We have written several other blogs here on staff adjuster overtime issues if you want to view them here.
We’ve previously posted numerous blogs about adjuster safety issues. With spring’s arrival Sunday, now is a great time to bring these old blog entries back up for new reader’s viewing our blog:
Safety Equipment/Ladder Safety issues for Adjusters:
Center for Disease Control Shot Recommendations for Emergency Workers in Disaster and Flood Zones:
Adjuster Shot in TN in March 08 while on storm duty:
Field adjuster safety concerns- Remembering Katie Froeschle of Tampa, FL murdered while on a field appoint:
Defusing an Angry Insured:
Crisis Intervention while Catastrophe Adjusting-Guest blog by Steve Ebner
Please be safe while out there working this season!
As many of you know, my daughter, Crystal , was diagnosed with a giant cell sacrum tumor (benign but very very rare) in September of 2007 which then returned again in January 2008. She has been through a year and a half of multiple operations and radiation treatments with the most recent operations at the end of January 2009 so she still has quite a way to go on the road to recovery through physical therapy to rebuild her stamina.
We cannot say enough good things about the way her law firm has supported her through this entire process and following updates on her CaringBridge blog. We were able through one post to keep our family, her friends, her work associates, and her clients spread nationwide informed with one simple post on their journal feature.
Everyone we needed to tell as we have been on “this marathon” as she has called it is kept informed without us having to return phone calls and reply to individual emails because the caringbridge feature also allows you to update news on their journal, photos, and has a guest book blog where your work associates, family, and friends can provide well wishes. I just can’t say enough great things about this and the agony it saved me from having to tell Crystal’s story over and over on the phone during many times I just have been too down to talk about it as we had our ups and downs of the good and bad news we learned along the way to recovery.
When you register your Caringbridge site it is entirely free and supported through donation links found on their site. Here is a link to brochures you can download, buttons you can post on your site, website codes so you can upload a link for your employees and much more.
We learned of this site through the outstanding Cancer pain management clinic where we regularly have to go through this process which is a department through Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville, Tn.
Many many thanks to Rachel McDowell at this clinic who has been our source of strength at times we were just not up to it. Also many many special thanks to Ginger Holt, who with her “attorney jokes to Crystal” about ” i drew the bad straw having to carve into an attorney” has provided us with the most miraculous results. I cannot begin to say enough fantastic things about her. Even when an operation did not involve the oncology side of things, she would come by and visit us to provide encouragement, much needed jokes, and follow up with other specialists. Crystal , Chad and family are all now vigorous supporters of Vanderbilt hospital and the CaringBridge program they told us about. I’m not sure we would have gotten through this horrid past 1.5 years wihout Caringbridge’s site.
The Caring Bridge site also allows donation Tributes to your fallen comrades in their honor which is a great way to solve the issue of where associates can make donations on their behalf.
I decided to publish it on this blog because of the mobile nature of the claim industry with adjusters out on temporary catastrophe assignments. What a fantastic tool this would be as well as a time saver for adjusting firms, carriers with national catastrophe teams, and for adjusters who might get sick, fall off a roof ,or otherwise injured while away from home.
Registering for the site does not require that you disclose your name, instead you can use a nickname or other options. How about naming it in your adjusting firm name where you can post any news on serious health issues of your firm members for your entire group? Once you register for a caringbridge site, you just invite those who are looking for news to stay informed while working on the road.
Their brochures would be great to pass out at your yearly conferences for your adjusters or at annual claim conventions. Who better to support such a valuable site for associates injured or facing substantial medical issues than the insurance claims industry?
Through my daughter’s use of the site, we were able to communicate 24/7 when we could not get cell phone or blackberry email coverage in the hospital during long stays. Doesn’t this sound just like adjusters out on the road in the first wave of a major catastrophe?
Possibly if enough of us in the insurance claims industry whether you are staff, independent, or public adjusters or adjusting firms support this program they will create a category just for insurance adjusters to support us as well? Claims adjusters need to be supported by communities nationwide instead of all the negative news posted after a major disaster. Just like Red Cross disaster or other emergency responders, they do suffer extreme emotional issues when dealing with insurance consumers who have experienced a major crisis.
Thank you especially to Crystal’s employer Boult-Cummings-Connors-and-Berry (recently merged with another firm to become Arant, Boult, Cummings, Plc . Here is a link to my daughter’s bio from one proud mom.
**Update 3/5/09- She gave me permission today to link to her CaringBridge site as she agrees it would be educational for adjusters- especially those in health care claim processing and approvals:
Through the Caringbridge updates, members of this remarkable firm have stood behind her supporting her with their prayers, prayer groups during operations, flowers sent to her regularly, cards to her home, and meals delivered to her home for months as she repeatedly underwent operations.
We had volunteers from her firm come to her home and assist with the children’s transportation needs, attorneys and paralegals come and clean house from top to bottom on their weekends, and many times (thank you Julie, Sandra, Dale, Sharon, her bosses , Ann Cargile and Bob Wood, and so many many more I don’t know the names of) just come sit at the hospital with me while we sat in fear waiting for news from the doctor when operations were finished.
Many also filled in for me on nights or weekends when I was just exhausted beyond belief and just needed sleep as Chad (her husband) majored in the 3 boys needs while I concentrated on her. We could never have gotten through this road to recovery without “the Boult family” who continues to support her on the road to recovery.
This firm will never know what a comfort it brings to our extended family nationwide to know that her position awaits her after such a long period of recovery. It makes her very happy to just know her office is waiting for her. It does wonders for her! This law firm should definitely be rewarded as the top law firm in the US for any awards available for their empathy and compassion for a fellow attorney. They have gone above and beyond any possible expectations we could have imagined to support her.
Won’t you share a link on your site and share their brochures with your adjusters today? They have options for button tabs and other advertisement tabs and you can upload all kinds of other great tools for your mobile adjusters.
I know I cannot thank the members of ClaimSmentor enough who have offered up prayers and well wishes on the guestbook link to my daughter’s caring bridge site. I had never met most of these folks in person such as Tom N, owner of Action Catastrophe Claims, but this firm has supported us by regularly posting guest entries on the Caringbridge guest blog.
There are so many other adjusters and claim managers that have also supported me behind the scenes through posts in our forums, private messages, calls, emails and prayers by reading her link at our e-mentoring site based on their reading of her journal entries.
I spent hours last night reading back through all of her journal entries and it really helped lift my spirits and to realize how much progress she has made and to reconfirm what a courageous remarkable person she is. She has had such a remarkable knack I do not possess for remaining calm while dealing with medical emergencies or the ups and downs through the recovery process.
Her journals which bring so much insight into the fears a person faces while being bomblasted with radiation and undergoing operations. I told her this morning that it should be required reading for all liability adjusters, workers compensation adjusters, and health claims adjusters processing medical insurance claims so they might learn a little empathy about not only what a patient has undergone but the nightmares their families suffer through. It just might help insurance companies and adjusters better evaluate damages when evaluating the settlement value of a claim or processing health care benefit claims.
Whether you know her or not, her road to recovery through her CaringBridge story would bring tears to the most toughened adjuster’s eyes.
Hopefully one day I will have her permission to make the link to her journal public versus limited to her network circle (ok Crystal I know I shared it with my network circle through ClaimSmentor too and their support has been outstanding). While I do not have my daughter’s permission to share her link yet, here is one you can view that I just had to post for a very good friend who just learned she has stage 4 cancer but no computer skills to keep her family and friends updated so you can see a sample of how an active one works:
What shots does CDC recommend for disaster workers? Watch for more flood adjuster training info this weekJune 16, 2008
I have limited time available to post new blogs this week but wanted to be sure to get this information up today about CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendations for shots for disaster workers. This is especially important for the many of you deploying to the flood damage in Iowa and other states. Fox news is extensively reporting about the toxic waters, the mold issues, the snakes and other harmful issues that could cause major safety concerns for insurance adjusters.
Here are the CDC recommendations. I would take heed and see your physician for the necessary shots BEFORE you depart:
Watch later this week for our posts on claims adjuster/ independent adjuster flood claim training information to include NFIP certification, special estimate software specific to flood claims and much more info you need to know on flood coverage , flood policies, and more issues that differ to work as a flood adjuster versus a property adjuster on wind, hail, fire, and other type of losses as the file requirements and safety concerns differ greatly.
What role are rising gas prices going to play in your deployment decisions for Hurricane season 2008? Carriers and Adjusting Firms should meet the need!May 29, 2008
Here is an interesting article by Dow Jones on how rising gasoline prices are going to increase the cost of claim settlements should a big one hit this coming hurricane season:
Basically, the cost of material goods from building material suppliers will rise due to transportation costs of materials,etc thus increasing the cost to settle not only building but contents claims.
What I wish they would have included in the article is the effect rising gasoline prices will have on independent adjusters decisions regarding deployment this hurricane season. For those not familiar with independent adjusters, they must pay their own expenses unlike staff adjusters who are employees for an insurance carrier who have their expenses covered by their employer- the insurance company.
Independent adjusters basically have four options:
1)Deploy and absorb the extra expense greatly cutting into their profits (which are now often greatly reduced to begin with due to partial assignments while the carrier staff works part of the coverage on contents and ale losses). Current hot topics on this subject include adjusters discussing different vehicle options moving from the SUV’s and trucks to smaller vehicles with better gas mileage. This presents a real issue for independent adjusters who live on the road following storms needing larger vehicles for one and two story ladders, estimatic and computer equipment, and living supplies needed for survival in often very unpleasant living circumstances at the beginning of any severe storm. Here’s a link to just two of many ongoing discussions on this topic: click here and here. The first link you may have to login to CADO to read as it’s in the adjuster den forums which require login. There is also a 3rd ongoing discussion about adjusters changing vehicles but I couldnt get my hands on the topic and will update this when I do so.
2) Deploy but only accept in office assignments in insurance companies claim central operations as many carriers have catastrophe claim central operations and use independents in this capacity for the great demand when necessary. I’ve seen many experienced independents accepting these assignments who in the past would never want to be tied to an in office cubicle environment on a daily rate instead of working off fee schedules on field inspections because of several issues to include the unfortunate increase in non paying adjusting firms on fee schedule handled files (they’ll know within 2 weeks or so if the firm is paying or not working in office) and because of the guarantee of atleast biweekly if not weekly pay versus the unreasonable delay in some carriers offices in settling field catastrophe files so adjusters get paid (as well as insureds of course).
3) Many independent adjusters who prefer the independent adjuster lifestyle are moving to carrier staff adjuster positions. If you missed our blog on the pros and cons of each position- here is a link.
4) The last option is to leave the field altogether which many are doing due to the lack of work the past two seasons. They need a dependable stable income which the independent adjusting business has not been able to provide the last two years.
Here’s a link to an interesting AP article out this week indicating we are getting ready to break US records this tornado season on claims so hopefully independents are finding much more work these past few weeks. We’ve gotten some great news from long term ClaimSmentor trainees who picked up storm assignments in the past few weeks as assistants on rope and harness teams with some of the major independent adjusting firms which I feel sure is due to their committment to continuing adjuster education knowing these individuals who have definitely prepared for this career with licensing, estimatic courses, carrier certification exams successfully passed, and field mentor training they’ve gone through. This is an outstanding opportunity for them to work with an experienced adjuster on the rope and harness teams to learn the practical application of all of their training in a real claims environment while being coached by this other half of their team. Hats off to the adjusting firms using this approach to develop new adjusters!
So what are some of the things adjusting firms and insurance companies can do to ensure more independents do not leave the field due to rising fuel costs?
1) Carriers and/or adjusting firms (depending on who is making the assignments to the independents)should ensure that their catastrophe claim automation folks on large cats or local field operations on smaller cats are using automated zoning systems utilizing the 9 digit zip codes to ensure that claims are assigned in tighter zones for independent assignments getting their group of claim assignments as close together as possible to lower their gas expenses.
2) Hopefully, carriers and adjusting firms are all using current technology using CMS (Claim Management Systems) so adjusters can download assignments and upload inspection/claim documents without the need to waste precious fuel to come into pick up and drop off assignments. CMS systems not only reduce fuel expenses but provide much more prompt settlement of claims for policyholders as carriers have immediate access to claim file documents. My top recommendation on CMS systems if you do not have one is Click Claims which won the AM Best’s Efusion Award for CMS systems- here’s a link if you want to take a free demo. I personally managed adjusters throughout FL during the 4 in 04 hurricanes in FL and cannot image accepting an assignment working without this particular program again. By the way, vendors using email only processes for catastrophe claim documents should be history as it leads to nothing but confusion and loss of claim file documents and unnecessary delays in processing file closures for prompt payments to insureds when no one can find the emailed documents. I am also aware of numerous new adjusters who were burned on adjuster fees when files were not uploaded in their name after emailing them in and a supervisor uploaded them into a different adjuster’s name. I was totally surprised but heard it enough to believe it was true for some inexperienced adjusters.
3) Keep unit meetings during a storm to a limited number reserved for critical information sharing otherwise minor details can be shared by email and teleconferences where managers conference call unit members versus requiring travel to cat offices. This would apply to meetings required by adjusting firms and for insurance carriers.
4) Many adjusting firms share in any gas allowance fees which may be incorporated into a carrier’s fee schedule. For instance, if the fee split in the independent contract with the adjuster is 60% to the adjuster and 40% to the adjusting firm, the firm will take their 40% of the mileage allowance as well as the gross billing on the amount of loss fee. One of the forum links above had adjusters discussing this issue. I’d like some light shed on this practice by SOME adjusting firms as I do not see any reason whatsoever that an adjusting firm should be taking a percentage of the travel fees when they incurred ZERO percent of the cost. If there are reasons they do so, please reply and let us know!
For those that aren’t famililar with insurance company independent fee schedules, many require the adjuster go a given number of miles with no allowance such as 50 miles before they then consider an allowance for mileage traveled. Typical schedules say the first 50 miles is included in the regular fee on the claim.
Adjusting firms that are doing this should consider offering 100% of the travel allowance to the independent adjuster incurring the cost. Adjusting firms should also consider negotiating a gas allowance per claim particularly if the independent adjuster is assigned a rural territory incurring unreasonable mileage. During the 4 in 04, I had no trouble negotiating a gas allowance for our independent adjusters with many regional carriers at all. I know some carriers such as the recent Citizens RFP says there will be no negotiating on their fee schedule. This could work to their detriment if other insurance carriers are allowing this gas mileage allowance.
5) Carriers can host carrier certification classes online through podcasts and webinars versus requirements adjusters travel to their pre-qualified independent firms offices for testing. Today many offer IDL (Interactive Distance Learning) webinars the adjusters can take in field locations throughout the nation at agents or carrier regional offices yet they then require the independent adjuster actually travel to the independent adjusting firms assigned their claims to take the actual certification test which follows the IDL. For example, an adjuster residing in FL may be able to watch the preliminary IDL in FL at a regional office for the carrier yet the closest adjusting firm office to take the test is in LA. This makes no sense when the carriers can provide monitored testing at the same locations at their offices where the IDL sessions are held or use an examination center like the AICPCU program does for the CPCU or AIC exams where they are proctored at local colleges.
6) Carriers should seriously consider helping with this problem by assigning rural territories to their staff adjusters as their gas expenses are covered if they wish to keep independents working claims. This may not be possible during the clean up phase where territory assignments are more difficult but this should be no problem whatsoever at the onset of a large storm.
Carriers need to consider that independent adjusters when not deployed on cat are working other positions at home and also do not have unlimited time to take off of daily work they are doing at home to travel during the week to take all of the various carrier certification exams required for them to work claims and should also consider offering these exams and IDL programs on Saturdays.
7) Adjusters- have you considered two story rope and harness team assignments where you split the fuel costs? Most of these assignments are paid on daily rates so you will also be paid regularly and on a stable schedule.
8 ) Carriers need to consider claim managers dedicated to reviewing and approving independent claim files as they are often set aside by cat managers to review later due to the extra work involved reviewing and approving the fee bill. During the storms in 04, it wasn’t uncommon to have delays of 60-90 days AND MORE on adjusting firms being paid due to back logs in carrier claim operations reviewing and approving files. Thankfully, that year the FL Dept of Insurance imposed many deadlines on claim closures which helped atleast get them processed a bit more timely. The intent was to get the settlement money in the hands of insureds which is most important but it didn’t hurt getting the payments to independent adjusting firms either.
9) Adjusting firms definitely need to increase their office personnel during a major storm. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of managing independent adjusters and trying to keep them happy and funded when the adjusting firm had far below the number of office personnel to timely invoice the carrier on claims and just as important to timely follow up on unpaid invoices. Adjusters will not be able to sustain themselves this year for 60-90 day time frames with fuel expenses this high and ever going higher should a hurricane hit. Office staff also needs to be mentored on the importance of processing these payments when payments do come into the adjusting firm for timely payment to the adjusters. I have witnessed too often some pretty rude comments coming from office staff such as “if they want a regular paycheck go get a staff job” which does nothing for adjuster/adjusting firm relationships. In another case, at 4pm sharp each day the office staff walked out the door at 4pm as the adjusting firm wouldn’t authorize overtime at a time it was sorely needed to set up new catastrophe assignments and process invoices. Listen folks, if you don’t keep adjusters funded for work they have professionally completed, we will all see the fall of the independent industry. Due to partial assignments from the carrier and poor payment practices on the carrier thus the adjusting firm part, many independent adjusters are finding it most difficult to continue on this career path. This is not to say all adjusting firm office staff are negative, there are many adjusting firms who are proactive on invoicing and their staff runs an excellent operation. Adjusters just need to determine quickly what type of operation they are dealing with and depart the assignment at the first sign of payment issues.
A recent example is the Citizens policy posted in recent RFP documents where they indicate they have 30 days to pay the adjusting firm from the time a claim is submitted yet they require the adjusting firm pay the adjuster within 14 days of assignment. So………..should all go like clock work an independent adjuster would be looking at a minimum of six weeks before they get paid on a claim from the day it is submitted for closure. How many Americans would work for six weeks without pay …not many I’d venture to guess and they are in a stable home environment not incurring hotel and these excessive fuel charges to service claims.
Here are some other ideas not just adjusting firm and carrier specific but some great ideas:
Offering incentives and rewards in the form of gas gift cards to employees is mentioned in this article which says in part:
A small but growing number of employers are offering gas and commuting incentives to help workers get to work. A May 6, 2008, survey of 553 human resource managers found the percentage of companies offering gas cards as employee rewards more than doubled between 2007 and 2008 — from 6 percent to 14 percent. The study, conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, also noted that companies are organizing car pools, offering telecommuting options and public transportation discounts and giving cash incentives for employees to buy hybrid cars.
How about gas card incentives offered by various hotel chains- you’ll be amazed at the results if you just enter “gas card incentives” in a google search to find results like the following article with numerous offers by hotel chains:
Here’s another cool tool adjuster’s would find useful to calculate your fuel costs to deploy to another city for catastrophe duty based on your vehicle and your route from AAA:
Here is another great site for determining gas prices nationwide, mapping your trip and finding the best deals on gas along the way:
This is just another challenging opportunity for us to work together with carriers, adjusting firms, and adjusters to find ways to solve this problem to properly service claims for our policyholders. We need to meet this challenge BEFORE the first hurricane hits by establishing plans for dealing with these gas price issues facing independent adjusters. June 1, 2008 is just days away….what a GREAT time to establish and announce your independent adjuster friendly policy for meeting the needs to cover this fuel cost crisis for independents this season!
If you know of other fuel cost savings for adjusters or some innovative way firms and carriers are dealing with this issue…feel free to reply and share your ideas with our readers.
Adjuster Safety- Another warning- March 08- Nationwide Adjuster Shot in Vehicle in TN while on Storm DutyApril 10, 2008
In September 2007, I’d blogged to alert adjusters about safety concerns with a reminder about a Tampa, FL adjuster murdered in the line of work. Here is a link to that prior blog:
Today with the news all around us of storms in TX, AR, OK and other states as the storm is moving, it’s time to unfortunately remind everyone again but this time by a news story which happened in March 2008 in Jackson,TN when a Nationwide adjuster was shot in his vehicle and his laptop stolen. I have no additional details other than that as listed in this news article. A forum post on another site last month reported the adjuster died. I do not know if that is fact or rumor but the story alone is another warning to all adjusters to watch your surroundings and stay extremely concerned about your safety. I pray the adjuster involved did recover. Let us know if you know the actual outcome of this horrible story.
Here is a link to the story that ran in the Jackson Sun on March 27, 2008:
Our thoughts and prayers are with this adjuster and/or his family as he recovers.
We’d like to thank Dale Moore, Client Relations Director and Michael Hale, President of CPLIC at www.cplic.net 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 www.cplic.net 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 Roughnotes.com site:
Direct contact information for Dale if you are more comfortable directly contacting them is:
Director Client Services
CPLIC, RRG & Carter Claims
17742 Irvine Blvd., Ste 102
Tustin, CA 92780