Public Adjusters: A Battle Looms in Florida

March 5, 2010

By Russell D. Longcore

In the State of Florida over the last twenty years, Public Adjusters (PA) have been very successful in helping policyholders recover all the money they are entitled to collect.

Way too successful for the insurance companies’ liking.

So, a major battle is looming in the State of Florida over the business practices of Public Adjusters.

Three insurance associations are supporting legislation to restrict how Public Adjusters operate. The Florida Insurance Council, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America and the Florida Property Casualty Association issued statements which criticize Public Adjusters…who represent homeowners in the professional preparation of insurance claims…accusing them of “inflating” claims, driving up costs for all policyholders.

But think about it for a moment, friends. The insurance companies enter into agreements with the PA and the policyholder to settle a claim. That means that “a buyer and a seller” agree on a price. Nothing forces the insurance companies to agree to a price they believe is too high. The insurance companies simply hate the fact that a policyholder goes into the marketplace and hires a claims professional to represent himself in the preparation of his claim. That is akin to the IRS getting mad at people for having their taxes prepared by an accountant.

State Senator Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, and Rep. Janet Long, D-Seminole filed new legislative bills in February. The bills (S2264 and H1181) seek to:

• Prevent Public Adjusters from soliciting customers either by phone or in person unless both parties had a prior knowledge of one another or were family members.

• Prevent PAs from sending mail to prospective clients in the first 30 days after a storm. Further, the bill seeks to force Pas to label their letters “ADVERTISEMENT” in 14-point font red letters.

• Prohibit PAs from informing a prospective client of their firm’s success record in obtaining claim settlements for policyholders.

• Cap fees for PA services at 10% for hurricane claims, and a 20% cap for all other property claims.¹

It is a criminal restraint of trade to suggest that a Public Adjuster cannot attempt to make contact with a prospective client for 30 days after a storm. After a major hurricane, communications systems are usually broken for a time. In most instances, the only way a PA can contact a prospective client in the dasy after a storm is through either a personal visit or mail delivery.

Insureds with damages have immediate needs for emergency board-up, mitigation of damages, Living Expenses and other policy benefits. The insureds will need this kind of help immediately, not 30 days after the storm.

There is no legislation that prevents a building contractor from soliciting business right after a storm. Same goes for a roofer, tree removal company, or a debris hauler. So, no restriction should be imposed on PAs either.

You don’t see a restriction on accountants in tax season. You don’t see restrictions on Personal Injury attorneys after accidents. Why pick on PAs?

Think about this also. Hurricanes happen in hot weather. Damages from water quickly become mold damages. Mold left untreated for 30 days could render a building entirely useless and could require demolition. Further, the insurance companies have written ironclad Mold Exclusions that you can be sure they would invoke.

The state legislators wish to deny policyholders the timely assistance in preparation of their insurance claims, under the guise of protecting the policyholders of the State of Florida. But this effort to too transparent not to be seen for what it is…a desperate insurance industry trying to maximize its own profits at the expense of the policyholders of the State of Florida.

A recent state study found that in the past six years, the Division of Insurance Fraud received 937 complaints about public adjuster-related fraud from insurers and policyholders. It investigated only 269 of the complaints and made 31 arrests from 2004 to 2009. Curiously, the study did not say how many complaints it had received from policyholders about their own insurance companies’ claims practices. Nor did the study show how many hundreds of thousands of claims had been filed from 2004 to 2009. But we do know that SIX major hurricanes struck Florida in that time period.

They were:

Charlie – Category 4
Frances – Category 3
Jeanne – Category 3
Dennis – Category 4
Katrina – Category 3
Wilma – Category 4

Let’s run some numbers to show how deceptive this report is and give some perspective.

Let’s say that the total number of property claims filed for all the listed hurricanes togetherover six years was 1,000,000 claims. You already know that this number is ridiculously small, since tens of millions of property owners suffered repeated losses in the hurricanes. But at 1 million claims, 937 complaints is less than 0.0937% of all the claims filed. That is less than one percent of a purposefully low estimate of claims. And in only 31 cases was there enough evidence for even an arrest, much less a conviction.

And 31 arrests…not convictions…over six years is not enough illegal activity to cause legislators to pass additional laws restricting the business operations of ALL Public Adjusters.

Looks to me like the Public Adjusters, taken as a group, are paragons of virtue. They should be praised, not pilloried…lauded, not legislated…decorated, not demagogued.

I wonder if Senator Mike Bennett and Rep. Janet Long would open up their financial records and disclose how much money they have received in contributions from insurance industry-related donors. My guess is that these Florida solons are bought and paid for by the insurance lobby.

Write to your own Senate or House representative and vigorously protest the enactment of these bills into law. Florida policyholders would once again be taken advantage of by the insurance companies if this bill is passed.

¹To read the bill for yourself, go to: Public Adjuster Bill

© Copyright 2010, Russell D. Longcore. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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Public Adjusters: How To Choose the Right Public Adjuster

June 20, 2009

Public Adjusters (PAs) are licensed claims adjusting professionals that represent the policyholder in the calculation, preparation and submission of a claim. They do not work for the insurance company. They work for YOU, the person or business who suffered the loss.

Public Adjusters only work on property claims, such as homeowners, apartment complexes, and businesses. They do not represent clients in auto or liability claims.

The biggest challenge for a policyholder who has had an insured loss is the calculation, preparation and submission of his claim. Most people do not have the expertise to submit an insurance claim, and they end up leaving hundreds or even thousands of dollars “on the table” that they are entitled to collect…but don’t collect. A PA will maximize your claim settlement.

I strongly recommend that you contact a PA any time you have a property claim. A consultation will customarily cost you nothing, but their representation could collect thousands more for you.

When it’s time to find a Public Adjuster, do the following:

1. Use your computer search engine and search for “Public Adjuster” along with your city or zip code.
2. Look in the Yellow Pages under “Public Adjusters.”
3. Go to: http://www.napia.com which is the website for the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters and get referrals in your area.

Contact at least two PAs in your area and interview them with these questions:

1. Are you licensed in your state?
2. How many years have you been a PA?
3. Do you have a specialty?
4. Can you provide a list of at least ten satisfied customers with phone numbers?
5. Do you have documentation of your success in insurance settlements?
6. Have you ever had a complaint filed against you with the Department of Insurance?
7. Please explain your fees and how you are paid.
8. Please provide a copy of your retainer contract.

Based upon the information you receive from each PA, and how you get along with them, make your choice which PA will be on your team. Then work together to collect every dollar that you are entitled to collect.


Hurricane Preparedness: Prune Your Losses

June 8, 2009

Hurricane preparedness goes beyond making sure your insurance policies are up to date. There are some practical things you can do around your property, whether home or business, that can lower the risk of storm damage.

The National Climactic Data Center published statistics for 2007 that showed property damage from storms at over $7.4 billion. 2008 totals were higher with the Texas hurricanes. I imagine that you do not want to be part of the 2009 storm statistics.

Let’s concentrate on the simplest remedies. When storms arise, the exterior of your home can be damaged by those high winds and heavy rain. So, roofs, siding and windows are the first line of defense in a storm scenario.

Here are some tips for lowering your risk exposure:

• Make sure that your roofing is in good repair. Well-installed roofs are less susceptible to damage.
• Make sure that your siding is tightly attached to the building.
• If a storm is heading your way, consider boarding up your windows to protect them from being broken by flying debris.
• Caulk windows and doors to prevent wind-driven rain from entering around the openings.
• Cut down unhealthy trees on your property.
• Prune tree limbs that overhang your home or power lines, or overhang your neighbor’s property.
• Clean out roof gutters so rain doesn’t back up and cause interior water damage.
• Move your outside furniture and other personal property into inside storage so it is not blown against your building or a neighbor’s building.

With these tips accomplished, your property has much less exposure to damage from wind and rain. Of course, if your area is struck by a Category 4 or 5 hurricane, missing shingles and siding will be the least of your worries.

At that point, you’ll be glad you updated your insurance policy.

You DID update your policy, didn’t you?


Hurricane Season 2009: Seven Tips To Be Ready

June 1, 2009

Today marks the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season, and early predictions by NOAA suggest that this will be an average season with as many as four to seven hurricanes.

The National Hurricane Center says there is a 70 percent chance of having 9 to 14 named storms, of which 4 to 7 could become hurricanes, including one to three major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5).

Hurricane season runs from June 1st through November. Tropical systems all get names, and the first one will be named “Ana” when it reaches sustained winds of at least 39 mph. Tropical storms become hurricanes when winds reach 74 mph, and become major hurricanes when winds increase to 111 mph.

Here are Seven tips on getting ready for hurricanes or tropical storms:

1. If you have property in a hurricane-prone area, seriously consider buying flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program. Buy the coverage now, not when storm clouds gather. Go to http://www.floodsmart.gov for more details.
2. Dig out your property insurance policy and read it. If there is anything you do not understand, call your agent and get your questions answered.
3. Make sure that you are insured 100% to replacement value. In this economy, market value has dropped, but replacement value is still high. A good average for replacement value is $80.00 per square foot.
4. Make sure that you have the replacement cost endorsement on the building and the contents.
5. Be sure what your deductible is. In many hurricane-prone areas, the insurance companies assess a deductible which is a percentage of the building policy limit, such as 2%, 3% or 5%.
6. Contact a Public Adjuster (PA). Have a conversation about the services a PA can perform for you when you have a major loss. Knowledge is power, but knowledge can also get you a lot more money at claim time.
7. Remember that if a civil authority issues an evacuation order, your homeowners policy will cover your Additional Living Expense while you’re out of your home. Read the policy for the details.

Let’s hope that this hurricane season will pass without even one storm striking land!


Insurance Appraisal Clause: Resolving an Impasse in Your Claim

March 7, 2009

What if, after all you’ve done, you and your adjuster/insurance
company are at an impasse on the value of your property? It’s now
time to invoke the Appraisal Clause in your insurance policy. The Appraisal Clause is found in all insurance policies, and was designed to establish a procedure to allow disputed amounts to be resolved by disinterested parties. The appraisal clause can be found in every homeowners policy, in every policy covering commercial buildings, in all business policies, as well as in every renters policy…even automobile policies.

The Appraisal Clause is usually found in the policy under the Heading “Conditions”
and/or “What to do after a loss.”

Don’t confuse the Appraisal process with Arbitration. The Appraisal Clause does not bind either party to its findings. In arbitration, the findings of the arbitrator are usually binding on both parties.

The Appraisal Clause is meant to be the method for determining
disputed values. Appraisal cannot be used to determine what is
covered. That is for a court of law to decide. If you have dispute with
the company on whether or not something is covered, then you must
file a lawsuit against your insurer to get that determination.

HERE’S A REALLY IMPORTANT TIP!!! You don’t have
to wait until you’re hopelessly deadlocked with the adjuster or insurance company to invoke the Appraisal Clause. The Appraisal procedure has been invoked more often by insurers, who have greater understanding of the terms and conditions of their policies. But
you, the insured or policyholder, can do it any time.

I’m not suggesting that you become uncooperative. But occasionally, I
talk to people who are having real difficulties with their adjuster or
insurance company. Taking the claim to Appraisal sometimes stops
all the drama.

In my experience as both an appraiser and an umpire, I’ve found that disputes can be resolved more quickly by appraisal than the resolution you might get with litigation. The cost of the appraisal process is also significantly lower that the cost of litigation.

Here’s what the Appraisal Clause reads in my Homeowner
Insurance policy:

“If you and we fail to agree on the amount of loss, either may
demand an appraisal of the loss. In this event, each party will choose
a competent appraiser within 20 days after receiving a written request
from the other. The two appraisers will choose an umpire. If they
cannot agree upon an umpire within 15 days, you or we may request
that the choice be made by a judge of a court of record in the state
where the “residence premises” is located. The appraisers will
separately set the amount of loss. If the appraisers submit an
agreement to us, the amount agreed upon will be the amount of loss.
If they fail to agree, they will submit their differences to the umpire.
A decision agreed to by any two will set the amount of loss.

Each party will:
a. pay its own appraiser, and
b. Bear the other expenses of the appraisal and umpire equally.”

Each party appoints an independent, disinterested appraiser. In past experience, I’ve seen the insured or policyholder try to appoint his own Public Adjuster as the appraiser. This should never be done, as the PA is not a disinterested party.

The appraisers evaluate the loss independently. The appraisers can still negotiate and reach an agreed amount of the damages. But, if they cannot agree, they work together to choose a mutually acceptable umpire. If the two appraisers cannot agree on the selection of an umpire, either side may appeal to the local court for the appointment of someone to serve in that capacity.

An umpire must also be a disinterested party, and must be impartial, of good moral character and possessing a good reputation. He also must be willing to listen. No umpire should be chosen that has any financial interest in the outcome of the appraisal. Any other consideration other than the hourly rate of compensation for the umpire is not acceptable.

Once the umpire has been chosen, the appraisers each present their loss assessment. Often, this involves informal testimony from the parties involved in the claim. To help the umpire gain a more complete understanding of the details of the loss, the appraisers and the umpire sometimes meet at the loss location and review the loss details. The umpire will subsequently provide a written decision to both parties. If any two parties agree to the amount of the loss, that amount becomes the claim amount. However, if one of the parties does not agree, then the case can still be turned over to legal counsel for litigation.

Question: May the insured or insurer reject the other parties’ choice of appraiser?

Answer: In 2005, the New York Department of Insurance issued a ruling on this question as follows:

“Whether an appraiser appointed by either of the parties is competent and disinterested (or “independent”) is a question of fact for a jury and is outside the determination of this Department.”

ANOTHER TIP!! Notice that there are very specific time limits in the Clause. You MAKE SURE that you choose your appraiser and notify the adjuster within the time limit in your policy. The time limit for both appraisers to choose an umpire begins on the day that both sides choose their appraiser.

Watch very carefully to see if the insurance company and/or
adjuster chooses their appraiser within that time limit. If they do not,
they have violated the terms and conditions of their policy.

My recommendation, in the event of an appraisal, is to call a Claims Consultant. You might also consider contacting a public adjusting company in your area. The Claims Consultant or PA know insurance policies, know the Appraisal Clause, and know property values. The Claims Consultant or PA are the perfect choices for helping you prove the values of the property of your claim.


Insurance Claims Adjusters: Five Secrets of Getting Your Way With Claims Adjusters

January 21, 2009

Insurance claims adjusters are, for the most part, very nice people in a tough job. They are caught in between the insurance company that wants them to control the claim settlement amount, and you, the policyholder or claimant, who wants the very highest settlement amount possible.

But I’m not nearly as concerned about them. If they don’t like their job, they can quit. Nobody is forcing them to be claims adjusters.

I’m mostly concerned about you, the policyholder.

The book that I wrote, “Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED!” shows consumers all the ways that they can take control of their insurance claims, and add hundreds or even thousands more dollars to their claim settlements. Many of the strategies in the book are confrontational. But you can learn to confront honestly without unpleasantness.

Insurance companies have games and scams that they use to delay claims and minimize settlements. Policyholders and claimants are usually placed under financial hardship when they have an insured loss. Few of the people I’ve ever met who had a claim could afford to repair or replace their damaged goods out of their bank account. Most of the time, people depend upon the restitution they receive from the insurance company.

Insurance companies know this, and rely upon it. They know that delays will place pressure on policyholders and claimants, and that makes them more willing to accept lower settlements.

Back in September 2008 I wrote and posted an article about “Dealing with Adjusters.” It has been one of my most popular articles. Thousands of people have read it. But today I want to put a spin on that article and make an even more obvious point.

When you are dealing with claims adjusters, make sure that you are ALWAYS pleasant, well-mannered, and polite. You can’t control them, but you CAN control YOU.

You need to “nice them to death!” Make sure you are doing the following:

1. Speak calmly whether in person or by phone, no matter what your level of frustration may be.

2. Make your requests for payment, documents or any other requests politely, and make them in writing.

3. Be firm but respectful when you are using a claim strategy. Being demanding will only make the adjuster feel threatened, and he will want to resist your demand to prove he cannot be controlled by you.

4. When you write a letter, be sure that you are polite and respectful. Simply state what you want them to do and remember to say “please” and “thank you”…just like your mother taught you.

5. Do not, under any circumstances, lose your temper! Words said in anger are impossible to retract. You can apologize as much as you want, but better to say things for which you will not have to apologize. Be in control. If you feel like blowing up at your adjuster, end the meeting or phone conversation and come back another time to finish your business.

I promise you that you will never regret maintaining your composure when you are immersed in the claims process.


Tornadoes, Floods, Wildfires and a New Hurricane Season!

June 14, 2008

After the March tornadoes, I posted a Top Ten List of extremely important things to do after your property is damaged in a disaster. In the next ten postings, I’m going to expand on each of the strategies in the Top Ten List.

Back in March, we here in the metro Atlanta area had an F4 tornado strike the downtown area of Atlanta. That tornado did about $300 million in damages. About a month later, another group of twisters hit between Atlanta and Macon, doing about the same amount of damage.

Now, we’re seeing tornadoes all over the middle of the USA, and massive flooding has struck four or five states, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. And don’t forget the wildfires charring Southern California.

But…cheer up! We have a long Hurricane Season that began June 1, and goes until the end of November!!

The following is an excerpt from my book, “Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED!”

The first strategy in the Top Ten List is….SLOW DOWN.

How many times have you heard an insurance company’s radio or television commercial say how fast they settle claims? That really sounds good, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want their claim settled quickly?

But my long experience as an adjuster has been that hastily settled claims are settled far below what they are worth. It’s almost as if the policyholder or claimant becomes willing to give the insurance companies a big discount in return for the speed of getting a settlement check.

Don’t be one of those people who are motivated by a quick settlement check.

I’m not suggesting that you should drag your feet and be uncooperative in the process. You should be very cooperative…but on your own terms, not the insurance company’s terms. I’m saying that if you are in control of the claims process like you should be, it will not usually be speedy.

The process will move along in a businesslike manner, but you must not allow yourself to be rushed into a settlement. Even if the insurance company sends you a check before you’re ready to settle, you’re not required to cash it.

Let’s look at the first 24-48 hours after you have a loss. It really does not matter if your loss is small or large or a jumbo catastrophic disaster. It does not matter if your loss is a property loss…like a hurricane or flood or tornado or fire, or a casualty loss, like an automobile accident. There are some things that you must do to protect yourself, your family and your property.

FIRE, CATASTROPHIC WINDSTORM (HURRICANE/TORNADO) OR FLOOD CLAIMS

FIRST THING TO DO IS TO CONTROL THE SITUATION

1. Make sure everyone is safe and accounted for…including the pets.

2. Get medical attention for anyone in the family that needs it…including the pets.

3. Contact your public utility companies. Have them send out a technician to shut off the water, power and gas immediately. That itself will increase the safety factor in your damaged dwelling.

Speak with the Fire Marshall and the local Building Inspector regarding the safety of the dwelling. You want to be sure it’s safe for you to enter the dwelling after the loss. If it is not safe, don’t go in there…no matter what. You can replace STUFF, but you cannot replace YOURSELF.

AFTER THE UTILITIES ARE SHUT OFF, AND BEFORE THE RESTORATION COMPANY BOARDS UP THE DWELLING…SAFELY do the next step.

4. Camera work

Get hold of a video camera and a couple of video tapes. You might need a floodlight or other very powerful battery-powered light. If your dwelling is safe to walk through, take video footage of every room in the house where there is damage. Take footage from every angle in every room. Make sure you take footage of your damaged contents. Shoot footage inside closets…in open drawers, inside boxes, on bookshelves, inside cabinets, in the garage where lots of junk is stored. Take shots of all four sides of your home from the outside. Take footage of the debris in the yard, especially if it has contents items that the fire department threw out in the yard.

If you can’t get a video camera, then use a digital camera and take still photos. If you can’t get a digital camera, use a 35mm camera. Use the camera in your cell phone. Heck, use disposable cameras. JUST TAKE THE PHOTOS AND GET YOUR DAMAGES ON FILM!!

NEVER give your film negatives or original videotape to the adjuster. Give copies of the photos and videos, if they ask for them. Keep track of your expenses for photos and videos…you can recover that cost.

Want to know why camera work is so important?
-A photo is worth a thousand words.
-Photos trigger memories, and remind you of building and contents items that were destroyed or damaged.
-Time is of the essence. If you’re adjuster can’t get to your property for a couple days (or weeks in hurricane losses), and you need to protect your property, you can carefully photograph the areas that you are protecting before you cover them or alter them. That way, you’ve preserved evidence of the damages.

5. Notify your relatives or closest friends of the loss. Friends and relatives can be extremely helpful to you…but only if YOU control what they do.
A. Do NOT take advice from your friends and relatives, unless they have experienced a loss EXACTLY like yours, and were successful in getting every dollar they were owed. If that actually happened, they probably have a copy of this book and followed my advice to the letter.
B. Friends and relatives can be great witnesses of the damage. They can help take photos and videos. They can be witnesses when you meet with the adjuster or your contractor. They can babysit for you. They can store things temporarily for you. They can take care of your pets. They can make beer runs to the store for you while you’re taking care of your claim.

6. Notify the insurance company. It is certainly acceptable to phone the agent or company claim department first, but be aware that many policies require you to report a claim in writing. Make sure you know what your policy language says regarding submitting a Notice of Loss. THIS IS CRUCIAL!!! If you do not notify your insurance company of your loss in the way the policy says to do it, your claim could be denied.

7. Determine what it’s going to take to secure your property and protect it from further loss. This is part of your responsibility in your insurance contract. If necessary, contact a disaster restoration company to board up the building, or tarp the roof, or extract the water, etc. IF YOU DO THE WORK YOURSELF, OR ALLOW OTHERS TO DO FREE WORK FOR YOU, THE INSURANCE COMPANY MAY NOT PAY YOU FOR YOUR TIME.

8. SERIOUSLY CONSIDER HIRING A PUBLIC ADJUSTER (PA) IN THE FIRST 24-48 HOURS (see Chapter Nine about Public Adjusters in my book).

9. If you need to contact an emergency service provider or disaster restoration contractor, go to the websites listed below to find one.

SUPER IMPORTANT TIP!!!

A restoration contractor is very different than a general contractor. Most general contractors who do remodeling or new construction do not have the skills and knowledge that a restoration contractor has.

For one thing, the restoration contractor is very familiar with the insurance claims process, and how insurance companies pay for repairs. The restoration contractors use similar estimating software to that used by the adjusters and insurance companies. A general contractor who submits an estimate in an unacceptable form to the insurance company or adjuster just annoys them, and slows down your claim.

Another reason to find restoration contractor is that they are usually full service contractors. They will be able to do temporary or emergency cleanup and board up. They will own the equipment for drying and water damage remediation. They are familiar with the kinds of damage that fires, wind and water do to homes. Finally, they are experts at writing accurate estimates for these specific kinds of damages.

General contractors who do not make their living in insurance restoration do not have this kind of equipment and experience. Period.

You can also look in your local Yellow Pages under “Disaster Restoration,” or “Fire Restoration,” or “Water Damage Restoration.” Look for logos that say “DKI,” or “ASCR,” or “AAORC.”

DKI – Disaster Kleen-up International. Headquartered in Chicago, IL, is a network of the leading independent property damage restoration contractors across North America. You can ask for a referral at 888-735-0800, and also find them at: http://www.disasterkleenup.com

ASCR – The Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration, Inc. is the leading trade association for cleaning and restoration professionals worldwide, and the foremost authority, trainer and educator in the industry. You can ask for a referral in your area at 800-272-7012, or the website: http://www.ascr.org

AAORC – American Association Of Restoration Contractors, is a national network of reputable and reliable restoration contractors who provide top-notch restoration services. You can call them toll free at 866-771-1525, or the website: http://www.aaroc.com

Call at least two restoration contractors, if possible. Ask them to meet you at your home to inspect the damage within 24 hours of the loss.

Remember this important point…there is NOTHING in your policy that requires you to get two or three estimates. Meeting two contractors is just a smart way to find one that you like best and want to work with. Check out their references, and ask them for a list of satisfied customer that you can call by phone. ONLY AFTER THE CONTRACTOR CHECKS OUT should you hire him.

10. TIME TO GET ORGANIZED

Start A File

You must create a file immediately after your loss. Go to an office supply store and buy one of those cardboard accordion-like expandable folders that can hold lots of paperwork. Even a cardboard box with a lid on it is acceptable for keeping everything inside it. You don’t have to be fancy, just keep everything in one place. Your file also must be portable, so that rules out using a filing cabinet at home.

During the recovery process, place the following in your file:
Current copy of your policy. If you don’t have a copy handy, call your agent and have him get you a copy immediately.
Copies of all written correspondences (don’t forget emails) between you and ANYONE regarding your claim.
Phone, fax and email address record for everyone involved in the claim.
Photos you have taken of the damages…and the repairs. This includes videotapes or still photos of the damages that you took immediately after the loss.
A cassette tape of your own recorded statement about how the loss occurred. (See Chapter Twenty Five, Recorded Statements.)
A cassette tape recorder, batteries and spare tapes for recording EVERY conversation that you have with the adjuster, claims examiner, appraiser, engineer, attorney, contractor…ANYONE with whom you discuss this claim.
Receipt envelope. ALL receipts pertaining to this loss should be in that envelope. NEVER give the insurance company your original receipts. They should get copies.
Expense log: emergency services, living expenses, mileage, even extra child care, or boarding your pets…ANYTHING that you have to pay for that relates to this loss.
City, County, and State Building Code requirements in writing.
Copy of your state Department of Insurance statutes on Bad Faith Claims, or Unfair Claims Practices. (See the book Appendix for a list of all 50 states’ insurance departments, and their phone numbers. You can also find this free information at my website, http://www.insurance-claim-secrets.com ).
Waiver of Lien forms (See Chapter Thirty, Settling Your Claim). These forms are also downloadable at the website.
Worker’s list. A list of everyone who works on your home, who they work for, and what work they’re doing. Taking their photo would be a great idea, also.
Professional reports, such as an Engineer report, Cause and Origin report, Fire or Police report, etc.
Copy of all estimates.
Copy of all repair contracts. NO WORK WITHOUT SIGNED CONTRACTS. Also, contractors occasionally find hidden damages that will require supplemental repair costs. YOU are responsible for these costs, even though the insurance company agrees to pay. The insurance company doesn’t own your house…you do. GET IT IN WRITING.
Copies of any advance payment checks you receive from the insurance company.
If you have a contractor, or ANYONE who works on your damaged property, get a copy of their insurance certificates that show their liability insurance is in effect. No insurance, no work. Period. You CANNOT afford to have a worker get hurt on your premises and file a claim against you for liability or medical expenses.

Keep a Journal

Buy a journal book, or just simply use a standard sized legal pad as your claims journal. This means that you should write down EVERYTHING that happens in your claim.

Write down every phone conversation: Date, time, phone number, who you talked to, what was said.

Write down every meeting: Date, time, length of meeting, people in attendance, what was discussed.

Write it down WHEN IT HAPPENS. Don’t rely on your memory a few days later. You’ll be sorry if you try that.

11. Meet the adjuster. (First, read Chapter Seven, Claims Adjusters.)

The following procedure is what a professional claims adjuster SHOULD DO at your first meeting:
Introduce himself and give you his business card.
Sit down with you FIRST and explain what he is about to do.
Find out from you if you’ve ever had a loss before.
READ YOUR POLICY WITH YOU, and answer all of your questions.
Explain in detail the claims process, and the steps he will be taking.
Explain to you, the insured, what your responsibilities are in the claims process.
Then, after all of that…..he should inspect your damage.

If your adjuster does NOT do all of the above, in basically that order…you must realize that you may have a problem right away.

Here’s another tip about adjusters. Most adjusters are likeable people, and try their best to get along and be pleasant. Occasionally, you’ll find an adjuster who is disagreeable, rude and sharp tongued. If you find that you don’t get along with the independent adjuster that has been assigned to your claim, call his supervisor and request that another adjuster be assigned to this claim. Make your request politely but firmly. You do not have to take abuse and poor treatment from an adjuster. If the claims supervisor won’t change the adjuster, call the insurance company and ask them to assign the claim to another adjusting company.

If you’re dealing with the insurance company’s staff adjuster, and getting treated badly, call his supervisor and firmly request another adjuster. If the supervisor doesn’t cooperate, go to his supervisor. Keep going up the ladder until you get what you want. If none of this works, call your State Department of Insurance and file a complaint.

Many times you can meet the adjuster at your location on the same day as the loss occurred. That’s the ideal situation. Some damages can be mitigated (made less severe) by the speed that cleanup begins. For example, you have an icemaker supply line that bursts while you are out, and the red oak wood floor in your dining room gets very wet. If you can get the water up off the floor, and drying equipment in the room quickly, the floor will likely not swell and buckle…and the floor can be saved. If you had to wait 1-2 days for the adjuster to arrive, the floor would likely have to be replaced at much higher cost.

At this first meeting with the adjuster, make requests for advance payments, if necessary. (See Chapter Nineteen, Advance Payments.) If you’ve had a major Contents loss, like fire, smoke or water damage, you’ll need to replace some of these items quickly. If you have had a loss which leaves you unable to live in your home temporarily, you’ll need money to pay for hotel rooms, or temporary housing, or a short term lease for a house or apartment (Additional Living Expense coverage). Insurance companies will make these types of advance payments to the insured when the advance is requested. They seldom offer an advance.

That’s all for this first strategy. Watch for more crucial information on the other strategies in the Top Ten List!

For more information, go to: http://www.insurance-claim-secrets.com