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

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.

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

 

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?

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.

Who Does the Adjusting? (Frenemies Part 2)

Let’s continue our discussion from earlier this week and cover who the frenemies are.  You or your public adjuster will be dealing with an outside adjuster who reports to an inside adjuster.  Here we will walk you through the differences and who is here to help you:

Outside Insurance Adjuster

The outside adjuster’s job is to determine the scope of loss, secure photos, and write an estimate for the administrator to review.  Even though the administrator has the final say, the manner in which the adjuster documents the loss has a huge impact on how the claim is settled.  The outside adjuster is the artist who paints the picture.  Most adjusters have some limit of authority, which forces them to submit their findings to the administrator before the claim can be paid.  A lot of times, the adjuster will either not commit to something until he runs it by the administrator or he approves something but it gets reviewed and changed or maybe even denied.

Inside Insurance Adjuster/Administrator

The inside adjuster/administrator is your inside person who has the authority to issue payments.  Many times, the administrator will review and reduce the amount of an estimate and/or advise the outside adjuster to modify the report.  Sometimes, this is the person who reaches a final settlement with the public adjuster.  When push comes to shove, when the public adjuster is ready to advise the client to take the claim to the next level, the inside adjuster may be the only one that has the leverage to settle a claim.

Public Insurance Adjuster

A public adjuster is your claim representative.  They monitor and track the progress of the claim while holding the insurance company accountable for what they owe.  From a birds-eye view, you can see that a public adjuster documents each loss on its own merit based on what they see is a reasonable means of repair or replacement.  The insurance adjuster’s approach is much more routine, restricted by time, and also controlled by company requirements with respect to documentation and estimate writing.  Without a public adjuster, your claim is being documented and estimated by adjusters who work for the insurance company, not you.  A public adjuster has the knowledge, training, and expertise necessary to advocate on your behalf and even the playing field with the insurance company.

Conclusion

While some insurance companies have the mindset of we are supposed to help “our” people, others do have a more fair approach.  Either way, the most important thing you can do is protect your assets and this begins with hiring a public adjuster or other claim professional.

The Frenemies of Adjusting

In the process of trying to make light of the relationship between adjusters in the insurance industry, the word frenemies pops into my mind. While some can be more friends than enemies, when the claim gets in the weeds the dastardly frenemies come out.

Comparable to Cinderella who had to deal with the two wicked stepsisters, public adjusters must deal with both an outside insurance adjuster who then reports to an inside insurance adjuster (who actually aren’t friends either). These “company adjusters” are usually overworked and some are good, some bad, and a lot just don’t have enough experience.

As Frenemies (an enemy disguised as a friend), these guys attempt to work together for a peaceful and fair resolution for the insured. But sometimes those attempts take a negative turn and the insured needs someone on their side. To steal a line from The Incredibles, the insured is left thinking man, I thought you (the insurance company) were supposed to help people. They do help people, they help “their” people.

The outside adjuster is responsible for the initial documentation of the claim for the insurance company. How they choose to paint the picture can be critical to the outcome of the claim. When the company adjusters stand by a messy canvas, then there are sure to be negative consequences to the insured. Sounds like someone should be in the dog house, but instead they leave this chaotic and uncontrollable mess to the insured to figure out.

A situation like this can cause lots of trouble for the insured if they don’t get a public adjuster or other claim professional involved at this point. It is only fair to level the playing field. Hire someone who also knows the ins and outs of the insurance business and how to reach a fair resolution of your claim and make sure you get what is owed.

They Want To Do What?

While talking to attorneys, public adjusters, and policyholders about what Claimside does and how we work, we get to hear all the crazy claim stories. Call me strange or call me boring, but I find these stories fascinating. Story after story of an insured not getting a fair shake or down right being taken advantage of.

One of the more recent stories involved a fire claim as a result of a lightning strike. Almost the entire second story of the home was damaged or destroyed, including the rafters and framing. The insurance company wanted the owner to tarp the roof to avoid further damage to the interior of the home. Well I’m not a contractor, but you don’t have to be to figure out that just doesn’t quite sound right.

First of all, that would potentially lead to unsafe access to the roof and would require temporary framing to be constructed in order to properly support the tarping. Without the proper support, you are potentially exposing the property to further damage because, if it rains, the tarp turns into a pool which potentially collapses and empties into your home. Now then we have a problem Houston. In addition to just how crazy this sounds, the insurance company also wants you to pay for this tarping out of your insurance claim proceeds (which is a total waste of your money that you will desperately need for the reconstruction of your home).

Fire claim
Fire claim 2016.

In addition to the structure damage, the contents of your home have also been damaged by the fire. These types of events cause lots of damage – fire, smoke, water and secondary effects of water (mold). The insurance company wants to try to clean as much as they can, instead of replace, but we all know that you just can’t get that smoke smell out. Have you ever test driven a used vehicle that was previously owned by a smoker? The dealership runs it through the mill and cannot get rid of that smell.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are arguing with the insurance company over coverage and/or damages, it is wise to seek the help of a claim professional. Locating and retaining claim help can protect you and your assets.