June 1st marks not only the beginning of Catastrophe season but also an anxiety-filled waiting period for the insured, their insurers, and of course, not forgetting Catastrophe Adjusters themselves. In the past we have experienced horrific Catastrophe seasons, but this year few hurricanes are currently being predicted. This comes as a relief to many, however, whether you are a seasoned hurricane agent or a complete novice, what are some tricks of the trade you should know?
Be the face of the company. Many times you are the sole point of contact for property owners. Remember, you can escalate or soothe their situation just through your demeanor. Their house, car and life could be damaged beyond repair, so no matter how efficient you may consider yourself to be, sometimes you might just have to go the extra mile and be that shoulder to lean on.
Document the damage accurately. Take pictures; document everything you see, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem at the time. That one detail could make a huge difference during the payout of a claim.
Be accessible, even after you have left the scene. There is a fine line between being helpful and being used as the insured’s punching bag. Use your best judgment.
Be knowledgeable. Knowing the business like the back of your hand allows you to be confident in relaying information to the insured. If you don’t have an answer, the insured could become uneasy.
Have Errors and Omissions insurance. Being an adjuster, you are a professional in your line of work, but mistakes can happen. Errors and omissions are part of the adjuster’s lifestyle; being accurately covered is the best defense.
Be prepared for long hours. It seems like a Catastrophe Adjuster’s days are never-ending. There could be unlimited properties to inspect, reports to be written and witnesses to interview. Be mentally prepared for 15-hour days and 7 day working weeks.
Document your belongings NOW. Don’t wait until your house and belongings are in ruins to begin documentation. Take pictures of everything you own; furniture, clothing, jewelry, electronics, tools, books, DVD’s, etc. Keep receipts for big purchases. Store the photos and receipts digitally, or in a safe deposit box that you can access after a catastrophe.
Check your homeowners’ coverage. Re-reading your policy to determine your exact coverage is always a good idea. Taking time to clarify your coverage with your insurance company is an even better one. Many times people assume they are over-insured for their dwelling amount but they rarely know how much it would actually take to re-build their own home. Go over modifications with your insurance company (have you added a deck, solar panels or put marble countertops in your kitchen recently?). Make sure your insurance company knows about these changes so that you are correctly covered.
Check your deductible. Deductibles can range from $100-$10,000 or more. They can be a percentage of your dwelling coverage – which can be much higher than many homeowners expect. Check your policy and call your insurance company to see if your deductible changes in the event of a hurricane claim.
Look into preventative measures. Do you live in a hurricane prone area? Have you thought of investing in heavy-duty wind-resistant windowpanes, doors or shutters? If you live in a tornado zone, have you researched shelters? Being proactive in these areas can help prevent damage to your home and to yourself!
Even though meteorologists are currently predicting few hurricanes for 2012, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for the worst. Remember, in the past few years every region of the United States has been impacted. Whether you are an adjuster or a homeowner, these considerations could alleviate some of the stress that the season might bring. What about you? Do you have any tips for new claims adjusters in the field this season? What is your best advice for how homeowners should prepare?