Do it right the first time and reduce re-opens
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Do it right the first time and reduce re-opens

The primary thing an adjuster needs to do is communicate with the insured. I cannot emphasize that enough. We do not know if there is an error, an oversight or what, until we get out there. The adjuster is always supposed to communicate the proposed settlement with an insured and many people tell us they never heard from the adjuster after he was out there. Whether that is true or not is not the issue. If the adjuster is overly clear not only on the amount of the settlement but exactly what he is recommending, it leaves little room for misunderstandings. Further, if he/she is extremely clear, people will not have the tendency to want to say they never heard from the adjuster.

The other thing that I cannot emphasize enough is to be thorough during the inspection. Take the time to look at EVERYTHING!!!!! 

This particular storm came out of the North and West. So, 90% of the damage is to the North and West Elevations. But, there are still gutters damaged on the south and east elevations. We have found damage to the siding on the east and south elevations because a vehicle, RV or other structure is in close proximity and baseball size hail will still cause damage to aluminum siding after it bounces off something 3 or 4 feet away. Or they simply don't look at screens, windows, gutters, downspouts or siding. They need to slow down and REALLY look at everything. It takes more time and yes, you may only look at 5 claims in a day instead of 10, but those claims close and will tend to stay closed. 

Based upon your own experience, tell me the last vendor and company that were not happy with 5 claims closed per day, every day from the second or third day of the storm.

Next, I would recommend the adjuster be very clear and concise with the estimate. We are getting a lot of estimates that even we cannot tell what the adjuster did. The estimate allows 542 s.f. of siding but we do not know if that is the north elevation, west elevation, both or more. Not only does the insured not know if the adjuster allowed only for the north elevation and did not include the west elevation, but we don't know and we have to re-measure everything to try to figure it out.

The adjuster should carry a "SAMPLE" estimate with them. If they meet with the insured and obtain an agreed scope, they can show the sample to the insured and explain it. It helps the insured understand better when they receive theirs in the mail and will stop a lot of call backs because the insured does not know what the heck the estimate says other than the loss is $10,000 and they are only getting $4,000.

Also, be thorough in scoping regarding measurements and what is there. We have been on roofs that we were not sure were the same one looked at by the adjuster. The insured assures us he was present when the adjuster was on the roof. We found the roof to be 12 foot longer than the original scope/estimate/diagram. We found two layers of asphalt and one layer of Wood shingles on the roof. The roof has an intersecting gable, but it is not on the diagram. This is just one example. We are constantly re-inspecting claims because there was more than one layer and a lot where there is three layers of asphalt and one layer of wood. I make a habit of lifting the shingles while I am still on the ladder and determining the number of layers before I get on the roof. I will take a photo showing the number of layers. If there is only one layer, I usually do not turn it in to the company. If there is more than one layer, I turn in the photos necessary to document what I am recommending be torn off. I carry a pry bar, to get to the last layer if necessary and a can of tar to seal the area after I tear the H--- out of it, but no one comes back and says hey, you missed four layers!!!

In hail claims you have to look at a screen and you have to look at the trim around a window. 

We are the "experts." People want to be able to call their insurance company and get an inspection that they feel confident identifies the damage. When they have a contractor come out and the contractor finds obvious damage and/or additional layers of roof covering, it throws the entire original inspection into question and erodes that insured's confidence in the adjusting process.

Since this spring, things have been pretty quiet. As you know from the postings, a lot of adjusters are looking and waiting for work.

Lori and I have worked since May 15 with only seven (7) days that we have taken off including this weekend for our granddaughters' fourth birthday. 

We like to think it is for a number of reasons:

1. We are prompt in contacting insureds and very clear in our initial contact about who we are, what we are going to do, when we are going to do it and we comply with all those commitments. We also provide the insured with a number where they can reach us for ANY reason and we return all call promptly.

2. We are always, I mean always, courteous to the insured even when they are not courteous to us. We never react to anger, impatience or any other negative response from an insured for any reason. We are continuously polite and seriously act as if they are being polite. When they find that they are not going to get ANY reaction from us, they ALWAYS become friendly.

3. We are thorough in our inspections. We not only look at things once, with both of on site, we look at things twice and sometimes more. I realize that not everyone is a husband/wife/significant other/partner team. If it is just one person it becomes more incumbent upon that one person to be even more thorough. I know Lori is behind me and if I get lazy she'll still catch the damage. The single person does not have that luxury. I compare us to the outfield on a baseball team. If the infielder misses a ground ball he has the outfield backing him up. The outfielder only needs to turn around every once in a while to know there is no one else back there. The adjuster needs to realize that if he misses damage, there is no one else that may find it. The policy says it will pay for direct physical loss. If an adjuster does not find existing damage, than the company has indirectly violated its own policy.

4. Photographs. We take beaucoup photos. I am sure too many in some cases, but we never seem to get any complaints over the number we take. And we are detailed in our description of photos. Our description of a risk is not "Risk." It will say, "Risk. One story, one family, owner occupied, frame dwelling with attached two car garage located at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC in average maintenance and condition. The dwelling faces south." 

It does not say "Roof." It says "North roof elevation looking west. Test area showing 8+ hail hits to 3-tab, composition, asphalt shingles." 

And if there are certain things that have been sustaining damage but we are not including it in our estimate we will photo it to show no damage

5. Scope Notes/Sheets. Lori and I utilize two (2) different scope sheets. One for the roof and one for the rest of the exterior. It has areas for diagrams and it has items to be inspected and the quantity, such as roof vents, ridge vents, gutters, downspouts, siding w/ type and size, screens, etc. We check each item visually and then either mark the quantity damaged or indicated it is okay. That way we know it’s been checked when we prepare the estimate. WE ALSO TURN A COPY OF OUR SCOPE SHEETS IN WITH OUR FILE WHEN WE CLOSE IT. If someone has to come behind us, they know what we were looking at and what we found. I do not know what anybody looked at or what they found other than very confusing estimates.

6. Reporting. Everyone, including us hates paperwork. When I started in claims 26 years ago I could spend 7 hours in the field and have 1 hour of paperwork. Well, that's why they're called the "good ole days." We can either waste time moaning about it or we can come to realize that more is required today and it is all part of the professionalism. Some companies don't want/require a lot of paperwork or verbiage on a claim. Well, that’s too bad, they're still going to get at least one full page from us. 26 years ago, my mentor told me, "Tell them what you did, why you did it and what you’re going to do about it." It still applies and it is still pretty easy once the routine is down. We tell them what we found during our scope and what we recommend and propose about it. We also tell them what we did not find in some instances. If there is no damage to the A/C unit, we will comment upon it. If there is no damage to siding, we will comment upon it and maybe tell them it is wood siding with no damage to the finish. It takes us maybe 10 minutes to prepare our one page report. Now, at five claims per day, that’s 50 minutes. But any kind of report will take at least 5 minutes, so we are talking less than 30 minutes to be thorough. And I carry E&O insurance so we are going to make sure we cover ourselves on paper.

6. We get back to most insureds after we are done with our estimate. There are always going to be some insured who never seem to be home and won't return calls, but that is a very few. Most will want to know and if you leave a message saying you have it done and you WANT to talk to them BEFORE you turn it in, believe me, they will call. If they don't then the third time we will leave as much detail as possible on the message. And we have AT&T so we can leave a message even if they don't have an answering machine.

But, when we do reach them, we go over our estimate, line by line and thoroughly explain depreciation/holdback and ACV. This is not rocket science and I find even elderly people can understand it if one takes the time to explain it clearly. If someone can't explain it clearly then I would question whether THEY understand it. And we always invite people to call us back if they have a PROBLEM OR QUESTION. I don't want them calling their agent, company or brother. I want them to call me. The less calls anyone else gets about George or Lori the better we look. So, if a 83 year old woman wants to call me because her contractor told her he wanted 1/3 down when she signs the contract, I am more than happy to talk to her about it and remind her to check the BBB, ask for and check references, etc.

We are first professionals and second in a service industry. If we cannot take the time to be professionals and provide the service then we should get out of this business. 

Sometimes we are embarrassed by what other adjusters have said and done. Claims magazine reported that the insurance claim business is just above used car salesman and we have no one to blame but ourselves. Lori and I spend a lot of our time trying to undo the ill-will that some 10 minute adjuster did because he wanted to see 10 or 15 claims that day and could not take the time with any one insured to make them feel like their claim was nothing but something keeping him/her from getting 11 or 16 looked at that day.

by George Mullett
8/27/2000

This excerpt is from an article that was first posted in the Adjuster's Forum click here to go to the forum.

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1 comments on article "Do it right the first time and reduce re-opens"

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freebob

Excellant article! This should be required reqading for both veterans and newbies both. If we expect to be called back to work for the carriers and vendors it is our job to be the best. In times like these when claims are slow it does not hurt to reflect back when we were busy and how we did our jobs and what we can improve upon in the future.

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