The Delay is in the Details

by Mark Goldwich

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To begin to understand how and why insurance claims can sometimes drag on way too long, it is important to start by understanding the key players. Insurance companies employ representatives who answer policyholder phone calls (but lack the experience or authority to do anything about it), various claim representatives/adjusters (field, office, staff, independent, examiners) of differing experience levels, as well as experts (contractors, consultants, engineers, attorneys) to help determine how a particular claim is to be handled.

The call representatives are in an office full of cubicles, all of them are connected to a computer by a headset, which reports to supervisors the number of calls taken, the average call time, the average wait time, the number of breaks taken, and other factors that determine compensation or even continued employment. The supervisors can also "listen in" on random or selected calls to grade the call rep. You know, for "quality control purposes". I'll agree with the "control" part of that.

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The field adjusters go to the property and take photos, diagrams, measurements, and collect other information about the claim to report back to a claim examiner or  manager with their estimate of the damages. Sometimes they set their own schedule, and sometimes they have their appointments scheduled for them by other representatives in the office. Either way, they are usually kept very busy.

As you might imagine, insurance companies do not like paying for idle time. They get to the property, where the owner wants to describe everything, go into detail about how the loss occurred, what they did, the origins of the property damaged - and the adjusters just want the basic facts so they can get to their next appointment. Many of these field adjusters, being independent adjusters, are paid based on the amount of the claim, or the number of claims handled, not on the time they spend listening to the policyholder.

The examiner is typically the one that decides (often with the help of a manager) how much is going to be paid, if anything. Many times, the examiner has less field experience than the field adjuster that was actually at the property.  Regardless, it is the examiner that usually makes the final call on coverage and payment. And keep in mind, unlike many of the field adjusters, the office examiners generally do not get paid based on the number or size of the claims, but on a salary, no matter how many claims, or what size claims, they review. In many cases, the examiner believes a more expert opinion is needed before they will "sign off" on the claim, so they assign this task to whomever they believe can help (contractor, consultant, engineer, attorney, etc.).

So, a representative sets an appointment, a field adjuster gets the claim filed and then passes the estimate to the often overworked and all too often inexperienced examinerAfter this, the examiner may hand the file off to yet someone else. Remember, these examiners are usually reviewing the files of multiple field adjusters who are all trying to crank out files for payment as fast as possible. This can result in a new stack of files being delivered to the examiner daily. All of these tasks take time, and the insurance company has plenty of time, and plenty of claims. You, on the other hand, have only one claim, and only one life to live (more about that later).

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And that is where they sometimes get you. They know, after decades of practice, and millions of claims, that if they can delay policyholders long enough, a great many will just give up. There’s an old saying, “Don’t go away mad, just go away.” I am 100% convinced that insurance companies thrive on this approach to claims processing. They don’t want you to be mad enough to file a complaint or hire an attorney, but they want you to give up without getting paid in full, if at all. It can be something of a balancing act, but one they have gotten very good at with lots of practice, trial and error, not to mention input from consulting companies.

And if you still refuse to give up (probably because you have hired a public adjuster, attorney, or both) – and only a small percentage of people do this – the insurance companies are sometimes able to drag the claim out so long, the policyholder actually dies before the claim can be paid. No kidding. I have seen multiple policyholders pass away before getting their claims paid. But I want to emphasize, our policyholder’s claims do get paid. When I think about all the other people who died  before their claims are paid each year, I picture a motivational sign on the wall in the insurance office that reads, “Dead people rarely hire attorneys.” A bit cynical, perhaps, but if you have seen what I have seen, you would understand completely.

Keep in mind, professionals like myself are always available to answer any questions you have at any stage of the claim process.  We're happy to speak to other groups you belong to, at no charge. I constantly find people are quite surprised when I tell them there is no charge to come to their property, review their claim, go over documentation, and consult with them on the available options. This can also include an offer to visit their office to educate their staff on insurance issues. “Sounds too good to be true” they say. That’s OK, it makes them that much happier when we follow through on what we say, and deliver results.

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.        


  1. To compare the typical insurance claim process to a tortoise does a disservice to tortoises. Think glacier.

  2. I keep thing about that scene in the Incredible's when Mr. Incredible keeps telling the old lady how to get her claim processed! Marks blogs are like Mr. Incredible!

  3. Good advice Mark! This gives an insured perspective of the claims process and the habits we are used to seeing on a daily basis.

  4. “Dead people rarely hire attorneys.” Oh, the humanity. Or actually, the inhumanity of these insurance companies.

  5. A good insurance company will pay the claim quickly to avoid extra expenses. I see a number of companies that pay quickly and a number that drag it out. If you had a bad experience with a company please change to a different insurance company as soon as possible. I highly agree with Mark and if you are having an issue with your claim, call him and he will take care of you.

  6. What an eye opening read...a need to know for everyone!

  7. That was interesting - I didn't know insurance companies acted that way.

    Appreciate the insights. Thanks!