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Hurricane Irma Damage — Insurance Companies work for themselves


Hurricane Distress

We are all tired of hearing about Hurricane Irma, but I am afraid we have only just begun.

I worked for the insurance industry, adjusting a variety of claims, for over 16 years and handled thousands of property damage claims.

And, then I left the insurance industry because I could not sign on to the whole, “it’s just business” when dealing with people’s loss of life and property.

I had great bosses in the insurance industry. Fair minded people who thought we should deal fairly with policyholders. Those people in the insurance industry are rare and seldom rise through the ranks of “success”.

The fact is, insurance is a business and it is about profits. Insurance companies are not our friends, they are understandably looking out for their own best interests. This may be understandable, but it does not level the playing field for unsuspecting policyholders.

So, I was not surprised to read in the Daily Business Review that:

“…insurance companies and their agents are advising policyholders not to hire attorneys and public adjusters, an action that is not permitted under state law.

“…we received three reports [saying a] policyholder was told not to hire a public adjuster or an attorney,” said Nancy Dominguez, managing director of the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. “Insurance companies are not supposed to be telling people not to hire a public adjuster or an attorney.”

Nevertheless, policyholders are being told that doing so will delay their claim, or that the lawyers and adjusters are “just going to take your money,” Dominguez said.”

When insurance companies face catastrophic losses, it is, in fact, ALL about business. Adjusters who come out to meet homeowners and commercial property owners are not representing the owner (the insured), they are representing the insurance company.

You can be sure that the performance of an adjuster will not be gauged by how fair they were with a property owner or how much damage they could compensate. They will be judged on how fast they closed claims; how much money they saved the insurance company; and how many clams they could handle in a given period of time.

Sometimes you get a good, seasoned adjuster who understands the professional handling of a claim and the good faith obligation owed to the company’s insured. There are many out there, but there are also, particularly during a catastrophe, adjusters assigned who are not competent to handle catastrophic claims…and especially large, complex damage situations.

Besides being an adjuster, I was a contractor in a former life, so when I was adjusting building damage claims I had a firm understanding of both the damage and the method of repair. But, I was not an engineer; so, the subtle nuance of damage causing instability and structural weakness in a building, I left to qualified engineers. I was also not an expert in mold remediation, curtain wall integrity or tree removal. I looked to experts for those and other areas of specialty.

Insurance companies, often, will not want to spend the money on engineers, mold remediation professionals and other experts to assist in determining damage. They will sometimes not suggest those types of experts and seldom will they employ them on their own.

The wind induced damages wrought by Hurricane Irma will be, often, both extensive and unique to repair. There will be obvious damages to structures, but the tougher to see damages are those requiring enough knowledge to “predict” what will happen through accepted scientific methods, such as excessive deflections within beams; listing and leaning of bearing walls; and degradation of support column integrity.

In many areas, an additional complication factor will be the differentiation between wind induced damage versus flood induced damages. Many structures suffered a loss of roof integrity, with the contingent water intrusion; but, also experienced surge and wave intrusion. We have seen many expensive and costly battles with insurance companies involving whether damage was from flood or from wind and who should be responsible for what damage. Those battles should be confined to the insurance companies, but they result in huge delay losses for property owners.

Should insurance companies discourage property owners from seeking expert representation in complex damage situations? They should not and that is why there is a statute prohibiting them from it. Do some do it anyway, even though it is against the law, apparently so.

If you need help, do not hesitate to seek out a professional to provide an level playing field for you.

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