Sliding Down the Slippery Slope

by Mark Goldwich

Snow Moon image courtesy of
Last week brought us the “Full Snow Moon”, also known as the “Full Hunger Moon”. Maybe I simply wasn’t paying close attention in the past, but this was the first time I heard each moon came with its own name, based on the month, dating back to Native Americans. With February being known as having heavy snow falls which makes hunting more difficult, it is easy to see how “Snow” and “Hunger” was connected to the name for the February moon.

Anyway, today’s forecast once again featured a weekend warning for strong winter storms, sure to bring huge amounts of the cold, wet, white stuff. Sure, it looks beautiful as it is falling, but man does it ever wreak some havoc when it lands!

So in the spirit of all the heavy snow, I wanted to point out a few ways those cute and fluffy flakes can be dangerous to all kinds of property, and how insurance companies might try to slide out from covering the damage.

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While it looks a bit like whipped marshmallow topping, snow is actually quite heavy. Accumulated snow and ice (we usually only see the snow on top, but there is usually ice underneath) can topple trees, or at least break large branches. These trees and branches may harmlessly fall to the ground, or they can smash anything they land on…roofs, fences, pools, walkways, power lines, cars, outdoor furniture and swing sets…whatever gets in the way. Trees being heavy and dense, they can really pack a wallop. I once handled a claim where a large tree basically split a 2-story apartment building in half, causing over $400,000 in damages. 

Even without involving trees, heavy snow can collapse roofs. And what do you suppose happens to the tons of snow once it gets inside the warm building whose roof just caved in? If you guessed, “melts into hundreds of gallons of freezing water and soas every last nook and cranny of a home,” you’re right!

The snow and ice can also bring down power lines that are sparked from falling trees. When damaged by trees or just the weight of ice and snow, once the power lines come down, the damage totals rise. Food spoils, electrical components get spikes and surges (before or after the outage), and temperatures inside homes drop drastically. This often makes for frozen pipes, and in many cases, as the water inside the pipes freeze, the water expands, causing the pipes to rupture. Since these ruptures take place inside of walls, they can’t be seen – until, that is, the frozen pipes thaw out and water pours from the ruptured section of pipe.

Image courtesy of
Snow falling on roadways create other hazards, such as reduced visibility, black ice, snow drifts, and generally slippery conditions that are prime for auto accidents. Cars then slide into other cars, or other property, making for colossal collisions costing copious quantities of cash.

As you can see, when it comes down to it, snow (in one form or another) has the ability to damage pretty much anything it comes into contact with. Naturally, the heavier the snow even, the greater the potential for damage. But that is why you buy insurance, right? Of course, it is.

But if you’ve been following my blogs at all, even an insurance novice can probably begin to formulate some of the slippery excuses some insurance companies might try to give in order to slide out from paying these claims:

“Wear and tear”
“Negligent maintenance”
“Faulty construction, defective materials, or poor design”
“Failure to maintain heat”
“Failure to drain plumbing pipes”
“Continuous and repeated seepage of water”
“Excluded power surge”
“Failure to mitigate damages”

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Heck, some might even claim you misrepresented some obscure and completely unrelated answer on your insurance application form when you initially purchased the policy many years ago. If so, they could declare the entire policy to be void, regardless of whether or not this particular loss is covered. I call this phenomenon, “Denial by rescission”, and yes, it really happens.

Even if they can’t find a way to deny the claim completely, there are always plenty of icy obstacles they can use to delay, deflect, reduce and defend their actions and your payments. All of these can frustrate weary policyholders to the breaking point, where walking away from a fair settlement seems better than continuing to engage in the mental torture an insurance claim can inflict.

Well, that got cold and gloomy in a hurry! So let’s come back around and end on a nice note, with the names of all the full moons for the entire year (according to

– January - Full Wolf Moon
– February - Full Snow Moon
– March - Full Worm Moon
– April - Full Pink Moon
– May - Full Flower Moon
– June - Full Strawberry Moon
– July - The Full Buck Moon
– August - Full Sturgeon Moon
– September - Full Corn Moon or Full Harvest Moon
– October - Full Hunter’s Moon or Full Harvest Moon
– November - Full Beaver Moon

 – December - The Full Cold Moon; or the Full Long Nights Moon

And if you ever find yourself sliding down the slippery slope of insurance company denial, remember to call your friendly pubic claims adjuster.  He knows how to cut Frosty down to size.

Mark Goldwich is president of Gold Star Adjusters, a group of public insurance adjusters dedicated to helping citizens get the maximum settlement for any insurance claim.  

How to Write Your Way To Celebrity (Maybe)

by Mark Goldwich

Back in 2005, about a year into my new career as a Public Adjuster, I was telling my wife’s boss “war stories” about claims I was handling in the Florida Panhandle following Hurricane Ivan. After hearing me recount how adjusters would miss appointments without as much as a phone call, write horribly low estimates one after the other, attempt to deny items that were clearly covered by the policy…not to mention the delays! One delay after another, month after agonizing month. It was unbelievable, yet I could recite the details for what seemed like hours on end.

My wife’s boss, a motivational speaker and author of multiple books who goes simply by “Pegine”, stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Is this true? Do the insurance companies really do these things?” Absolutely, I told her. After all, I wasn’t just repeating what I heard from someone else, I was talking about actual claims I was personally working on. These things were really happening, and on a regular basis. While it was not how I was taught as a company adjuster, I quickly saw it as the status quo, especially after a catastrophe. But she was completely beside herself, and emphatically told me, “You need to write a book – people need to know this!”

“Besides,” she explained, “writing a book is a great way to set yourself apart from your competition, and increase your credibility as an expert in your field.” I reminded her I was not a writer, I was an insurance adjuster. But she didn’t seem to care. Her mind was made up. She told me about a “ghostwriter” friend of hers, and explained how it all worked. I would tell the stories, he would make them print-worthy, and the public would be made aware – both, of what the insurance companies were up to, and who could help them level the playing field. It was a win-win-win situation.

So for the next several months, as I made the 5-hour drive from Jacksonville to Pensacola Beach, and back again every week or so, I would dictate my stories into a micro-cassette recorder (this was years before voice-to-text smart phones), and pop them in the mail to the “writer”. He would then clean it up, create an order for it all, as well as teach me things about writing and publishing I had no idea about. He helped me find a graphic designer for the cover (who also created my logo and designed my website), and an on-line self-publisher to print the books (the first edition, anyway).

Initially, the book was going to be a “pocket book”, small and thin, 80 pages tops, with just enough information to raise awareness and promote myself as an expert in the field of property insurance claims. But as the months went on, I found more and more information “needed” to be included, and more and more “stories” were naturally generated as I continued to beat insurance companies at their own game. The book grew in both size and thickness, from 5”x7” and under 80 pages, to 6”x9” and over 125 pages.

In 2006, “UNCOVERED – What REALLY Happens After The Storm, Flood, Earthquake or Fire” was born! I was very proud to be a published author, less than three years into my new business venture. I hired a publicist to let the world know about the book by sending press releases, and waited for the media to call. Don’t laugh. No, I didn’t get a lot of media attention, and the books weren’t exactly flying off the shelves of bookstores, but I did make it on a local news station’s “Hurricane Special”, as well as a morning TV show, the local paper and business journal, and some radio shows (local and national). I sold a few books here and there, but mainly gave them away as door prizes during networking events, or to clients, prospects, or strategic alliances. My point here is, don’t think you are going to make a great living selling books, and be able to retire early from the career you wrote the book to promote in the first place. Just accept the fact that you are not going to be selling a ton of books, and focus on using the books to promote your business (and/or yourself).

But the book really does help. It has now been about 8 years since I wrote my first book, and people are still impressed that I wrote a book. I’ve had a client tell me the deciding factor for her hiring me over a competitor was because I wrote the book (which I gave to her when she asked me to “interview” for the claim she needed help with). The claim turned out to be a big success. She recovered many tens of thousands more than her insurance company initially offered, and I received a sizeable commission fee – plus she did a great testimonial video for me. Thanks to that one book, that one claim paid for everything that went into writing and publishing the 2,000 initial copies of my book. Talk about a great return on investment!

No, my book did not make me a celebrity, and it did not make me rich. But it does lend credibility to me and my business, it sets me apart, and all these years later, it still offers the opportunity to promote my business. And that is not to say your book will not do so much more for you. Besides, you might be surprised at how much you can learn about yourself, your business, your industry, and your competition, by going through the book-writing process.

Mark Goldwich is president of Gold Star Adjusters, a group of public insurance adjusters dedicated to helping citizens get the maximum settlement for any insurance claim.  

Time to Break Out the Shovel

by Mark Goldwich

Image courtesy of
I’ve been seeing a lot of shoveling lately. Waves of major winter storm systems bring millions of tons
of snow, blanketing streets, cities, and even entire states. With news reports and headlines calling for “Snowmageddon” and “Snowpocalypse”, followed by images of snowplows, snowblowers, and plenty of snow shovels, the piles of snow seem to be never-ending.

“So how does insurance fit in with all the snow?” you might be asking. Actually, there are two ways.

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First, all that snow (and ice) causes extraordinary amounts of property damage in the form of auto accidents, trees and power lines downed by the weight of ice and snow, frozen pipes that rupture and cause extensive water damage, ice dams create roof leaks, the weight of ice and snow can actually collapse roofs, and so much melting snow causes flooding – I actually saw a 5 foot high ice flow move down a New Jersey street.

And secondly, the heaping mounds of snow is analogous to the mountains of red tape, hoops, delays and other slush insurance companies use to drown insurance victims in their time of need.

Water (that stuff snow eventually turns into) is one of the most powerful and destructive forces on earth (think Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and glaciers). I know it seems fairly harmless when portrayed as fluffy little flakes floating down from the heavens, but in accumulations large enough, and depending on variations in temperature, snow melts into water, freezes to ice, and melts into water again.

image courtesy of
In the air, the thawing and freezing cycle can produce damaging hail. On roofs, this thawing and freezing can produce ice dams, allowing water to penetrate roof systems. Sometimes this damages the roof itself as well as the interior of the structure, and sometimes only damaging the interior, while leaving no trace whatsoever on the roof.  This makes for an interesting “who-done-it” for insurance adjusters – after all, without proof, why should they believe the damage was caused by an ice dam, and not simply a matter of “wear and tear”?  In pipes, the cycle is usually reversed – first freezing, and then thawing, which can inundate an entire home (just don’t call it “a flood” as that is not covered unless it meets the definition of “flood”, and you actually have a flood insurance policy). And outside on the ground, this thawing and freezing and thawing again cycle can lead to actual flooding, sometimes including large chunks of ice and accumulated debris rushing along in a torrent, destroying pretty much anything in it’s path.

By now you get the idea. Water can be very destructive, even when it starts out gently. And after you plow, dig, blow, and shovel your way out from the snow, you should also be prepared to shovel your way out from the ensuing insurance claim.

As I alluded to earlier, snow, ice, and water can be tricky substances. Think of all the riddles involving water in its various properties:

- Power enough to smash ships and crush roofs. Yet it still must fear the sun. (Ice)

- This old one runs forever, but never moves at all. No lungs nor throat, but still a mighty roaring call. (waterfall)

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Because water can take on 3 physical properties (solid, liquid, and gas) in relatively short order, it can appear to be here one day, and gone the next. So unless you have photos of it, it’s very existence can be difficult to prove (especially if the one you are trying to prove it to is not inclined to believe you to begin with).

As you might imagine, some insurance adjusters might use the elusiveness of water to minimize your claim of damages. Hailstones beating down on your roof like 10 million marbles (or golf balls) are almost always gone long before an adjuster ever sets foot on your roof. Depending on the size of the hail, the damage can be anything from excessive loss of roofing granules (tiny bits of “rock”) which protect the water-shedding shingle matting, to bruising of the shingle matting, to actual holes in the shingles. Naturally, the less obvious the damage, the more an adjuster may resist paying.

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In the case of frozen pipe claims, many policies have exclusionary clauses requiring property owners to maintain sufficient heat at all times, or to drain the entire plumbing system. For some adjusters, the simple fact that you suffered a frozen pipe is evidence enough that you failed to perform your duties.

And as indicated above, in the case of ice dams, adjusters can claim there is no evidence to prove there ever was an ice dam (since it melted away). They could also claim the roof workmanship or maintenance was faulty. Think about it, exclusions weren’t put into insurance policies to be ignored. They are there to be used. And some like using them more than others. Even if they agree to pay for the inside water damage, they may not agree to pay for damage done to the roofing system when ice built up and crept ever-higher under shingles, causing creases, removing granules, or loosening nails.

Just be ready to dig yourself out from under a drift of insurance legalese, skeptical adjusters, and carrier-dependent engineers. Or, you may want to consider hiring an experienced consumer advocate. Like a dependable snow shovel, we can plow the way for your return to normalcy.

Mark Goldwich is president of Gold Star Adjusters, a group of public insurance adjusters dedicated to helping citizens get the maximum settlement for any insurance claim.