What Happens Next? Why the Delays? Part I

Scripture admonishes us in the book of Matthew “to not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (NIV). But try as we might to not concern ourselves with tomorrow (or next week, or next month etc…) we all seem to possess an innate desire to know what tomorrow holds for us. So, inevitably, whenever I meet an owner who’s suffered significant damage to their property they almost always get around to asking me, “What’s going to happen next?” (This is a reasonable and logical question in light of the fact that they most likely have never been down this road before). While I can’t tell them with certainty how their insurance company is going to treat them or how much of a settlement they will receive I believe that has an experienced Tennessee Public Adjuster I can give most people a general idea of what process their claim will go through in the next couple of weeks…a “lay of the land” if you will.

Let’s start with your structure and assume that the peril that inflicted the damage was a fire. Most insurance companies have a rule that the adjuster assigned the claim has to call you within two days of notification of the loss. In that phone conversation he or she will set up a time to meet you at the property so that they can assess the scope and severity of the damage. There is a good probability that part of that meeting will include you giving a recorded statement to the adjuster of the events leading up to, and just after, the fire. This is standard operating procedure and shouldn’t be a cause of worry (plus it’s a condition of the policy for you to have coverage). This meeting normally takes place within five days of the loss depending on the adjuster’s workload.

Once on site you can expect that the adjuster will take numerous pictures of the property both inside and out. If they are trained in estimating they may even decide to start taking measurements of the damaged areas. The adjuster will take the information he gathers at the site and go back to his office and begin inputting the data into the software program (they are probably using a program called Xactimate). The larger the fire the longer it will take for them to input the data. The last question you should ask the adjuster before he leaves is: “When can I expect to receive my estimate”. Write that date down and let them see you do it. (If they aren’t going to begin formally detailing and estimating the damage at that first meeting then they will normally return in a day or two do it OR they will schedule one of their estimators to come out on site to start the estimating process. Just get an idea as to when this will happen and make note of it).

Seldom do they get the estimate to you on the date they say they will. Some of the reasons are legitimate and some are very questionable but let’s first talk about the valid things that could delay them getting back to you with your estimate. I am not an apologist for insurance adjusters but in all fairness there are things that will cause the adjuster to take longer than expected and, as I am also a Kentucky Public Adjuster, I find this holds just as true for Kentucky residents as well as Tennessee property owners. Some of those things are:

  1. Their manager unexpectedly added more claims files to their caseload.
  2. A catastrophe, such as a tornado or hurricane, has hit the area and hundreds if not thousands of pieces of property have been damaged. Their claim files have now just increased by five or ten fold. Two thirds of the tornados in the south occur in March, April and May. If you have a fire loss during this period and a tornado occurs around the time of your loss you can expect it to take longer for them to come up with an estimate than in August, for example.
  3. The adjuster is taking a vacation the week following their initial visit (which will put them even further behind because new claims will have been added to their workload while they were taking some time off). Adjusters have families too and they want to take their spouse and children on spring break and on summer vacations like many other families.
  4. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. From Thanksgiving through the beginning of the start of the New Year I always see the speed upon which a claim is processed drop by about 50%. The adjusters have vacation time that they have earned that if they don’t take by the end of the calendar year they lose. This 5-6 week stretch is a popular time for staff adjusters, estimators and claim reps (the people who work in the office and you talk to on the phone) to take time off that they are entitled to. This means your claim is not getting much attention. You will need to be patient during this stretch of time.
  5. Winter. There are twice as many fires per month in December, January and February as there are in July, August and September (thus a greater workload for the adjuster). So if you have a fire or burst water lines in these months you can expect to wait longer for them to resolve your claim than most other months.

The fact that there are some legitimate reasons for why your claim is not being handled as expeditiously as it should doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be actively engaged in regular communication and follow-up with your adjuster. The old adage, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”, still holds true.

In my continuance of this blog (Part II) we’ll discuss what’s going on at the home office and if there are things there that could be holding things up.