The Haze of Late-Phase Delays (Part 2)

By Mark Goldwich

Last time we started talking about late-phase delays, and we ended with the field adjuster finally getting the claim file and estimate to the often overworked and all too often inexperienced examiner (office-based file reviewer). Remember, these examiners are usually reviewing the files of multiple field adjusters who are all trying to crank out files for payment (mainly for their own fee payment) as fast as possible. This can result in a new stack of files being delivered to the examiner daily.

If they’re so overworked, why don’t they just approve my claim?
Suppose you had this person’s job. What kind of impression would you make on your employer if you “rubber-stamped” everything that came across your desk?

It’s a little-known fact that most independents get paid more for higher claim estimates. But insurance company examiners know all about this state of affairs, and they are inclined to compensate for it. In fact, they are trained and dedicated to “correcting” adjusters who are “padding” estimates for a higher fee. There’s not only a built-in mechanism for delay; there’s a built in incentive for skepticism about the dollar figures associated with claim estimates.

How deep does that skepticism run? Consider this: I recently spoke with an independent adjuster who complained that when his estimate is adjusted down  he only gets compensated based on the amount actually paid on the claim. If the claim is later re-adjusted, and the policyholder is eventually paid exactly what the independent initially requested, the independent adjuster still does not get paid what he would have been paid if his initial estimate had been accepted!

By the way, after this happens a few times, how long do you think it’s going to take the independent adjuster to realize that he or she might as well just write the claim estimate for the (low) amount the insurance company is going to accept, and save the time and aggravation of writing the estimate for the (higher) amount that it should be written for?

What happens if the adjuster gets my claim kicked back to him or her?
There is additional delay. The adjuster now gets it back in his or her system. The adjuster has to find time to look at the file again to see what the examiner had a problem with; and then the adjuster has to try to resolve the problem, which might require another inspection. That means another trip through the adjuster’s to-do list, probably a lengthy trip. And then, of course, your claim may require additional photographs, additional documentation, and additional phone calls. It is definitely going to require additional time.

Cut to the chase. How long is it going to take for me to get a check I can actually cash a check that comes close to covering the valid claims I have?
That’s the big question, of isn’t it. Assuming that the case does not end up in litigation, you can count on six months to a year before you get your money if you’re trying to do this on your own. To be sure, some people complete the process in just a few months. There are three possible reasons for this. One: They’re not getting all they’re entitled to. Two: They’re very, very lucky. Three: They’re working with someone who knows the system quite well.

What if my claim is still disputed after a year or so?
It happens. In that case, you are probably headed to court (or should be), and can count on another two to three years before the claim is resolved by litigation. The insurance companies also know this, and they are not particularly worried about the time factor. It seems there is simply not any meaningful incentive for them to wrap the process up more quickly. In fact, just the opposite seems to be the case. The longer the delay, the more likely it is that policyholders will either walk away from their claims altogether or at least walk away with less than they have coming. It’s my experience that most people simply don’t realize how badly they’ve been underpaid, or have no idea how to dispute the claim, or are too mentally exhausted to bother anymore.

Would working with a public adjuster be likely to reduce the delays?
The answer is almost certainly “yes.” A qualified public adjuster knows how the bureaucracy works (or rather, doesn’t work). A qualified public adjuster knows what, if anything, can be done to expedite any part of the “holding pattern.” An additional benefit, of course, is that the public adjuster isn’t emotionally involved to the same degree that you are, which means he or she may simply be less shocked, burnt out, and/or furious about the delays than you are.

Again, a cynical man might wonder whether the insurance companies count on the policyholder’s losing sleep – and initiative – over the extraordinary delays associated with getting the money they are owed.

Does pursuing a claim without outside help really burn policyholders out?
 Definitely. I’ve seen it time and time again. After a certain amount of time, people have spent so much time and psychological energy on this problem they just cannot face it any more. The months go by, and people simply give up on believing that they can affect the outcome. So they take what they’re offered -- or, to be more accurate, accept that they haven’t been given what they deserve – and try to move on with their lives. That costs them money that they have coming to them. Here’s the moral of the story: You’d work with an attorney to handle serious legal problems. You should work with a public adjuster to handle serious insurance problems.

Unfortunately, delay is not the only problem you are likely to encounter when dealing with an insurance company after a hurricane, fire, flood, or other insured loss. You’ll also have to deal with denial – quite possibly the most powerful weapon in the insurance industry’s arsenal (next to time, and money – they have plenty of weapons!).

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.

The Haze of Late-Phase Delays (Part 1)

By Mark Goldwich

Congratulations on making it through the early and mid-phase delays of your insurance claim. The problem is there is yet another round to go in the “delay game.” This is the one that takes place after the insurance company’s estimator has completed the initial estimate.

The good news is that, unless your claim is denied (a prospect we’ll cover in a future blog) you are probably going to be talking about specifics that are actually related to your claim from this point forward. There’s a relief.  The bad news is that you’re probably going to be talking about the specifics for much longer than you had in mind. And you may not like what you hear.

Once there’s an actual estimate, what’s likely to slow the process down?
It’s possible (and even likely) that essential items have been left out of the estimate the adjuster comes up with. Sometimes the estimate is so low that, if you accepted it, you would not even be able to afford to start the work necessary to complete repairs. This may be the result of an honest oversight on the part of an overworked estimator; it may be because the estimator is not quite diligent enough when it comes to identifying valid claims. In either case, you may well end up looking at an estimate that is inadequate to your needs. And that will definitely slow things down.

In all likelihood, the insurance adjuster will say that there is a logical explanation for the difference between what you expected to get and what the insurance company is offering. The adjuster may say, for instance, that the shortfall is there because the cost of the repair work is within your deductible, or because the adjuster took depreciation into account on items that call for replacement cost, or because the insurance company has decided not to pay your contractor’s overhead until it is incurred, or even because they believe a contractor would be charging too much to do the work. All of those sound like good excuses. And they all may be distractions from the real problem. Personally, I’d be looking closely at the estimate for items that the adjuster “accidentally” left off.

What happens if I can’t get the adjuster to raise the amount?
You have two options. Option one: You can walk away from the process and take what the insurance company gives you (Important note: If you simply authorize the work you think is needed done and then submit your bills to the insurance company, the odds are very good that the insurance company will consider your action to be tantamount to walking away from the process, which means that you are very unlikely to get your repairs paid for). Option two: You can continue to pursue the claim.

Hiring an attorney, or a public adjuster like me, would fall under continuing to pursue the claim. Unless you are positive the insurance company made a mistake and overpaid the claim in error, I always strongly recommend pursing the claim aggressively. You might, for instance, work with someone like me, who might advise you to demand a re-inspection.

If I demand a re-inspection does that mean the whole process starts all over again?
Not quite, but it can certainly create additional delays. However, at this stage of the game, your choices are pretty simple:
  1. Accept what they are offering to pay you;
  2. or accept additional delays in order to pursue the additional monies you are entitled to.

What if no re-inspection is needed – won’t the adjuster just write me a check?
Not unless the amount of additional money you are asking for is very small. (And if the insurance company does that, the odds are not good that you’ll be getting a check big enough to actually repair the damage you have suffered.)

Consider the fact that many insurance companies have entire teams set up to handle “supplemental” claims. These are claims that are made because the initial payment was disputed as being too low. There’s a reason so many adjusters are working on supplemental teams. Insurance companies dispute a lot of stuff. The adjusters on these teams are trained to resolve these claims over the phone if possible. Would it surprise you to learn that a phone-handled claim costs less than a field-handled claim?

What will the adjuster do?
The adjuster will give the claim file material to a supervisor or file examiner (someone who sits in an office and reviews files), and the file examiner will then have to review the claim. Of course, it could be weeks before the file examiner even sees your claim.

The examiner will either approve it or kick it back down to the field adjuster (probably not the original adjuster, of course.) Which of these two is more likely? It’s hard to say, because every case is different. But keep in mind that these offices are flagrantly understaffed. Some of the people who work there are often shockingly inexperienced. I personally know of cases where the claim examiner had literally never inspected a claim in the field before. And yet this is the person who is directing, and rejecting, estimates written by seasoned adjusters!

By the way, the examiner might be handling the estimates for five adjusters, or might be responsible for as many as twenty. You have no way of knowing. One thing’s for certain: The claim examiner inevitably has a huge stack of estimates to review, a stack that gets bigger and bigger with each passing day. So that’s yet another built-in mechanism for delay.

I wish I could say the late-phase delays are over once the examiner gets an estimate from the field adjuster, but stay tuned and we’ll finish with the late-phase delays next time.

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.

The Malaise of Mid-Phase Delays - Part 2

By Mark Goldwich

Last time we started talking about mid-phase delays – let’s pick up the conversation from where the adjuster is finally assigned and is ready to see you…

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
• Once the adjuster actually arrives in a given area, things do start to move forward briskly in that geographical area, don’t they?
Sometimes. Other times, things go mysteriously wrong in ways that cause substantial delays. The insurance companies – buffered as they are by the companies they are outsourcing an ever-increasing amount of their work to – benefit financially from delays that they (technically) have nothing to do with. Call it another in a long list of extraordinary coincidences that benefit their bottom line.

• It all sounds very fishy – but are there events that can “legitimately” delay an adjuster?
Sure. As we’ve seen, a claim can be reassigned. It’s also quite possible that the adjuster will have to deal with an honest-to-goodness family emergency; we all have those from time to time. Very often, this emergency is disaster-related; some of these people are picked because they’re local, and local people have local ties of their own to think of after a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, fire, or flood. 

Other adjusters come from out of state, which means that they may need to go home when things go wrong there. And, as we’ve already noted, the adjuster could get into an accident, get sick, get reassigned to another region, or “burn out” and quit the profession – not an uncommon outcome.

• When an adjuster is reassigned, what happens to all the claims that adjuster was responsible for, but now leaves behind?
All the files have to go to someone entirely new, and…The whole process starts again.

Damage in Pensacola after the 1906 hurricane. ...
Damage in Pensacola after the 1906 hurricane. Retrieved from the Monthly Weather Review for September 1906. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
• Is that a big deal?
Absolutely. Let’s say you’ve been called by Adjuster A, and Adjuster A has set up an inspection time for two weeks from today. The appointment comes and goes. No one shows up. You call the insurance company, get transferred to the call center, spend a whole lot of time on hold, and then, if you’re lucky, get the news that that adjuster is no longer handling that file. At that point, you may be given the name and phone number of Adjuster B … or you may simply be told that you will need to wait for the new adjuster to contact you.

• Okay, but that’s only likely to happen to me once, right?
In my experience, it’s not unheard-of for a claim to be reassigned in this way two, three, or more times in succession. Some people end up with a dozen or more adjusters by the time the claim is paid.

• Once the adjuster actually inspects my property, what happens then?
After the adjuster inspects the claim, he or she must write up an estimate, a process that sometimes takes quite a while to complete.

• Why?
First, understand that you are likely to be dealing with an (outsourced) independent adjuster. The independent adjusters are typically hoping to physically inspect a whole bunch of claims first … and then, having done that inspection write up all the estimates later. Why? Because they are afraid that if they don’t get out and at least inspect the claims, the claims will be taken away from them and given to somebody else, which means they will lose out on billing for that claim. The independent adjusting industry can be a bit cutthroat. After all, qualifications are minimal, prior experience is not required, and the financial potential is tremendous.

Some are paid $1,000 per day just to make themselves “available” (i.e., sit and wait) from the time the storm strikes to the day they begin working on the storm claims. Some independents can make over $200,000 per year. Just about everybody would like to be at that level. Out of fear of losing money and access to future claims, they want to keep as many claims as possible. So they may put off writing up your estimate so they can go out and inspect more claims.

Westend11NovUpyachtsK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is unfortunate for two reasons: first, it delays your payment (there’s a surprise), and second, the quality of the estimate drops with the passage of time, because the estimator’s memory of your property fades. Even with inspection notes and photos, the passage of time means that there is a greater likelihood of ambiguity, error, and a resulting challenge from the insurance company.

• Who is ultimately accountable for customer complaints during this process?
Excellent question. If such a person exists, you have my heartiest wishes in locating him or her. As a practical matter, all you can do is call the message center. When you do, the person who answers the phone will tell you repeatedly that he or she can do nothing more than take a message for you. As I pointed out earlier: There are really two disasters to deal with: one that everybody knows about because they see it on the news, and one that you only know about if you yourself actually experience it. That second disaster has to do with actually getting money from your insurance policy.

• Do policyholders ever go crazy as a result of dealing with this stuff?
Not being a qualified mental health professional, I am in no position to say. But the question has certainly crossed my mind. Imagine the level of frustration that somebody will feel after having suffered damage from a hurricane, fire, flood or other calamity – then waiting for weeks to hear from an adjuster -- and then having new adjuster after new adjuster delay, then leave a message, and another, then set up a time to meet, and fail to materialize. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that some people do in fact need counseling, therapy, and/or medication as a result of dealing with the claims process. I do know that, as a public adjuster, I deal with these kinds of problems constantly, and they are extremely frustrating -- even for me. And I’m already familiar with this process of ongoing, systemic delay. Dealing with it is what I choose to do for a living!

• Is that all I have to worry about when it comes to delays?
I wish it were. Stay tuned for next week’s blog where I’ll tell you all about late-phase delays.

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.

The Malaise of Mid-Phase Delays - Part 1

By Mark Goldwich

In my last blog, I talked about early phase delays, which one would hope would end once the insurance company provides you with an adjuster – just as one spending eternity in a very hot place would hope for a glass of ice water.

English: Natural disasters in Rio de Janeiro i...
Once you hear back from the adjuster, you might imagine that the process would finally start to speed up. Unfortunately, you’d probably be wrong.  It’s during this middle phase that people usually conclude that something other than the immediate aftermath of the disaster is holding up the processing of their claim. That “something” could well be the greed of insurance companies.

Then again, it could be some systemic problem having to do with the institutional nature of any insurance-related bureaucracy. Maybe greed is not the best explanation for the strange “holding pattern” affecting mainly independent adjusters and insurance companies. This pattern that seems to kick in around about the time the other institutions in the affected community – the post office, the hospital, the businesses that weren’t physically damaged -- have all started to bounce back from tragedy. But a debilitating malaise seems, predictably, to grip the insurance sector at exactly this point.

It’s certainly possible that greed has nothing to do with this malaise. Mid-phase delays in processing your claim might not have anything to do with insurance company greed. Then again, they just might.

Q&A: What will happen?

• Once I get some kind of contact from the adjuster, how high a priority is my specific claim likely to be for this person?

It’s likely to be extremely low.

• Why?

Because catastrophe adjusters tend to have unconscionably high workloads.

• How heavy a workload are we talking about, exactly?

The adjuster may well be given fifty, one hundred, or two hundred claims. In considering those numbers, bear in mind that he or she could probably only assess between three and five in any given day for a typical disaster.

• Is that because insurance companies can’t afford to hire enough adjusters?

Given the record earnings reported by the industry, this really does not seem to be a plausible explanation.

• What other explanation could there possibly be for the industry’s decision to pile so much work on a single adjuster?

It may have something to do with extraterrestrial intelligence sabotaging a critical Earthling recovery pattern so as to lay the groundwork for a future assault on our planet. On the other hand, if the insurance industry isn’t under the covert control of off-world civilizations far more advanced than ours, the impossibly high workload of adjusters may have something to do with corporate greed. By a singular coincidence, a fleet of surrealistically overloaded adjusters tends to reduce the speed at which valid claims are evaluated and processed. (Take me to your leader is not spoken here.)

• What has to happen before the adjuster can actually come out and inspect my property?

Typically, the adjuster only has to make some kind of voice-to-voice contact with you over the phone.

• That can’t take all that long, can it?

If you’re one of the very first people on the list, and you happen to be sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring, no, it won’t take long at all. But remember: the adjuster may have fifty, one hundred, or two hundred claimants to contact; he or she must sort those claims into some kind of geographic order. The overloaded adjuster can’t be expected to drive all around, based on the order the claims were filed – he or she is much more likely to make calls within a small territory before moving on to contact the next area.

And remember this: Adjusters usually prioritize by severity…In other words, they try to see the most severely damaged – usually uninhabitable – homes first. This appears to be the most compassionate thing to do, but – by another extraordinary coincidence – it is also the most frugal from the insurance company’s point of view. You see, these uninhabitable homes usually require the insurance company to pay “loss of use” expenses. These can be extremely high. But if you get to these claims right away, you can “lock in” time frames and dollar amounts owed to the policyholder, greatly reducing the overall costs.

The aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in the Miami...
The aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in the Miami area (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In some settings, though, the adjuster may be required to call on each policyholder before conducting any inspection. That alone could take quite some time. Either way, it starts with a phone call from the adjuster to you. And if you’re not sitting by the phone when the call comes, you can then expect to wait. You may wait while you and the adjuster play phone tag. You may wait while the adjuster’s schedule takes him or her out of your area. You may wait because your file is reassigned to someone else. You may wait because the adjuster gets sick, gets injured, has legal troubles, or simply quits. Whatever happens, though, the odds are that...You WILL wait.

• Suppose I’m unlucky enough to land at or near the bottom of the adjuster’s territory/priority list – what does that really mean to me?

It means that you may well have to wait for every person, in every other territory identified by the adjuster, to talk with the adjuster by phone, schedule a visit, and actually have their property inspected. In other words, your own perceived “place in line,” which you probably assume will be based on the point in time that you filed your claim, could end up being pretty much meaningless, since you are now waiting for the adjuster to meet with people who filed claims much later than you did. They get to meet the adjuster before you do simply because they’re closer to the area where the adjuster is already working.

• Are there any other ways people could “jump ahead of me” in line?

Yes. They could move up higher on the adjuster’s priority list if they get their insurance agent to report the damage as being more severe than it really is. Mind you, the insurance agent would probably never admit to engaging in such a callous and self-serving practice, but, back when I was working as an adjuster for a major insurance company, I got the distinct impression this took place. In fact, it seemed to happen so frequently that I couldn’t begin to estimate the total number of times I made my way to a supposedly devastated property, only to learn that it had sustained considerably less damage than I had been led to believe.

The bitter that the system is probably going to make you wait for a period that is much longer than any rational person would consider acceptable. After a major disaster, that’s simply what happens, given the manpower, workload, and logistical hurdles that independent adjusters are forced to deal with. So let’s face it: It’s going to take a while to get to everyone. Some people will jump ahead, and some will fall to the rear, but the overwhelming majority of policyholders are going to be waiting for a whole lot longer than they’d like.

After all that, you might think we’d be done exploring mid-phase delays, but alas there’s more…which we’ll learn about next time.

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.

Shades of Delay

By Mark Goldwich

In this blog, I want to give you examples of what I call early-phase delays. These are delays that come in the first stage, the stage immediately following the disaster or insured loss. These examples of delay are sometimes the most shocking ones to people who file claims, because they expect to be treated as customers, rather than adversaries, by their insurance company. (By the time policyholders get to mid-phase and late-phase delays, they’re not quite as shocked by the behavior of some insurance companies and other players who are supposed to represent their interests.)

Q&A: What will happen?

English: New Orleans, La. August 30, 2005 --Ae...
English: New Orleans, La. August 30, 2005 --Aerial view of New Orleans and the surrounding area showing the flood waters and damage caused from Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans continues to be evacuated as a result of floods caused by failures of the Federal levee system. Photo by Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
• Will there be enough manpower to process the claims that (predictably) follow a natural disaster?
No. A cynic might tell you that this manpower shortage is intentional. I can’t know what the intentions of large organizations like insurance companies are, so all I will be able to say for sure is that, the insurance company will not have enough people on the ground to process the deluge of claims that will follow a major fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, or other significant event. By a remarkable coincidence, this works to their financial benefit. And believe it or not, this “manpower shortage coincidence” takes place over and over again, year after year.

• Are you talking about the first few days following the disaster before the insurance company “calls in the troops”?
No, I mean a period of weeks or months immediately following the catastrophe that triggers your insurance claim. And for many insurance companies, there really are no full-time “troops” for them to call in.

• Why not?
Insurance companies generally staff on a permanent basis at a level that’s meant to handle claims that take place for more common events like kitchen fires, pipe leaks, thefts, and other routine forms of property damage or loss. In other words, they simply don’t hire enough permanent claims staff to cover disasters in addition to the more ordinary claims.

• Is that because insurance companies don’t know whether disasters will actually take place in a given twelve-month period?
Given the industry’s historic obsession with probability, and with actuarial statistics connected specifically to things like fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes, this seems like an unlikely explanation. Some of the larger insurance companies do hire additional staff to handle catastrophe situations, but certainly not as many as are actually needed.

• Could they hire enough full-time staff to do the job for disasters that they know, or strongly suspect
Westend11NovUpyachtsK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
will eventually take place?
If you mean “can they afford to,” that’s a matter best discussed with the executive management teams, boards of directors, and stockholders of insurance companies.
Although I’m a former insurance company employee myself, I was not privy to these sorts of internal decisions in any meaningful detail.

• So how do insurance companies process claims if they don’t have the manpower to handle them?
Basically, they outsource. In much the same way that Information Technology companies outsource programming and technical service jobs to other countries, insurance  companies utilize independent adjusting firms that subcontract with adjusters who can be sent to a disaster site to work for an insurance company.

• What happens if there is no disaster?
If there is nothing going on in the form of insurance work, then these people have to fend for themselves. Some are able to work year-round for insurance companies. Many others go back to whatever work they did before deciding to be Independent Adjusters. And still others just wait for the next disaster, living for extended periods off money made working the last disaster – semi-retired, I call them.

• What kinds of credentials are adjusters required to have?
Less than you might think. In many states, they don’t have to have a college degree or even need to be licensed. Even in states which require a license, the Independent Adjusters don’t need to be licensed before the storm; they simply get “temporary” or “emergency” licenses once they start working for the insurance company. They could literally be hauling manure one day, and adjusting your loss the next.

New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina levee ...
New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina levee failure disaster. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
• Once a storm hits, are there lots of insurance adjusters swinging quickly into action? 
The insurance companies would say yes, and you can be sure there will be a news clip with at least o
ne adjuster quickly on the scene looking appropriately concerned. Even so, my personal experience is that there are not nearly enough adjusters getting to the site when they should, and I believe most storm victims would agree with me. Ultimately, the answer depends on one’s definitions of the words “lots”, “quickly”, and “action.” I can predict, confidently, that you won’t consider the adjuster’s appearance to be timely.

• What’s the holdup?
When a storm or other disaster hits, the independent adjusting firms get a call from the insurance company. Their people start calling people, who start calling other people, who start calling still other people. Then the independent adjusting firms start looking for a place to set up their offices, or perhaps they wait for the insurance company to set up
facilities. As a practical matter, independent adjusters (who are the people typically given assignments through these companies) are usually left to their own devices when it comes to traveling to the disaster site, finding a hotel to stay at and securing other support services. You can imagine how difficult it is to secure undamaged, available housing and office space right after a disaster. Needless to say this, too, slows down the processing of your claim.

• What actually happens when I call the insurance company?
If you can get through at all, you’ll probably get the number of a claims call center.

• Okay, what happens when I reach the call center?
Typically, they take your information. They can’t do much of anything else. Unlicensed call center personnel often can’t even tell you how much the deductible is on your policy. These people are temporary employees who are not well trained and (usually) not particularly motivated. They take down the information, either handwritten on a simple store bought pad or company created sheet of paper, or they may transmit an e-mail or generate a message printout. Each of these calls represents a message that an adjuster working for that company is supposed to return. That is, if the message gets to the right place.

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
• How long is it going to be before I hear from that adjuster to set up a time for inspection  of my property?
This is the sixty-four-thousand dollar question. The best answer is that you should probably be prepared to wait anywhere from one week to three months to get even an initial call back. I would suggest if you haven’t heard back after a day or two, you should call back – the adjuster probably lost your message. Call, leave message, wait, repeat. Call, plead, leave message, wait, repeat. Call, plead, plead some more, leave message, wait, repeat. Does this really sound like something you’d like to do while you’re without power, without air conditioning, without hot meals, and without clean water … for, say, two months?

• You’re kidding, right?
I wish I were. I recently talked to an adjuster on behalf of one of my clients after a natural disaster. When I finally was able to speak to him after weeks and weeks of calling with no response, I asked him to explain his failure to return my messages. He said, “Look, I get 80 messages a day and I have time to return maybe ten of those messages before I get another 80 the next day. That’s the system. You do the math.”

• That’s an exceptional case, right?
No, I’m afraid that was quite typical for this insurance company – and probably not too different from most other companies. It really is all about staffing. The call center folks
are there, but they can’t help. You need to talk to the adjuster. But the adjuster is not there. He or she is out “in the field” adjusting losses. If they were available to talk to you, who would adjust all the losses?

• Is it a Catch-22, or is it just a coincidence that happens to benefit the insurance company? Whatever it is, it’s not going to work out in your favor.

• Couldn’t insurance companies afford to do this differently?
One would certainly think so. The question then is at what cost? Odds are the insurance
companies would find it too expensive to provide the level of service expected by consumers.

• So do I have to wait a couple of weeks for the insurance company and the independent adjusting company to set things up … and then another week to three months more just to hear back from the adjuster for the first time?
That’s pretty much par for the course. Sure, you might get lucky and be the first person the adjuster calls back. You might also win the lottery tonight. I wouldn’t count on either.

• Yeah, but things will get better after I hear back from the adjuster, right?
Wrong. I’ll tell you all about mid-phase delays in the next blog…

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.