Shortage of Insurance Adjusters in Wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

Hurricane season is at its peak and folks are still in recovery mode following the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Now, there appears to be a shortage of insurance adjusters, especially in Florida where basically policyholders are having to wait because the insurance adjusters are all in Houston because Harvey was the first to hit.

Insurance companies are advertising for adjusters and trying to build up their rosters to cover the areas hit the hardest. Simply put, they are using anyone with a pulse to help out because of the high volume of claims being reported right now. Property owners are the ones who will be left on the short end of the stick as inspections are being performed by people who just don’t have the experience or expertise to properly inspect and estimate the claim. This leaves huge holes in the estimate, huge discrepancies in the claim value, and makes it even more important for the property owners to hire their own claim professional and have an expert on their side.

There are lots of numbers and terms to get through when trying to figure out how much your insurance company is going to pay for your storm damage. Many times, the age, whether it can be repaired, and/or possibly discontinued materials will lead to complete coverage of the damages. In the claim estimates, most discrepancies arise because there are covered components missing in the initial insurance estimate. While is it nice to get your insurance check and begin the repairs, don’t rush to the finish line!

Your insurance carrier has a claim professional representing them – do you? Even if the insurance adjuster is an independent third party, they were still contracted by and work for the insurance company. Insurance companies would further lead you to believe that you, the policyholder, must get your own estimates to help in the negotiation of the claim. You are not an expert. You should hire someone to represent your side in the claim negotiation process.

Don’t be a victim twice, seek professional help with your claim.

https://www.marketplace.org/2017/09/14/business/hurricanes-irma-and-harvey-are-causing-insurance-adjuster-shortage

 

Hurricane Harvey Damages South Texas Crops

Hurricane Harvey made landfall at a really bad time for South Texas farmers. What was looking to be one of the best years ever may now turn into big losses in cotton and rice crops and others. Much of the area is still waiting for the water to go down so they can truly assess the damages. Some say it will take months and possibly a year for the loss totals to come in.

Read more http://at http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/09/06/548985185/texas-farmers-suffer-extensive-crop-losses-in-wake-of-harvey

 

Blue Tarp Law Taking Effect in Texas September 1, 2017

With the pounding South Texas has taken for days now thanks to Hurricane Harvey, people are asking how the Blue Tarp Bill (HB 1774), which goes into effect September 1, 2017, is going to impact these claims.

Consumers and business property owners need to be aware that written “notice” of a claim must be sent to the insurer prior to September 1, 2017 to take advantage of the existing 18% interest rate for unlawfully delayed claims. However, this applies to wind claims, not flood claims.

For a better explanation of the changes and how it may affect you or those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, see more at the following.

Hurricane Harvey Insurance Claims Misinformation

 

Storm Created Opening or Wind Driven Rain

Lots of folks don’t quite understand the difference between wind driven rain and a storm created opening. It’s complicated. The difference is usually only learned when someone is affected by either term as the result of a property damage insurance claim.

In 2016, the day after Christmas, the residents of Rowlett, Texas learned exactly what it means to have a storm created opening when their homes and lives were ripped apart by tornadoes and severe storms. The next day it rained, and the day after that it snowed, all the while their homes were still open and exposed to additional damage from the bad weather. Clearly the storm created the openings into their properties, so the insurance companies would be paying for any subsequent damage as well, right?

This question gets more difficult when there is not an obvious storm created opening and the insurance company claims the damages were instead a result of wind driven rain. Some might argue that high winds can also cause a storm created opening causing damage to your roof in less obvious ways, such as lifting a shingle which then causes a leak. While many insurers may attempt to deny those types of insurance claims, one should hire a claim expert (public adjuster) and argue for that coverage.

Wind damaged roof in New Orleans, Louisiana.

A public adjuster handling the claim works closely with the insured to provide the most equitable and prompt settlement possible. They inspect the loss immediately, analyze the damages, assemble claim support, review coverage, and serve the insured, not the insurance company. Just because an insurance company says a claim is closed or has made payment on a claim does not mean that it is finally settled. The insured must be satisfied with the settlement.

Often times insurance adjusters will determine causality based on what is in the best interest of the insurance company they work for. On the other hand, a public adjuster is a representative for the insured. They look for the real cause of damage to your property so that you get what is fair and equitable according to the coverage afforded in your policy. Not that all insurance adjusters are out to get you, but it does make good sense to get a second opinion, especially when it comes to one of your greatest assets – your home.

The Use of Drones and Other Technology for Insurance Claim Handling

There has been lots of recent talk about the testing and progress surrounding the use of drones and other technology by the insurance industry to streamline the claim filing process for the policyholder.  Here are just a few questions and opinions concerning the use of these tools.

  • Does the insurance company’s use of technology (drone and photo app) make the claim filing process easier for the consumer?

The use of technology doesn’t have any effect on making the claim filing process easier for the consumer (policyholder).  The use of certain technology, including drones and photo apps, is a great tool for both the insurance adjuster and public adjuster.  However, it in no way replaces the human aspect of claim inspection and estimating.

  • Should the use of this technology for claims processing be considered by the consumer as a factor when choosing which insurance company to use?

Absolutely not.  The use of drones and other technology by the insurance company could possibly help with the initial inspection and getting the claim started.  It in no way should affect the ultimate outcome or payment of the claim.  Therefore, it should not have any bearing on what insurance company the consumer chooses to go with to insure their property.

  • Will the use of technology streamline the claim filing process? Is that beneficial to the consumer?

To streamline the process would mean cutting valuable corners and missing valuable aspects of the claim.  While this may be a savings to the insurance company, it could be detrimental to the consumer (policyholder) and their claim.  The fact is that the insurance companies are a for profit business.  Therefore, any savings to the company will be pocketed and pad that quarterly financial report.

Summary:

The use of drones and other technology are great tools for both the insurance adjuster and the public adjuster.  However, its use cannot replace the human aspect of the claim.

First, let’s talk about a commercial flat roof and how difficult it can be to see the damage when you are actually on the roof.  Lots of times the adjuster needs to take a core sample to show that water has penetrated the membrane of the commercial roof as a result of the hail damage.  This type of damage is very difficult to pick up with an eye on the roof and therefore certainly would not be exposed from photos taken from a drone.

Next, let’s consider a widespread swath of large hail and whether or not the insurance company could fly a drone over to take pictures of the roofs of an entire neighborhood.  That would be a great start, but it doesn’t take into consideration the additional collateral damages – gutters, AC units, windows and window frames, patio furniture, fencing, etc.  There may also be interior damage from leaks caused as a result of the hail damage.  A drone certainly couldn’t take photos of any interior damage.

Some insurance companies are also utilizing the use of new photo apps to assist the policyholder with contents that are damages.  Most large content losses usually occur as a result of a fire or flood claim.  In those situations, the use of a photo app would be great for an initial documentation of the loss.  However, the insured is not trained in how best to take these photos and has no idea usually the amount of time it takes.  It also doesn’t consider that the insurance company will also request the insured to price and date the items, which a photo app doesn’t do for you.

You cannot replace the human element of adjusting claims, you just can’t.  ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE GREAT TOOLS FOR THE CLAIM INDUSTRY, BUT CANNOT BE A SUBSTITUTE OR REPLACEMENT FOR BOOTS ON THE GROUND AND EYES ON THE ROOF.

  • Message to the consumer should be that whatever means the insurance company employs for an inspection and estimate – human or drone/technology – the scope and estimate produced is still a result of someone who works on behalf of the insurance company, NOT the consumer.
  • In our opinion, the consumer needs to always consult and hire their own expert – public adjuster.

More information can be found at http://realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/why-isnt-filing-a-homeowners-insurance-claim-as-easy-as-auto-insurance

June 2017 Hail Storm in Minnesota Most Costly

For a State like Minnesota, known to suffer severe hail storms, 2017 has been a record setter. On June 11, large hail “devastated” the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Park, Coon Rapids and Blaine. As CBS local new there reports, the estimates are that this hail storm is the most costly in the last 20 years.

The Insurance Federation representative is already marking it as the third most costly storm in the State’s history. A local contractor to the area says that most homes will average between $30,000 and $40,000 to fully repair the damages.

http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2017/06/28/hail-damage-costs-north-metro/

Protecting Your Most Valuable Assets (Disputing a Property Damage Insurance Claim)

On average, we spend thousands of dollars each year on insurance premiums – property and casualty insurance, automobile insurance, life insurance, health insurance, etc.  Usually, the lion’s portion of this is spent on coverage to insure our most valuable assets – our home and other properties.  Whether it’s a residence, vacation or rental home, or business property, most folks have insurance in the event of a catastrophe or significant damage to their property.  But, what happens when an event occurs and damage is sustained but the insurance company either denies your claim or the estimate falls way short?  It’s never too late to explore your options and that’s exactly where a licensed public adjuster or qualified first party claims attorney comes into play.

Fortunately, most people go years and years without ever having a need for using their property insurance coverage.  Likewise, because of this, most people also don’t have much, if any, experience in handling a property damage insurance claim.  Between flat denial and gross underestimating by the insurance adjuster, confusion and shock may follow closely behind the filing of the claim.  Insurance companies are like any other business, they are in the market of tracking profits, even if this means shortchanging the customer – you, the policyholder.

Let’s just start by saying that initial offers are generally lower than what is owed.  The first estimate is likely to be basic and cut every corner possible.  Just a very small example of this is some insurance companies going so far as to pay for the number of shingles needed when everyone knows that shingles may only sold in bundles.  This is just one of many examples of how one might get shorted simply because of not knowing the difference or not knowing how to read the insurance adjuster’s estimate.  Considering the number of claims filed each year, these small cuts from each estimate add up to a small fortune kept in the insurance companies’ pockets.

The best thing to do is consult with and hire an expert in this area – a licensed public adjuster.  They work for you, not the insurance company, and are trained to read the policy and apply the coverage to make sure that you are getting exactly what you have paid a premium for.  They work on a contingency fee and don’t get paid until you get paid.  They relieve you of the stress and headache of trying to navigate through and negotiate something that is most likely out of your wheelhouse.  It’s what they do!

It’s kind of funny – the insurance company writes the policy, they interpret the policy coverage, then they estimate the claim and are in control of the money.  That doesn’t have to be the case.  You have options, you just need to be aware of what those options are and how to act on them.  It’s time to level the playing field and get what you are owed.

Enjoy the summer and let someone else do the work for you – a licensed claim professional who knows the ins and outs of the insurance industry and will do their best to make sure that you are not taken advantage of by someone just because they are bigger.

How Does the Insurance Company Justify Adding O&P (Overhead and Profit) to Everything Except the Roof?

How does the insurance company justify adding O&P to everything except the roof? To understand this question, you must first know what O&P means. In the insurance industry, Overhead (10%) and Profit (10%), commonly referred to as O&P, is owed when it becomes necessary to have multiple subcontractors perform work to repair damages to your property cause by a covered peril in the policy.

Your policy provides coverage for the cost to repair or replace the property damaged by a covered loss. Although not generally stated, this includes the cost of O&P. So, while your coverage includes this additional expense, many insurance companies use the benchmark that it is only owed if more than three trades are involved in the repair process. However, there is no binding authority on the 3-trade rule and the truth is that almost every property loss involves multiple trades. When you have a hail claim, it isn’t just the roof that is damaged.

How Your Insurance Company Just Kept 20% of Your Claim

Once you have a clear understanding of what O&P is, then it is easy to see where the question comes into play. How does the insurance company justify adding O&P to everything in their estimate except for the roof itself? The roof is the single most expensive item on the estimate most likely. By excluding O&P on this one item, it just saved the insurance company a bundle of money at the expense of the insured. Now multiply this by the number of claims just in your area and you get the picture.

Another excuse the insurance companies use is that they will pay the O&P if you can prove that the charge was actually incurred. However, there is absolutely nothing in the policy that states that O&P is only paid when incurred. In fact, it discredits the insurance adjuster’s estimate when they attempt to allow for O&P on everything except for the roof. It gives the appearance of an obvious money-saving technique when included on everything except the big-ticket item. The purpose of O&P is so that the policyholder can hire one general contractor to coordinate all repairs. That includes the roof.

It takes a licensed professional to sort through these types of issues and make sure that the policyholder isn’t being given less than they deserve.

The Hail Storm Bill (Blue Tarp Bill) SB10 Pending in Texas

Lots of news coming from Texas this week as the battle in Austin continues over the Hail Storm Bill (Blue Tarp Bill) (SB 10). Big insurance companies are the only beneficiary of passage of this bill.

“The easiest and most effective way to make more money is to increase premiums, to pay less on any claim, and to kill all the lawyers.” by Dale F. Kelly, Corpus Christi (Texas Trial Lawyers Association)

“Businesses can’t afford this brand of ‘tort reform’.” By David Loeb, Corpus Christi (Texas Trial Lawyers Association)

Consumers and business property owners need to be aware of what is going on and let your voices be heard before it is too late.

 http://www.caller.com/story/opinion/readers/2017/04/24/insurers-surviving-lawyers-just-fine-thanks/100839056/?platform=hootsuite

http://www.caller.com/story/opinion/readers/2017/04/25/businesses-cant-afford-brand-tort-reform/100884344/?platform=hootsuite

Use of Drones for Property Damage Insurance Claims Inspections

The adults are getting in on all the fun when it comes to personal drones. It was only a matter of time before the insurance industry found them useful too when assessing property damage insurance claims. From surveying the damages caused by storms, to inspecting roofs, to taking an inventory on insured crops, the drone has found its place in the business.

Allstate Insurance Company is using drones in Texas to conduct home inspections in the hail swaths. This is an effort to quickly handle more claims. Their plan is to compare the photographs taken by the drones to those already taken by field adjusters on the ground. Their intent is to free up more time for the adjusters to take care of other aspects of the claim all the while staying safer by not climbing ladders and onto roofs. Farmers Insurance says “we’ll get a faster inspection.” They say “it could take an adjuster a few hours to inspect this roof where a drone could do it in 20 minutes.”

drones for property damage inspections
State Farm testing drones for property damage inspections.

Is this truly what is best for the policyholder, a faster inspection? And will this savings in time for the insurance company result in lower premiums for the policyholders? I think we all know the answer to that question.  Nothing can replace the human eye when it comes to a thorough inspection of storm caused damage, especially hail damage. A lot of times, it is difficult to depict the damage from photographs taken by an adjuster who is actually on the roof. I can’t imagine that photographs taken using a drone would make this anything but more difficult.

inspects hail damage
Ron Crow, a FEMA public assistance officer inspects hail damage by a hail core spun off by a tornado on May 10. Photo by Win Henderson

A spokesperson from the Insurance Council of Texas believes that “the ladder might soon be a thing of the past.” Just another reason the policyholder is going to require the services of a licensed public adjuster to get a thorough inspection and estimate of the damages. If your insurance adjuster isn’t going to get on the roof, your public adjuster definitely is.

http://fortune.com/2016/09/02/allstate-drone-home-inspection-insurance/

http://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/community/fort-worth/article142863789.html