The National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA) has some of the finest minds in the world regarding claims adjustment under property insurance policies. Our law firm had the opportunity to lead a day long insurance seminar for the Massachusetts Association of Public Insurance Adjusters and NAPIA members last Friday in Boston. The level of discussion and debate over cutting edge claims handling issues made it one of the finest property insurance seminars I have ever attended.
From the surveys, I know virtually everyone in attendance felt the same way. I believe it was the result of the audience’s knowledge and experience. Our firm did a survey earlier in the year to determine what adjusters enjoyed about seminars, what they did not like, and what they wanted to get out of the seminar. We found, not surprisingly, that they hated to listen to lawyers "preach" about what the law is regarding a topic of insurance law. Instead, they wanted to know practical tips regarding their business, how to address certain difficult issues that come up during claims, and how to quickly get full claims benefits to their clients.
In response to the survey, we decided to do the entire seminar in a different manner. The topics were chosen from the survey we conducted. We provided an encyclopedia of insurance law and regulations on the topics the adjusters told us they wanted to understand. The materials helped the various Departments of Insurance approve continuing education requirements, while analyzing the topics our audience wanted. The panelists talked about their experiences as tips rather than "war stories." Smaller losses which everybody handles were discussed as well as how clauses in policies can be used to provide better and quicker indemnity to policyholders.
We discussed subtle and interpersonal aspects about how to handle situational aspects of claims with the insurance company. Questions and differing viewpoints were encouraged. For those with a passion for helping policyholders get what is deserved, there was only one place to be on Friday, and I felt honored to be there learning while helping lead the seminar. Many from the insurance industry perspective often talk poorly about public adjusters. Sometimes the criticism is justified. Often, it is out of professional jealousy or envy because the public adjusters can make significantly more money than company adjusters. However, how many insurance company adjusters have law or accounting degrees? About ten percent of those in my Friday audience had those credentials.
Marvin Milton, a public adjuster from Boston, went to Stanford undergraduate and then Harvard law school. Of the tens of thousands of insurance company field adjusters hired by insurance companies, I know of none with such qualifications. At one point, a person in the audience asked me if it would be "bad faith" for a commercial property insurance adjuster to fail to remind or inform a policyholder of extra expense benefits. My answer was that the vast, vast majority of insurance company adjusters are not even trained to understand the nuances of extra expense benefits and how those coverages may help policyholders.
The sad truth is that most insurance companies fail to provide such information to their customers because the insurance company claim personnel do not understand the benefits available under the product they sell. Most insurance companies simply hire accounting firms to figure out what may be payable without truly assisting their customers by explaining how valuable and helpful those benefits can be. When policyholders are deciding whether and which public adjuster they should hire, I suggest that they look for somebody they can trust and who has the credentials and experience of NAPIA membership. Often, the benefits obtained by public adjusting firms are far in excess of the minimal fees charged.