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.


The Tell-Tale Signs You Need a Public Adjuster

I’m always telling people to choose their battles. Whether it comes to your kids or other family and friends (or even work), there’s no need to be the devil’s advocate all the time. When it comes to a property damage insurance claim, it can certainly turn into a battlefield and it’s no fun. However, this is a battle worth taking on and it’s important to know what to do to minimize your stress and maximize your claim settlement which means getting what you are owed under the terms of the policy.

In this situation, it is always best to have a licensed professional on your side, especially when you are battling with an insurance company. You have the right to bring in a licensed public adjuster to represent your side of the claim. Here are a few of the tell-tale signs that make it important to secure the services of a claim professional:

• Documenting the damages. Most property owners don’t have the experience to recognize property damage or what to look for besides the obvious. An insurance company has an entire team of claim professionals protecting their interest – shouldn’t you? A licensed public adjuster is your team. A public adjuster is trained in policy coverage and most have worked at one time or another for an insurance company and therefore know the business from the inside out. A claim can quickly turn complicated and it will become crucial to have a knowledgeable claim professional on your side.

Public Adjuster properly inspects and documents the claim for you.

• Terms of your coverage. Some agents don’t even fully understand the terminology used and scope of the coverage they are selling, so how on earth are you expected to. Even just the basic terminology used in a policy is confusing and causes a need for interpretation. A licensed public adjuster is trained to interpret the coverage for you and decipher the exclusions and endorsements. This can be key to determining whether there is coverage or not based on the peril causing the damages. A denial of coverage is bad news and certainly deserves a second opinion of a licensed professional who works for you the policyholder.

Public Adjuster does the estimating and negotiating for you.

• Who has time to deal with the claim process? You have a job and kiddos to run around. The last thing you need to add to your to-do list is an insurance claim. A licensed public adjuster does the work for you alleviating the stress and time from your plate. This is particularly valuable when you consider having to make yourself available for every adjuster meeting, inspection, and expert visit for viewing the property. The time it takes to document the claim and then navigate through the process is reason alone to hire someone to do it for you. This becomes especially certain when dealing with a fire or flood claim and having to put together an inventory of contents affected by the event.

Hail and wind damaged roof.

• Insurance company is working at a snail’s pace. A property damage claim can become a lengthy process when an insurance company drags its feet and keeps you hanging. This can be especially frustrating when your property is a wreck or at risk of additional damage because of exposure. A licensed public adjuster can be the force behind pushing the claim through at a more reasonable pace.

A beating heart is the tell-tale sign that a public adjuster is needed when it comes to property damage insurance claims – the indicator, signal or sign that conveys the status of a situation. You’re not alone and life is too short to spend it fighting battles. Contact a licensed claim professional to evaluate your claim and help protect your most valuable assets.

Why Would a Roofer Say Don’t Hire a Public Adjuster?

Often we have a potential client call after they have visited with their insurance agent or maybe even their contractor or roofer. They question us specifically on why to hire a public adjuster. Usually this means they have already been told by one of the foregoing not to hire a public adjuster. Let’s just say that, in our opinion, if someone is telling you not to hire a public adjuster, then most likely that person views them as a nuisance to their work or has maybe had a bad experience in the past with one. Either way, there is a motive for this suggestion and, like any other profession, there are good ones and bad ones.

What you need to know is that a public adjuster is required to be licensed by the department of insurance in each of the states they work. The job of the public adjuster is to conduct a thorough inspection of the damages and to put together an estimate that fully encompasses the scope and costs of all repair. They are also going to do their best to protect you from any unnecessary costs that might be suggested by the insurance adjuster. Having someone who works exclusively for you also means that you have a licensed professional to manage and negotiate the claim start to finish, relieving you of much time and stress in a process that you have little or no experience with.

A licensed public adjuster also knows there is much more to hail damage than just your roof — windows, gutters, vents, siding, etc. Specifically, a roofer is most likely going to be advising you about just the roof and absolutely is not licensed to negotiate your claim with the insurance company and in fact is barred by law from doing so. A public adjuster is trained in policy coverage and knows the tricks of the trade. They most likely have previous experience working for an insurance company and know the business from the inside out.

The insurance claim process is not a fun one for sure. Just another reason for you to reach out to a licensed public adjuster in your area or another qualified claim professional and get the answers you need to get the settlement you deserve.

Insurance Companies Love UPPA (Unauthorized Practice of Public Adjusting)

The unauthorized practice of public adjusting (“UPPA”) is alive and well. From those contractors and roofers who straight up tell the policyholder they don’t need the help of a public adjuster to those husband/wife teams where one is the public adjuster and the other is a contractor (who are they kidding). There is a reason these practices are unethical and in some states against the law — it protects the policyholder from someone with an obvious conflict of interest and who is not qualified to give a thorough opinion. UPPA is a vehicle for fraud and takes advantage of the insured when they are most vulnerable. Far worse is when the perpetrator leaves the property owner in worse condition than before the damages occurred, particularly when these insureds are the elderly and/or non-English speaking.

Colorado Springs hail storm 2016

Some public adjusters who began their careers on the insurance side know firsthand about the love insurance companies have for UPPA, and how they even encourage it. Lots of insurance adjusters are instructed by their company to make sure the policyholder’s contractor is present for the inspection. This is because they KNOW that the contractor is not allowed to participate in the negotiation. Why would that make any sense? Well, the insurance companies want the contractor to be present for the inspection and meeting with the insured so that they can then tell the property owner “sure, take that and we can get it done for that.” If the policyholder feels confident they can get the work performed for the amount the insurance company is offering, then good deal, right? No, not good deal. What about other damages that have occurred that the contractor isn’t worried about and neither is the insurance adjuster? Your public adjuster would make sure that ALL damages sustained and covered by the policy are addressed.

Fort Worth, Texas commercial flat roof with hail damage.

There is a reason that one must be licensed to handle public adjusting. These claim professionals are regulated and require proper training and certification to be licensed to negotiate a claim on behalf of the policyholder. They have no affiliation with an insurance company whatsoever and therefore work independently solely for the insured, alleviating the conflict of interest when one tries to negotiate on behalf of both sides, which quite frankly cannot happen. You must pick a side and advocate for that side. In other words, if you are wearing an Allstate shirt then you are advocating for Allstate. A public adjuster is licensed and bonded and requires adequate training and certification. They are your exclusive representative and, with their experience and knowledge, they are more likely to obtain a favorable settlement of your claim.

The difference between using a licensed public adjuster and doing it alone.

With so many out there preaching that you don’t need a public adjuster or that a public adjuster may not be your best choice, it leaves one to wonder why do I need a public adjuster after all? The insurance company is like any other business. They are going to attempt to get out as cheaply as they can. The public adjuster is there for you to make sure that the insurance company pays what is owed on the claim based on the coverage you have paid for.

After the storm.

You pay a premium for this coverage and it only makes sense that you be compensated accordingly. It makes sense to consult with or hire a public adjuster to make sure the claim is handled properly. Only a public adjuster or attorney are legally licensed to represent you in the negotiation of your claim with the insurance company.

You Do the Math – The Push for a Legislative Remedy in Texas

A recent article by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram concerning SB10 proposing constraints on litigation surrounding hail claims in Texas includes some interesting numbers. According to the data contained in the article, there were nearly 400,000 hail claims filed in Texas in 2015 which resulted in 9,910 lawsuits. You do the math – that is a mere 2.4775%.

Based on these numbers, do we really need any legislative remedy?

The insurance companies want you to believe the claims that result in litigation are the cause of higher premiums and/or cancellations. Some of those companies even use the threat of pulling out of the state completely which they say would also result in an increase in premiums and narrow the pool of insurers to choose from.

Senate Bill 10 is not good for the Texas consumer and is yet another attempt at placing constraints on the consumer when it comes to being paid properly on a claim. Although more streamlined than previous attempts, SB 10 is still too broad and does nothing more than help pad the insurance industry’s pockets.

Looking to Place Limits on Hail Storm Litigation in Texas

Hail Storm Senate Bill 10 pending in Texas as a result of complaints and lawsuits filed following the major hail storms across South Texas. Texas Watch group is responding and calls these storm bills “tornadoes that are bearing down on every property owner in this state.” The passage of these types of bills would result in the policyholder being limited to whatever the insurance company says is right or good.


Hiring a Qualified Property Damage Insurance Claim Attorney

“He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” — Abraham Lincoln

This phrase remains as applicable today as it was 200 years ago when said. Mostly attributable to Abraham Lincoln, the above quote may have had earlier origins. In the context of our famous President, who was also a lawyer, he means that a lawyer should not represent himself or herself in court. The overriding principle is the loss of objectivity, the inability to see both sides of the equation, and, worse, to be consumed with punishing a perceived wrong.

However, the above quote also has universal application. Stated alone, you are taken more seriously when qualified people speak for you. Fundamentally, it relates a perception that you have other people on your side, which is important because it often feels like a David v. Goliath situation. Also, it sends a message that you are willing to take this matter further if needed.
In litigation, a qualified attorney is a necessity. Your chances of being taken seriously without are slim to none. Interview as many as possible and retain the one who has the factual and legal capacity to understand the claim, has the resources and time to do so, and most importantly, cares about you as a client.
While the right to represent oneself is provided for in both civil and criminal proceedings, legal matters can be complex and quite the challenge for someone with no formal education or training in the law. We are all human and humans have emotions. Emotions can cloud even the best of judgment, especially when you are talking about things of financial nature. When personally invested, emotions combined with the complexities of the situation make it obvious that professional help is necessary.
Another layer to personal representation to consider is, whether you’re hiring a property damage attorney or a licensed public adjuster, the experts are an important piece of the puzzle. For litigation purposes, anything outside of “common knowledge” requires the hiring of an expert. Specialists and/or experts have one thing certain in common, years of education and training in their area of expertise that can be used objectively in the given situation.
Representing oneself is likely to end badly. Just because you have the time to handle a complicated property damage claim on your own absolutely doesn’t mean that you should. Attorneys who handle these types of cases work on a contingency fee which means you have no out of pocket expenses and they get paid when the case is settled. So, if you aren’t paying anything out of pocket, then why wouldn’t you hire an experienced attorney to handle the matter for you?

Storm Damaged South Suffers Weekend Full of Devastating Tornadoes

The death toll continues to climb as we emerge from a weekend filled with severe weather and tornadoes. From Mississippi to Georgia, storms pounded the area with heavy rain, high winds, and one of the worst tornado outbreaks seen. A state of emergency has been issued in Georgia and Mississippi as authorities report at least 15 deaths in Georgia alone. – severe storms hit Georgia

Florida apparently was not spared from the devastation as tornado rips through Palm Beach damaging school district and other properties. The homes and properties there are generally built to sustain hurricane force winds, but that didn’t protect them from these severe storms. – schools closed in Palm Beach neighborhood

If you find yourself in a situation like this, there is help. Find a public adjuster or other claim professional near you to handle your insurance claim. You have enough to worry about without the added burden of insurance.

Why Hire a Public Adjuster or Other Claim Professional?

People frequently ask us questions like “why should I hire and pay my own adjuster when my insurance company already has an adjuster for me?” Well, the adjuster from the insurance company works for the insurance company, not you. Consequently, they have in mind what’s in the best interests of the insurance company. When you consider the items that the insurance adjuster may omit or miscalculate, it could potentially cost you a lot more than hiring a public adjuster to represent your interests.

The job of the licensed public adjuster is to conduct a thorough inspection of the damages and put together an estimate that fully encompasses the scope and costs of repair. They are also going to do their best to protect you from any unnecessary costs that might be suggested by the insurance adjuster, such as cleaning items that will end up having to be replaced in the end. Having someone who truly works for you also means that you will have an advocate to manage and negotiate the claim start to finish, relieving you of much time and stress.

Particularly when it comes to a large claim with a more complex scope of loss (fire, flood, tornado), it can be difficult for you to know if the estimate accounts for all damages accurately and if it is consistent with the coverage your policy provides. A public adjuster is trained in coverage questions and knows the tricks of the trade.

If your loss includes damage to your personal property as well, you must also consider the amount of time it consumes to document and inventory a large loss of this nature. The contents alone can literally take hours to put together. Then, you are still required to price those items and provide more documentation, which includes models, serial numbers, price verification, age, and condition. Most insurance companies do not have adjusters who inspect and inventory the contents loss for you – they will instead hand you a spreadsheet and tell you to get to work. Depending on the type and severity of the loss, the insurance company may even send a contents cleaning company out to take as much as possible to be cleaned. You can bet that in this case there will be many items taken to be cleaned that should without question be replaced, not cleaned and returned to you.

You wouldn’t use the same attorney as your spouse in a divorce, so why would you try to negotiate with an insurance company when there are professionals who do it for a living. These claim professionals (public adjusters) also know there is more to hail damage than just your roof — windows, gutters, vents, siding, etc. They know there is more to a flood claim than just sheetrock and paint — electrical, floors, windows, contents, etc.

No one has ever said insurance is fun. Just another reason for you to reach out to a public adjuster or other claim professional and get the answers you need to get the settlement you deserve.

Winter Weather Causes Property Damage – Hire a Public Adjuster

Cold weather is a bully and it will seriously expose the vulnerabilities in your home and launch its nasty attack. When extreme cold temperatures hit, so do the insurance claims. The cold weather can wreak havoc in the property insurance world because the claims that come in are usually spread throughout a very large portion of the country which means there is not a “pocket” of damage like we see when tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes or flooding occurs.

Winter’s cold weather claims naturally target homes that have a weaknesses and swallows them up as victims. This sounds like something from a horror movie but, if you think about it, this is true. When the extreme cold comes in, these deficiencies in your home become exploited and those vulnerable pieces are tested to the limits. The pipes that are not insulated well could freeze and burst, a small void in your fireplace might cause an ember to escape causing a fire, or it could be an electrical issue. Regardless of the weakness, old man winter is going to find it.

Here is a list of several areas that may be cause for concern:

• If you have plumbing in your attic or crawlspace, you need to make sure the pipes are adequately insulated.

• If the electrical system is not designed to handle the stress extreme cold causes, you may need an upgrade.

• If the home is not insulated well, additional areas of insulation may be a good idea.

These suggestions may be costly. Therefore, if you are unable to address them you may need to leave the water dripping, make sure your fireplace is functioning properly, and do your best not to stress the electrical components of the home.

Probably one of the biggest risks during winter storm season is the buildup from snow and ice. These perils are a threat to those big tree limbs overhanging the home which could break off causing major damage to the home. If you happen to escape winter this year without a limb falling on your house, consider yourself lucky and get those trees trimmed before the next storm season. You could also sustain damage from ice damning (buildup of ice accumulating at the bottom edge of roof). When the snow melts from the top, the damning causes a water back up under the shingles and into your home. Ice damns occur when the weather warms or heat from the attic space causes melting.

If old man winter does target you and cause damage to your home, you need to strongly consider using a public adjuster to comb through all damages and present this in the best possible way to your insurance company.  By design, this should increase your chances for a fair settlement.

In summary, if you live in an area where it tends to get a lot of snow accumulation, consult with a roofer to devise a plan that is right for your home to reduce the risk of ice buildup on your home. Your house can handle the cold bully as long as you know where it may attack.

by Roy Young, PA