Too many claims, too few adjusters!

February 22, 2008

Have you ever thought about what kind of service you should expect from the adjuster when you file a claim?

Haven’t you heard a story from a friend or relative about how badly the insurance company treated them when they had an insurance claim? I think most people have.

In today’s world, poor customer service is nearly accepted as the norm. Sadly, we are overjoyed and amazed when we get good customer service. We’re astounded and tell all our friends when we get great customer service.

Most people I’ve met who had a loss, and filed a claim, never thought for a minute about what kind of service they would get from the adjuster that the insurance company assigned to handle their claim. But, I’m writing today to make a couple of points that will be CRUCIAL to you collecting all the claims settlement money you’re entitled to collect:

1. The pool of qualified, trained adjusters is drying up.

I still read industry magazines. In the latest edition of Claims Magazine, and in the latest edition of Best’s Review, there were articles stating that the insurance claims adjusters nationwide, as a group, were marching on toward retirement years. They went on to say that there is a huge concern in the insurance industry that the most capable, most experienced adjusters are leaving the industry, and that there is a growing shortage of experienced adjusters in the North American market today. The articles also said that these days, insurance companies are spending less time and money training adjusters.

If the insurance companies are worried, YOU as a consumer should be DOUBLE WORRIED!!

Why?

Because inexperienced adjusters won’t be as thorough in the claims process. They won’t have years of experience to fall back on. They won’t know policy language and the claims process as well as the “old guys.”

Have you heard the old saying, “The Devil is in the details?” I’ve said over and over that the claims process is where the devil hides. Most of my book is about teaching consumers that they must educate THEMSELVES about the claims process. The claims process is NOT in the policy. The insurance companies will not tell you…the consumer…about the process, because if they did, the insurance settlement amounts would skyrocket!

You want a couple examples?

First: You’re in a traffic accident, and your car is damaged. The adjuster will likely tell you to go get three estimates from three different repair shops. They’ll want to pick the lowest one, or the middle one as the agreed estimate. However, there’s NOT ONE WORD in your policy that forces you to get three estimates. That is a waste of YOUR time. You should get an estimate from the repair shop of YOUR choice, not the insurance company’s choice. Then, the adjuster should work from your estimate. By the way, if your insurance company has “approved repair facilities,” you should know that they work for a huge discount, and regularly use cheap, aftermarket auto parts…which leads me to the next example.

Second: The insurance industry is totally sold on “aftermarket” parts for auto repair. These parts may fit your car, and may work on your car, but they are of inferior quality to the original equipment manufactured parts the automaker used to build your car. You should NEVER allow the insurance company to insist on aftermarket parts to repair your car. There is NOTHING in your policy that gives the insurance company permission to use cheap parts to repair your car. In fact, most policies guarantee you “like kind and quality” repairs. Aftermarket auto parts save the insurance company bunches of money, but only at your expense.

2. Knowing that the talent pool is shrinking, it’s more important than EVER to make sure your adjuster is qualified to handle your claim.

In Chapter 7 of my book, “Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED!” I wrote at length about the qualifications of an adjuster. I also wrote about what level of service you should expect from the insurance adjuster who handles your claim.

You should interview your adjuster and find out his education and claims experience. If you do not believe that your adjuster has the education and experience to handle your claim, you should call his supervisor and request that your claim be transferred to a more experienced adjuster. Further, I say in Chapter 7 that if the adjuster has less than two years’ experience, ask for another adjuster. If the insurance company refuses, call your state’s Department of Insurance and file a complaint.

Don’t allow yourself to be bullied by the insurance companies. But, that will require YOU to take responsibility for YOUR OWN education.

If you take control of your claims, you WILL add hundreds or even thousands more dollars to your claim settlements!

Check out my website at: http://www.insurance-claim-secrets.com

Finally, if you have a story about how your claim went badly, post it here, and we’ll discuss it.

Thanks for reading…see you soon!


Insurance Agents: How Does Yours Measure Up??

February 16, 2008

Insurance agents can make you or break you…how does YOUR agent stack up??

Have you ever heard a story from a friend or relative who filed an insurance claim, only to find out that the coverage their agent promised was not there?

Insurance agents can be some of the most important people you’ll ever do business with. They will help you protect your property, your assets and your finances. The work of an insurance agent has the potential to save you from financial ruin.

You could go through your whole lifetime and not need the services of an attorney. You could live and die and not need an accountant. But you can’t live in “the real world” without insurance agents.

But remember…it’s YOUR responsibility to learn which coverages are right for you.

I began my insurance career as an agent in 1973. I kept my agent licenses active until 1992 when I became an insurance adjuster. During that period of time, I sold nearly every kind of insurance imaginable. That gave me a depth of experience in insurance sales. But all of that experience did not make me an expert in insurance. I learned risk analysis and sales techniques. But I don’t think that I ever had one minutes’ training in how to handle a claim. When my clients had a claim, I gave them the company’s phone number and told them to call it in. We occasionally filled out an Acord form, which is a standard industry form for filing a claim. That was all we did.

The best agent is a person who has spend time studying insurance, not a person who is an expert in sales. The largest percentage of insurance agents of all types are sales people, not insurance experts. Your agent may or may not be an expert in insurance. You’ll have to simply ask your agent what his education level is.

There are a lot of colleges and universities that offer degrees in insurance today. In our area, the University of Georgia offers degrees in Risk Management and Insurance. It’s a pretty well-respected program.

Agents can also become experts in insurance by going through continuing education, such as the Certified Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) education program. Life insurance agents can achieve the Certified Life Underwriter (CLU) professional designation. There are other designations available to agents, but those two are the most widely accepted educational programs.

Agents in most states also have to complete a state-required number of Continuing Education hours each year in order to maintain their insurance licenses. If they don’t complete the hours, the state cancels their licenses.

An agent has a duty to you, called the “fiduciary duty.” That means that he must keep your financial well-being first in his priorities. If an agent sells you an insurance policy because it has a higher commission than another policy, he has breached his fiduciary duty to you.

Agents usually carry a type of liability insurance called “Errors and Omissions” liability insurance. Errors and omssions (E&O) is the insurance that covers the agent’s company, or the agent individually, in the event that a client holds the agent responsible for a service he provided, or failed to provide, that did not have the expected or promised results. This protects agents and their clerical staff from liability due to negligent acts, errors and omissions while conducting their business. It will protect the agent from problems like the following examples:

1. loss of client data. The agent simply loses your file, physically or electronically.

2. system or software failure. Computer at the agent’s office crashes and all data is lost.

3. negligent oversell. The agent sells you coverage you don’t need, or sells you coverage limits higher than necessary.

4. claims of non-performance. This is a broad category but needs to be. This could include charges that an agent did not sell the proper policy, or the proper amount of coverage.

The number 4 example above is the most prevalent and most dangerous for agents. Here’s why.

People today have multiple insurance exposures, like:

auto physical damage

auto liability

homeowner physical damage

homeowner liability

excess liability

businessowner physical damage

businessowner liablity

life insurance needs

health insurance needs

disability insurance needs

Any one of the exposures listed above can effect any of the others. They are intricately woven together in each of our lives.

Any agent doing business in the modern world should do an insurance analysis of any
prospect’s present insurance and his future insurance requirements. To fail to do so is an invitation for a lawsuit.

What does this mean to you?

In my never-to-be-humble opinion, ALL agents selling ANY kind of insurance should perform a Insurance Needs Analysis for the prospect PRIOR to selling the policy. In addition, I believe that an agent should carefully explain the findings of the Insurance Needs Analysis to the prospect PRIOR to selling the policy. Once the explanation is complete, the agent should require the prospect to sign off on the policies that are sold, and sign off on the policies and coverages that are not sold. “Signing off” simply means that the prospect states that the agent has explained all coverages, and he either accepts or rejects any given coverage.

Both parties..the agent and the policyholder…benefit in this transaction. The policyholder has a complete explanation of the policy he’s buying and its relationship to all his other insurance. The agent sells the right coverage, and significantly lowers the risk of a lawsuit or claim against his E&O coverage for selling the wrong coverage.

Here’s what an insurance analysis procedure should look like.

1. personal information collection: get as much information about the insured and his family members as possible.

2. get copy of existing policies: the agent should actually read the existing policies.

3. analyze insurance needs: determine the correct coverages needed and the correct policy limits.

4. recommendations: what should be purchased and prices.

5. application and sign-off analysis: fill out the application and have the insured sign off on the analysis form.

6. deliver the policy: An agent should deliver the policy in person and explain it again, not just send you a copy in the mail.

Even after all of the training and education that any insurance agent acquires, the agent is still not an expert in how to handle an insurance claim. I’ve had lots of people tell me that they were going to get their agent to help them with their claim. Later, they regrettably figured out that the agent didn’t know much more about the claims process than they did. As I wrote earlier, agents can become experts, but their expertise is customarily in the sales and needs analysis areas of insurance…not claims. For most agents, learning the claims process would be a waste of their time, since most agents are not licensed to handle claims.

Sure…some agents will be given a small claims settlement authority by the company they work for. Some agents will be able to settle claims up to about $5,000.00, and then only in the property side of the claim…such as a small water loss or a theft. But, for the most part, the insurance company concentrates claims handling with the claims employees and independent claims adjusters.

The most important strategies you should take from this article is:

1. Interview EVERY insurance agent to find out their level of expertise. Only do business with the most qualified, educated and experienced agents. Let the inexperienced agents practice on people who don’t care about protecting themselves the right ways.

2. Don’t always chase after the lowest premium. You get what you pay for. You’d be better served to pay a higher premium if a highly qualified agent takes care of you. You don’t drive the cheapest car you can find, do you?

3. Never be hesitant to call the Department of Insurance of your state if you have problems with your agent. Agents are regulated for a reason.

If you’ve had bad experiences with insurance agents, how about telling us about it?


Introducing Russell D. Longcore

February 10, 2008

Hi, folks! I’m Russell Longcore. I’m an insurance adjuster living in Marietta, Georgia. I’ve been in the insurance business since 1973, and the most recent 15 years, I’ve been in the claims adjusting side of the business. I learned a lot about insurance as an agent. But, I learned to most about insurance when I began to adjust claims.

Insurance is all about the claims side of the business. Wouldn’t you agree that nothing else matters than getting your claim paid IN FULL?

Most of the people for whom I’ve adjusted claims had never had a property or casualty insurance claim before. Most of those same people had NEVER read their policy, even after filing the claim. They had no idea what the claims process was, and they relied on me…the adjuster…to walk them through the process.

It is for you, and people just like you that I wrote a book entitled “Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED!” I show consumers how to take control of their insurance claims, and add hundreds or even thousands more dollars to their claim settlements.

Most times, people who have had a loss are on the raw edge of emotion. Isn’t is natural to be fearful in a situation where you don’t feel you’re in control…where you don’t know what will happen next, and you’re scared you’ll be “ripped off?” Most everyone has heard a story from a relative or friend about an insurance claim that went badly.

People like that need solid advice and a strategy on what to do to get their claim paid.

They need to understand the claims process completely so that they are not at the mercy of the insurance company, the claims adjuster and the claims examiner.

They need to be paid every dollar that they are entitled to collect.

They need to have peace of mind knowing that their claim was handled correctly.

Insurance companies rely upon the ignorance of their own policyholders. So do many claims adjusters. An uninformed policyholder will rarely argue with an adjuster, because they don’t know what they don’t know.

Let me repeat that phrase so you can think about it long and hard.

MOST POLICYHOLDERS OR CLAIMANTS DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW.

They don’t know what is in their insurance policy, and they don’t know the claims process, and that lack of knowledge can cost them thousands in settlement dollars and all of their peace of mind.

Everything that you must do to file a claim is in your insurance policy. WHAT’S MISSING IS HOW TO DO IT.

Think of it this way: I hand you a blueprint for a small house, and tell you, “Build this house over there on that lot.” I’ve told you WHAT to do…I’ve even given you a document that tells you what must be done. WHAT’S MISSING IS HOW TO TAKE THAT BLUEPRINT AND BUILD THE HOUSE.

Do you know how to pour concrete or lay cement blocks?

Do you know how to install shingles?

Do you know how to install electrical wiring?

You may build a house, but it probably won’t look anything like what’s on that blueprint.

If you’ve never built a house before, you won’t know what to do first…or next…or last.
House building takes experience. Or it takes very detailed instructions on how to build a house…step by step with no steps left out.

If you have NO EXPERIENCE in house building, then you must either rely on someone who does have that experience, or you must follow step-by-step instructions…or some combination of both.

That principle is exactly the same in filing an insurance claim of any type. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the United States, or Canada, or Brazil, or Japan, or Panama, or Germany, or France, or Egypt, or South Africa, or China, or India.

It doesn’t matter if your claim is a Homeowner, or Auto, or Commercial Property, or Liability, or whatever kind you may have. If you have NO experience in filing a claim successfully, and getting every dollar you’re entitled to collect, then you must rely on either someone who does have that experience, or you must follow the step-by-step instructions IN THIS BLOG OR THE BOOK…or some combination of both.

Insurance companies can increase their profits on your lack of knowledge.

I believe that what you don’t know can hurt you…it could even change the course of your life for the rest of your life. I believe that your lack of knowledge about the claims process could change the destiny of your children’s lives and generations into the future.

For example, consider a family who owns a home. The house burns to the ground, and everything they own burns with it. The family didn’t know that they had to keep their home insured to value, and did not have enough coverage. So the insurance company hits them with a co-insurance penalty that reduces their settlement by a big percentage. The family did not do a good job of taking inventory of their contents, because now they are forced to do it from memory, as the contents are now ashes. The contents are not insured for replacement cost, and the contents portion of the policy is settled for Actual Cash Value, or depreciated dollars. Their choice is to either take money out of savings, children’s college funds or their retirement savings to pay the difference. Another choice…if they don’t have any savings, is to simply rebuild or buy a smaller house and replace their belongings with a lot less belongings. That is, after paying off the mortgage of the house that burned.

Or, they could just rent a house forever.

Mom and Dad have their lives permanently altered for the rest of their lives. Because of the fire, there’s no money for college, and the children don’t go to college.

Everybody in that story suffered because Mom and Dad were not prepared. Even the grandchildren yet unborn will have their lives affected because their parents did not get a college degree, and that affected their parents’ ability to earn a higher income.

You see? One loss, not properly handled, can affect your destiny and your children’s destiny, and generations to come. You may accuse me of melodrama, but this stuff happens regularly.

In this blog, I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

Remember the scene in the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” where Dorothy and her friends are standing before the Wizard? He’s making big noises, and shooting off fire, and scaring them silly. Just then, Toto tugs on a curtain off to one side, and reveals a rotund little man behind that curtain throwing switches and moving levers. At this point in the story, Oz thunders, “PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!!!”

The insurance claims process is a lot like that. The companies don’t want their policyholders to question the claims procedure, or figure out that it can work very differently from the way that it looks. Insurance companies and claims adjusters want policyholders and claimants to be compliant and trusting. That decreases the size of the settlements, and increases the profits of the insurance companies.

I’m going to be your “Toto.” In this blog, and in my book, I’m going to pull back the curtain and show you how things really work. I’ll show you how you can take control of your insurance claims and your policies, and add hundreds…even many thousands of dollars…to your insurance claim settlements. These are dollars that you are ALREADY entitled to collect from your policy.

Dorothy had a little dog and three friends that helped her get to the Land of Oz. That was her team. Let’s stop for a minute and think about teams.

I started playing baseball on the Pee Wee League team in Kent City, Michigan, in the summer of 1962. I was 8 years old. I was always a second string first baseman, because my cousin Thomas was better than me at everything…hitting, running, fielding. All of the kids on that team were from that little village of about 600 people in West Michigan, and we had been playing together since kindergarten.

We won the league championship that year…and the same boys kept playing together as we got older. Our coaches were Don Kik and Pete Imkamp, and they administered discipline and love in equal doses to a bunch of small town boys.

We won every championship every summer until I was 14…Pee Wee League, Little League, Pony League, Junior Varsity. The summer I turned 14, we moved to a bigger town (a whopping 2,500 people) where my Dad had a construction business. As a sophomore in the spring of 1969, I finally became a starting first baseman. I played on the Junior Varsity at school, and that team won the conference championship.

I never knew what it was like to play on a baseball team that was not the champion. But remember, I wasn’t the star on any of those teams. I was an average player on a championship team.

But I still got to share in the glory…just like a star.

Have you ever been on a sports team? Did you play Little League baseball, or Youth Soccer, or football, or basketball? If you did, you know how important it is to have great players on your team.

You also probably remember how painful it was when your team lost.

Friends, the stakes are way too high when it comes to handling an insurance claim.

You cannot afford to have your team lose now.

When it comes to your insurance coverage…no matter what kind of insurance…you need to have a team. But…

WHO DO YOU HAVE ON YOUR TEAM?

The insurance company has well trained adjusters who are experts in the claims process.

ANYONE LIKE THAT ON YOUR TEAM?

The insurance company has well trained claims examiners who are experts on reading and interpreting YOUR insurance contract.

ANYONE LIKE THAT ON YOUR TEAM?

The insurance company has staff attorneys that can answer their questions if a legal issue comes up in your claim. The company will hire the best trial lawyers money can buy to defend the insurance company in court if your claim goes to trial.

ANYONE LIKE THAT ON YOUR TEAM?

The insurance company has Training and Compliance experts to make sure that the claim is handled correctly, and according to the state statutes where the loss occurred.

ANYONE LIKE THAT ON YOUR TEAM?

The insurance company has forensic engineers at its disposal, who will make engineering inspections and write reports for them.

ANYONE LIKE THAT ON YOUR TEAM?

The insurance company has forensic accountants at its disposal. These are accounting experts who can evaluate a complicated loss, like a luxury home or a business income loss.

ANYONE LIKE THAT ON YOUR TEAM?

The insurance company has personal property replacement companies at its disposal. These companies give super low prices to insurance companies on everything from automobiles to electronics to jewelry, and everything in between. You’ll probably have to pay retail.

ANYONE LIKE THAT ON YOUR TEAM?

The insurance company has salvage companies at its disposal, in order to take damaged goods and sell them, thereby recovering some of the money the insurance company paid in your claim.

ANYONE LIKE THAT ON YOUR TEAM?

The insurance company has private investigators at its disposal. These people will perform background checks, neighborhood interviews, public records searches, even conduct surveillance of YOU at home and at work.

BUT, WHO DO YOU HAVE ON YOUR TEAM?

DO YOU EVEN HAVE A TEAM?

DO YOU THINK THAT YOU MAY BE AT A HUGE DISADVANTAGE?

Keep reading…your disadvantage is just about to disappear!!!

If you have an insurance claim problem right now, and need some direction on what to do, please write to me. I’ll do whatever I can to help you.

If you have a story about a claim you’ve had that didn’t go the way you think it should have gone, post it here.

We are going to explore all kinds of claim strategies. Hang with me and I’ll help you work through your claims, and I promise you’ll collect hundreds or even thousands more dollars in your claims settlements.

Come back soon!!