Adjustment of Claims is 100 Percent Policyholder Service--Is The Insurance Industry Providing This Service? Property claims adjusters are supposed to promptly evaluate damage, investigate coverage, and provide full benefits to policyholders. Many claims organizations will say they do all this already, when in truth it is their greatest weakness.
As survivors of Superstorm Sandy start cleaning up the estimated $20 billion in destruction, homeowners need to prepare for another possible squall—with their insurance company, according to the latest data from the Consumer Reports National Research Center. When disaster strikes, your home insurer might not live up to your expectations, especially if you have a large claim, based on the results of our 2011 survey of 11,250 subscribers who filed claims in the past few years. Overall, almost 10 percent of respondents reported disagreements with their insurer over the amount of a claim payment.
In my speech last week in Manhattan, I referred to many claims organizations as the Three Monkeys (--see no damage, hear nothing from the policyholder explaining damage, and never ever speak about all the benefits available under the policy and how to maximize recovery).
No wonder the public insurance adjuster industry has seen tremendous growth over the last decade.
It’s no secret that Citizens Property Insurance Corporation routinely treats policyholders like numbers on a page.
Early this week I was asked by Fox 13 in Tampa Bay to discuss a situation involving a client represented by my colleague Kelly Kubiak at Merlin Law Group.
Insurance companies and insurance industry advocates consistently point to insurance fraud as a reason for higher insurance premiums.
Are insurers increasing profits by instituting a program of delaying, denying and litigating against legitimate insurance claims?
Often, the insurer’s reason for delaying or denying payment of claims is alleged insurance fraud by the claimant. In Chubb Calls Competitors Cheap And Unfair, I congratulated Chubb for pointing out claims handling problems within the insurance industry.
In fairness to other insurance companies, we are making a bibliography of cases, witnesses, and evidence regarding Chubb's claims and litigation pracitces. Dennis Wall is a veteran commentator on various claims practice issues and on advice to avoid bad faith accusations. The clear lesson from these recently enacted and revised state laws is this: Good faith claim handling -- particularly of claims for policy benefits and proceeds in the aftermath of a hurricane or another catastrophe -- requires prompt payment for any part of a claim that is reasonably covered. In an article published this week, Avoiding Bad Faith When Handling Catastrophe Claims, Wall makes a number of excellent points that are sometimes overlooked in the rush of adjustment that follows widespread disasters. Experienced adjusters have explained to me privately how they use similar techniques to help insurance customers get paid, despite company protocol which would mandate otherwise.
In several of my older posts, I wrote about different ways some insurance companies have tried to make a profit by changing the way a claims handling department is operated. The decision to hire an attorney can be a difficult one for policyholders, particularly for those who really have not had much exposure to the legal system and have never been involved in any sort of lawsuit or court proceeding.
And, it seems that in the claims department of many insurance companies, every element of the claims process was, in fact, transformed. The adjuster is not advised to tell the claimant that the attorney will not just take part of the recovery but will earn it, because claimants who are represented by an attorney receive two to five times more money from the company. These are very compelling issues that policyholders and victims should be aware of and strongly consider when pursuing a claim against an insurance company. A very fine insurance defense attorney, Brian Hunter, made a comment to yesterday’s post, Do Insurance Companies Overpay Claims? Assuming this is true, and it probably is based on the law of averages, how can we have any meaningful data?
Of course, in most cases, an appraisal award is a legal fiction that may or may not bear a rational relationship to the amount necessary to repair the property; but it is certainly and merely an estimate. What we do not have is reliable data in Florida during the past several years comparing claim payments with amounts spent by policyholders to actually accomplish like kind and quality repairs.
It is foolish to think that insurance companies do not track and audit closed claims files. Nowhere in the article is there any mention of a problem caused by adjusters underpaying their customers' claims. Instead, claims management is for reducing claims severity or lowering the loss ratio to premiums.
Adjustment is about giving the customer the service promised and paid for when the policy was purchased. But when damage was $25,000 or more, 19 percent disagreed with their insurer's assessment of what was due. Last week, I again asked for construction estimates and analysis Zurich Insurance Company consultants made last fall regarding a governmental claim. The case is a sad one -- Karina Wilson, who lives in Plant City, lost her house and everything she owns in an accidental fire.
By faithfully representing clients against insurance companies like Citizens, you’re helping those who need it most. But, if insurance fraud is such a problem, why are property insurers still reaping massive profits?
Reporter Drew Griffin interviewed insurance insider, Jim Mathis, who stated that during his time in the insurance industry some insurers took a position of delaying, denying, and then forcing legitimate claims into litigation, and reaped billions in profits in doing so. However, in the Allstate cases discussed in the CNN report, the insurer’s allegation of insurance fraud was pretext for denying payment of small, legitimate claims. We are making a survey of all bad faith cases pending against Chubb over the past decade and will only share the information with attorneys representing policyholders in litigation with Chubb.
It may vary from place to place, depending upon the local law, but the same concept still holds true. This can potentially include failure to request, investigate or evaluate information obtained and payments made on such other similarly situated claims.
I often ask public adjusters what type of treatment or practice a particular insurance company may undertake with policyholders who are similarly situated to my clients. If a policyholder has access to this type of information at the time of the claim, wrong claims decisions can more easily be determined. I can only imagine how daunting it could be to stand in the shoes of a policyholder who has paid hard-earned money for premiums only to find that it is necessary to sue the carrier to recover the benefits rightfully owed. Feinman addresses the goal behind various cost saving methods implemented by carriers, and he writes about yet another way that carriers can cut costs and keep more of the premiums paid by homeowners. Some people choose to hire an attorney, but we would really like the opportunity to work directly with you to settle the claim. Indeed, has anybody seen an industry article questioning that the claims industry should be concerned about underpaying claims?
He would critique the claims handler's activities to show where claims payments could have been reduced so that new adjusters would learn and the higher paying adjusters would be brought back in line with the group. With a claims management overly concerned about one side of claims inaccuracy, the answer is pretty obvious. Perhaps the insurance industry should consider the pictorial maxim of the Three Wise Monkeys sometimes has a fourth monkey symbolizing the principle of do no evil. Now, 8 months later, she has yet to see a dime from Citizens -- the insurance company she dutifully paid claims to for years.
A claim should be paid within either a reasonable amount of time or within a specific time period dictated by local laws -- usually 30 days -- of that portion of any claim that is reasonably proven as covered by the proof-of-loss statements. I can often find this information regarding insurance company practices and patterns within our firm. I know that many good insurance claims managers debrief their field adjusters and have up-to-date roundtables to raise information about claims issues. Some insurance companies also determined that they generally pay less on claims when the policyholder or victim is not represented by an attorney.
In some instances, homeowners have had policies with the same carrier for years and have never previously filed a claim, but, when they do, their claim is denied or the insurer fails to pay funds sufficient to conduct the necessary and covered repairs.
The various evaluations conducted by McKinsey of the different aspects of claims handling at Allstate revealed an important factor: whether the claimant was represented by a lawyer.
Attorneys commonly take between 25-40% of the total settlement you receive from an insurance company plus the expenses incurred. Is it the proof of loss, or the public adjuster's estimate, or the appraisal award, or something else? Regrettably, few court-appointed umpires have any specialized training in the construction fields, and many have never written an estimate of their own nor done any kind of construction work. The entire culture seems to be about driving down claims payments rather than getting the payment right. I asked him if State Farm ever returned money to a policyholder where he found a mistake that resulted in an underpayment. These types of inquiries are not novel, but they are rarely discussed in writing, as Dennis Wall properly observed. These informational sessions make the claims group better and more knowledgeable about how to properly handle claims issues.
As a result, it has become more appealing to an insurance company to resolve a claim with an unrepresented individual, and some carriers have spent money, time and energy implementing policies or procedures with the goal of dissuading policyholders or victims from hiring an attorney. Unfortunately, many homeowners find themselves in a situation where the only options they have left is to let the claim go or file a lawsuit and pursue payment. If you settle directly with Allstate, however, the total amount of the settlement is yours. Again, the study never discussed any problem with adjusters cheating customers by underpaying claims. So long as it is used properly, I think this type of claims information-sharing helps prevent less experienced adjusters from making major mistakes and should be a regular part of catastrophic claims management. Feinman’s book is that for some uninsured motorist claims, policyholders who were represented by a lawyer recovered ninety percent (90%) more than those without lawyers. For cases involving minor impact, soft tissue type injuries, unrepresented claimants recovered an average of $3,464, as compared to claimants who retained an attorney and recovered $7,450.



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