pilot Catastrophe Services Inc. in Grande Prairie, Texas, hoping to acquire a successful evaluation, then 4 days of additional training in Allstate, Integriclaim, and NextGen.


 I’ve just completed a Citizens certification class in my search for a job in Daily Adjusting here in Florida, and I have 4 more certifications scheduled.


So, in summary, you need to have knowledge that you didn’t pick up on your licensing course. Knowledge like measuring roofs, replacing the shingles with the appropriate amount of waste rounded up to the nearest shingle bundle, replacing or repairing fencing…..depreciated or not depreciated? What are the important things you have to ask the insured when you’re making first contact and arranging an inspection? If you can’t answer these questions, you just need to take the appropriate training. It’s all out there. You just have to access it. 


Family members have asked, “Who will I work for?” The answer to me is obvious. I’ll work for anyone wise enough to hire me, because I’m going to be prepared by being ready to go to work, educated enough to do the job, and wise enough to only hand in great claims. I’ll get my local adjuster in town to preview my work if I have to. But my claims will absolutely be as good as anyone’s.  I am not going to be the first one to go home after a storm because of my shoddy work.  And hopefully, I’ll be one of the last ones working the storm!



Ray Hauser, Port Orange (Daytona Beach), Florida



To View more information about independent adjuster Ray Hauser, you can view his Linkedin Profile here.

To Join our Claims Industry Group, you can view our Linkedin Profile here.



Ray we thank you for sharing your story and also for your testimonial about the ClaimSmentor online claim mentor group. Deb



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 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 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.


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 site:

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
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.
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!


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.


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          




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

Adjustin’ to Adjusting-Guest Blogger Linda Goodson-First Storm Duty was Katrina

August 30, 2007

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 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.




Crisis Intervention while Catastrophe Adjusting by guest blogger Steve Ebner

August 16, 2007

We welcome our first guest blogger, Steve Ebner, to our Dimechimes Corporation Adjuster Information Blog. Steve and I share a common background in both staff, independent, and catastrophe adjusting. Steve is also a valued member of ClaimSmentor and CADO.

Steve Ebner has a Master of Divinity degree and is a former United Methodist minister and chaplain at Methodist hospital in Philadelphia.  His second career as a claim adjuster began in 1990, when a claim superintendent at State Farm had the foresight to realize that someone with training in crisis counseling may have skills that would be valuable in claim adjusting.  Steve has been an independent catadjuster since 1998.  He has worked large and small commercial, homeowners, mobile home, and occasional auto claims.  He has worked both the property and casualty claims.  His home base is near Scranton, PA.

Here is Steve’s outstanding blog entry contribution on Catastrophe Adjusting and Crisis Intervention. We felt this article was timely with the peak of hurricane season approaching and the difficulties adjusters face personally as well as while dealing with insureds suffering many personal tragedies caused by storm damage:

Cat Adjusting and Crisis Intervention by Steve Ebner (  

As cat adjusters we fill a certain niche in the insurance industry in that we are often called to serve those who have experienced some level of crisis.  While this is in some measure true of any adjuster, it may be more intense and widespread during a cat event.

We are not counselors, nor should we attempt to be.  However, it would be helpful for us to have some understanding of crisis intervention to inform our claim handling.  This will only serve to help us settle claims more fairly and finally, and to add another dimension to our ultimate goal of indemnification – returning the insured to a position of wholeness.  More often than we realize, the policyholders we encounter expect us to be agents to assist them in recovering from the crisis they have experienced.  A savvy adjuster will look beyond the surface and see some of the factors that make settlement of claims more difficult in a crisis situation.  Further, they will attempt to address those factors and concerns to the extent it is appropriate for us to do so.  I would like to try to address the concepts of crisis intervention in a somewhat simplistic manner, and relate these concepts to catadjusting.  In this article I will only be scratching the surface.

Let me explain some of the emotional/psychological scenarios we could face by way of an example from my own life.  I was living in Santa Monica, CA, when the Northridge Earthquake struck.  Santa Monica, because it is near the ocean and built on sandy soil, experienced liquefaction more than any other city located more than ten miles from the epicenter.  At about four o’clock in the morning of Martin Luther King Day 1994, my ten year old daughter shook me awake and said, “Dad! Hurry! Get in the doorway!  It’s an earthquake!”  I woke to see my two children and the two children who were staying overnight huddling in the doorway.  The house continued to shake for another very long minute.  The electricity was out.  When the shaking stopped I went into my bedroom. My floor to ceiling bookshelves were all tipped over.  Every one of my over four hundred books was on the floor in a jumble we had to crawl over.  I then tried to put the children back to bed.  But every couple minutes the earth shook again – over and over and over.  No one was going to get any more sleep that morning in the apartment.  About an hour later the panicked mother of the two visiting children arrived to pick them up.  She had been unable to open her garage to get her car out.  There were no phones or electricity working.  Then my children and I went out to the car to sleep because it seemed the safest place to be. 

My workplace had all the windows broken out.  The building was off limits for some time.  There was a curfew in affect the first night.  But that was not a problem because most people were in shock, and didn’t want to go out anywhere anyway.  By the second night, most of the bars were open and packed to capacity.  In the first week many new couples were formed because no one wanted to sleep or live alone anymore.  And the ground kept shaking again and again for months afterward.  Every time it did, people would exit the buildings they were in.  People started talking about moving elsewhere, about how they didn’t like living in Los Angeles anymore.  Every time I closed my eyes and started to drift off to sleep, I would get a sensation that the ground was shaking and it would wake me up.  Every street became as congested as the freeways had been before the earthquake.

As you can imagine, people living in this type of environment are not going to have the same expectations as people living under normal circumstances.  Some may very well make demands beyond the norm of their claim adjuster.

What constitutes a crisis?

I should begin by defining what a crisis is.  The term “catastrophe” as defined by the insurance industry is not synonymous with “crisis” as defined in psychological terms.  “Crisis” has a personal component.  As another adjuster pointed out to me this week, a crisis has more to do with the person experiencing the loss than the size of the loss itself or, for that matter, the number of people affected.  We might find that some people react to almost any severe weather event as a crisis.  However, certain events – for example a hailstorm – are generally not a crisis.  In most cases, no one is injured or killed.  For some it may lead to a personal crisis, but this will be the rare individual.  The hailstorm, however, could be declared a catastrophe because a cat is declared based on the expected dollar cost to the insurance industry. 

Crisis has been defined as “an acute response to an event wherein homeostasis is disrupted, one’s usual coping mechanisms have failed, and there is evidence of significant distress or functional impairment” (Critical Incident Stress Management, Everly & Mitchell, 1999)  We often find insureds who are in this situation after a hurricane such as Katrina or Ivan.  People who, for instance, might normally be rather even-keeled and unflappable may very well be in some level of panic after their roof is blown off or after they have been living in a motel for a month.  Instead they are wondering when they can return to their home or their job.  The “Big Easy” was not taking life so easy by September and October of 2005. 

A Simple Discussion On Working With Someone In Crisis

As catadjusters we are in a position to be of significant assistance to those who are experiencing crisis.  Crisis Intervention, as a counseling discipline, focuses on very practical considerations.  It focuses on identifying resources for recovery.  We are one of those resources.  As adjusters we can be of great assistance in helping policyholders recover a sense of normalcy – the ultimate goal of any type of crisis intervention.  As I have mentioned in my previous article on CADO, I was an ordained minister for more than a decade.  I have sometimes described catadjusting as “ministry with a checkbook.”  More than any other type of emotional intervention, crisis intervention focuses on the practical.

By examining the definition of “crisis” above we can extrapolate what must happen in order to bring some sort of wholeness to the lives of those we serve.  The first element of the definition is that crisis is an acute response.  It is intense but not permanent.  Though it may seem to the insureds that their lives have been permanently changed in a dramatic manner, the fact is that the precipitating catastrophe has created a temporary situation.  While it would be ill-advised for any of us to flippantly tell someone whose house has been destroyed that this is just a temporary situation, there are nonetheless ways to assure someone that they will recover.  Without overstating the case, it is appropriate to explain to the insured that the insurance carrier exists to help the insured return to a normal life after such a crisis.  The fostering of hope is very important when things seem hopeless to those in crisis.  It can also be appropriate to remind the insured of other resources such as FEMA, The Salvation Army, and The Red Cross.  It is inappropriate, however, for us to tell them specifically what these other agencies can do for them.  We do not speak on behalf of any of these other agencies.  We represent the insurance carrier solely.  We must especially never send them to another agency for anything covered by the insurance policy.  Our first responsibility is to include all covered or potentially covered loss elements in our claim reports with our best analysis of coverage.

The second element of the definition is that homeostasis is disrupted.  Even the most creative or disorganized among us tend to follow certain routines that help us structure our lives.  There is some element of similarity in what we do each day.  The precipitating crisis event disrupts this.  If water supplies have been disrupted, the insureds may not even be able to brush their teeth easily upon waking up.  Their routine of watching a television program or reading the paper in the evening may be impossible due to an electrical outage.  They may have no workplace, no mail delivery, no open markets, no open restaurants.  The corner bar where they meet and talk to their neighbors may be closed.  They may be staying in a shelter, sleeping among hundreds of strangers with whom they share facilities.  They may temporarily have no privacy.  This will be particularly difficult for the introverts among them. 

To the best of our ability, we are in the business of helping people restore normalcy to their lives.  Those in crisis are looking to us for answers about when and how life will ever be the same again.  For some, it never will be the same.  There will only be different routines that will create a new normalcy.  We can help, once again, by focusing on the practical processes that will help to create some semblance of order in their lives.

The third element of the definition is that, for someone in crisis, normal coping mechanisms have failed.  What usually works for people to deal with stress in their environment no longer works.  This is particularly true in a major catastrophe.  When someone’s workplace is not accessible, the normal cash flow for a family is disrupted.  The home that provided shelter and comfort is no longer a place of guaranteed safety.  The goal of crisis intervention then, for us as catastrophic claim adjusters, is to help the insured identify means of coping with their new reality.  This may be in the form of assisting them to locate and pay for alternative housing, to rebuild what was destroyed, and replace what was lost.  It has often been expressed on CADO that our job as adjusters is to find coverage wherever it exists and allow for all that we can under the terms of the policy.  Some of the coverage afforded by the insurance policy may not be familiar to the policyholder.  It is our job to know what can be afforded to them in order to help them recover.  In this way we become part of the solution, and fulfill the contractual promise the insurance carrier makes when the insured buys a policy.

The fourth element of the definition is that the person in crisis is exhibiting severe distress or functional impairment.  Though this is the final element of the definition, it is often the first with which we must deal.  This means that when we encounter that policyholder who seems stressed out, unfocused, and scattered we may not be dealing with that policyholder operating in their normal mode of behavior.  This insured may not simply be a “crazy person”.  He or she may be a perfectly sane and rational person who in the midst of a crisis.  The very nature of a crisis is that it disrupts someone’s life and emotional state.  We have all had the experience where we greet the insured at the front door and suddenly it is as if we have entered a vortex.  The insured starts leading us around the house pointing to this and that area of damage faster than any human being could write down the scope of damage, let alone measure it.  Or the insured may continue to tell us all the horrible things that occurred on the day of the storm, or insist on talking continually so we cannot even concentrate on our work.  Then they call each day with some new damage they located or something else they forgot to tell us.  They may exhibit unusual behavior like walking through their house with a flashlight looking for fresh plaster cracks each night.  This is not their typical mode of behavior.  This is likely to be a result of the very catastrophe we are there to help them work through.  This may be because their world no longer feels safe, and they feel powerless to make it safe again.

It is not our job to help them through the emotional component of the crisis, but we need to at least defuse the anxiety long enough to do our job and to obtain the insured’s assistance in scoping the damage.  The first tip I have is that it will benefit us greatly to practice some empathic listening.  The ceramic outlet covers may seem unimportant to us in the whole scheme of the loss, but if they are important to the insured (because the insured keeps mentioning them) then they should be considered important.  We may discover – as one of our colleagues did – that the tattered old phonograph is the only thing the insured cares about because she used to sit and listen to it with her deceased husband.  The claim may not be settling because you want to take it as salvage.  She may settle the claim if you let her keep it, even though it no longer works.  A bit of empathic listening can reveal important details such as that. 

When working re-opened claims the number one complaint I hear is, “That first adjuster didn’t even listen to me.”  Sometimes I am able to review the estimate with the insured and show them that the concerns they have really are addressed in the estimate.  Therefore, the adjuster really did listen.  But it did not seem to the insured that the adjuster was listening, and that was what re-opened the claim.  The claim adjuster exhibited no empathy.  These people were in crisis and it seemed that no one cared.

The second tip I have here is that it is important not to buy into the panic or the manic behavior.  Speak in a calm and authoritative voice.  Invite the insured to sit down, perhaps, long enough to listen to what is important to them and take control of the situation.  We can accomplish little while being led from room to room frantically by the insured.  We may want to say something like, “Let me explain how the claim process works.”  A colleague explained to me that she spends 10 to 15 minutes with each insured simply listening to them and explaining how the claim process works before moving on to the inspection.  She believes these ten to fifteen minutes saves hours later on.  I believe she is correct.  Apparently, so do the people for whom she works.  She and her husband regularly work even in slow times when others are waiting for the phone to ring.  Most people have never had a claim before and do not know what to expect.  Take a few minutes to explain how you would like to take one room at a time, check that room thoroughly, measure it, and then move on to the next room.  Then explain what will happen with their claim after you leave their house.  This will often save you a time-consuming game of phone tag later.  All this may serve to put the insured at ease and move them gently out of panic mode.  Even if you have ten other inspections that day, it will benefit your scheduling to take a couple extra minutes to help the insured focus on the task at hand.  It may mean the difference between scoping all the damage on the first trip and having to return to this insured’s home to scope something that was missed the first time.  Though you are really not offering any long term emotional help for the insured (because you are not there as a counselor, pastor, or psychiatrist), you are focusing on one of the tasks that will help ultimately resolve the crisis. 

This has been a mere skimming of the surface of the issues involved in working with people in crisis.  I suspect the most important goal I have tried to achieve is simply fostering awareness that we are not dealing with people in a normal situation or normal frame of mind.  Therefore, we may need to be in a state of heightened awareness ourselves, and not simply write people off because of some exhibited bizarre behavior after a major catastrophe.  We are generally paid very well to handle a catastrophe, but we are not really hired to benefit ourselves.  We are hired as a benefit to the insured.  Our problems should be left at the motel so we can focus on the insured’s problems.  A brief study of crisis intervention techniques would serve many of us well.  This should go without saying as we prepare to go into a hurricane zone, but it may not occur to many of us that the emotional result of a storm may have a significant impact on the interaction between the insureds and ourselves – or, ultimately, of the claim settlement process.

  I would like to express my gratitude to those who reviewed this article before publication, and in many cases, contributed something of value which I incorporated into the article.  These people are Pastor Lee Carlton, Peter Burch, Mike Kunze, Deb Moroy, Meg Watts, Steve Beaumont, and Janice Toll.