And how to avoid them!
Just one mistake could make your experience with the insured very difficult. Let’s try to avoid that and be mindful of the 13 crucial mistakes adjusters make. Read my disclaimer.
1: Not communicating, delaying communications or not returning calls promptly.
It would be best if you stayed in communication with every insured. If you are unable to immediately answer an insured’s phone call, text, or email, then make sure to set your voicemail with clear expectations or set your email on auto-reply.
Typically I tend to set clear expectations during the initial phone call. If you do not want texts past 7 PM, then you need to let the insured know. If you return phone calls once you are back at the office or a stopping point, then say so in your voicemail.
Trust me, doing so will save you some headaches in the long run. Just whatever you do, please return the phone call. You do not want an insured calling your supervisor or filing a complaint.
2: Not scheduling the claim immediately.
Try your hardest to call new claims the same day you get them.
If you see a claim that appears urgent, don’t make a critical mistake; stop what you are doing and make that first contact.
If an insured just lost their home, they will be very anxious, awaiting a call from the adjuster to get the ball rolling. I know it’s hard to do, but it’s vital for the claim, and it shows respect to the insured.
3: Not obtaining as much information as you can during the initial phone call.
You may be wondering why the initial phone call is so important. If you are, you are new, and that’s okay. That’s why I’m here to help you.
Let’s start with some vital information you’ll want to confirm during the initial phone call: date of loss, location of loss, who you will be meeting with, details of the claim, mortgage information, emergency services and cause of loss.
- You must know where you are going and confirm it against the insured’s risk location shown on their policy. You will need to verify the information with the carrier.
- The policy only covers the risk location. If an insured is telling you a different location, then this may be a sign of fraud or a genuine mistake on the insurance policy.
- The date of loss obtained from the insured must fall within the effective policy period. If the claim falls out of the policy period, then the claim will most likely not be covered, and you must advise the carrier. Alternatively, the insurance company may need to send you the correct declarations page.
- Gather as much detail as you possibly can about the cause of loss and details of the damage.
- For instance, if your claim assignment is a total fire loss, you will need to start gathering information to hire an engineer or fire investigator as soon as possible.
- In other cases, the insured may provide you with details that they will later change during the inspection. The sudden change in information may be an indication of insurance fraud.
4: Not being transparent upfront.
If there is a coverage concern, then speak to your supervisor or the client and make sure they are aware that the claim may not be covered.
When speaking with an insured, make sure they know that there is a question of coverage and why.
Doing so may clear up any discretions and avoid a very angry insured. It’s better to let them know of the possibility and not blindside them altogether.
Sometimes, carriers will require the insured to sign a non-waiver before the inspection. Always check with either your supervisor or client before discussing coverage with an insured. Some carriers ask that you do not do so.
5: Showing up late or not at all.
You should advise an insured if you are going to be later than 15 minutes to an appointment.
Typically, the moment I realize that I will be late, I call. It’s better to prevent frustration, then having the insured wait on you with no knowledge of when you will show up.
If you are continuously showing up late, try to have a broader window of arrival.
For instance, a two-hour window is typical, and then you can always call the insured when you are on your way or once you know the definite arrival time.
It’s the little things that help your claim stay on the positive.
6: Not listening nor following guidelines.
So you were late to the inspection, and now you are rushing during the appointment.
Take it from someone who has made this crucial error- do not under any circumstances, rush your inspection. You will forget critical details and may have to go back out to complete a second inspection.
Always take your time and listen to the insured. When you are rushing, you may not realize that an insured is not being truthful, or not thoroughly investigate subrogation potential or miss out on details that will later help you determine coverage.
Some carriers require different handling guidelines. If you are rushing through the claim, chances are you are not following all of their specified guidelines.
Avoid this mistake by taking a deep breath, call your next claim and advise you will be late. Continue to provide the same great customer service for each appointment.
7: Not taking enough photographs during your inspection.
Taking photographs is essential during an inspection. Photos tell the carrier a story and confirm damage to the property. More importantly, photographs back you up on your report and can prove things down the line.
Taking more than enough photographs is the most avoidable mistake you can make!
For instance: A month after your inspection, the insured states that you missed damage in a bedroom. By taking more than enough good quality photographs, you will be able to prove if there was existing damage.
Having those extra photographs is so important because it will either show you to be just another adjuster or a GREAT adjuster (as my mentor likes to call it).
I’m working on an article now to help improve documentation. Be on the lookout!
8: Not being professional.
Please adhere to a professional dress code such as a nice polo, khakis, and appropriate shoes.
A lot of adjusters prefer Duluth Clothing. As a female, I prefer Nike golf polos as they are moisture-wicking. Colombia clothing has excellent pants that are breathable.
When insureds are inviting you into their home, you must be presentable. Do not skip grooming and never smoke near or at the insured’s property.
9: Being too harsh.
During a claim, the insured may be going through the most challenging time in their life. Always be aware of their emotions.
Adjusters sometimes are required to be therapists. A few extra minutes tending to the insured’s needs will make a massive difference in the life of the claim. Always be courteous, polite, and compassionate.
You may even get some positive feedback reported to your supervisor or the insurance carrier!
10: Not following timelines.
If you are an adjuster (if you are not, thank you for reading this article!), then you are fully aware that you must follow timelines, PERIOD.
Based on my experience, carriers like to have a claim contacted within 24 hours of delivery. Inspections should be in 48 hours with first/ reserve report due within 72 hours, if not the same day of inspection.
When you start to become late on your timelines, all else begins to fail. Time management is essential. Have a routine for yourself, so you do not fall behind. A good rule of thumb is one office day for every two days in the field.
Notify your supervisor if you believe your claims load is too much. They will appreciate that you are preventing any further mistakes. Just know, not all supervisors will lighten the amount; you will have to learn to handle a large number of claims.
11: You are not entirely comfortable with the insurance policy language.
It would help if you made it your number one priority to know policy language and understand what is and is not covered.
How can you report on your investigation or communicate with the insurance carrier if you are not sure if something is covered?
The more comfortable you are with the insurance policy, the more confident you will be in your investigations and reporting.
Not only should you have a complete understanding of policy language, but you should also invest time in your knowledge of construction and building materials.
It will be hard to write a complete estimate if you are not sufficient in construction.
12: Not keeping up with your CE credits.
If you are a licensed claims adjuster and had to apply with your state insurance department, then the chances are you have continuing education requirements.
Take the opportunity to learn from continuing education classes. Please do not assume you know it all. Many vendors, especially restoration companies and engineering firms, offer free CE classes. Keep an eye out for conferences to attend.
I know it’s hard to take a day off from claims, but you need to invest in your education to improve your claims handling. Try taking some time out of your schedule to focus on keeping up with your required continuing education.
13: Failing to keep up with the ever-changing technology.
Take it from someone who waited until she started a blog to attend a Xactimate (XA) mobile adjusting class. I wish I would have been more ahead of the times and challenged myself to scope a loss on site. I knew the technology existed and should have embraced it wholeheartedly.
Learn about XA mobile here.
The Curious Confidential: Can you think of any mistakes you have already made? How did you challenge yourself to change and avoid that mistake in the future? I’d love to hear your thoughts!