The Windstorm Conference is in full swing. I was introduced to an engineer, Bruce Holmes. He told me that he was very upset with his colleagues and others in the insurance industry. He asked if I could refer others to his website where he has a proposal for change and action.

Here is what he has to say:

Background

I have been very involved over the past two years in conducting forensic engineering investigations for public adjusters, attorneys and individual policyholders that have had and are still having problems with their roofs from the effects of Hurricane Wilma, particularly in Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade counties. I have conducted over 500 such investigations in the past year and half. In this work, I have also reviewed dozens of "engineering reports" prepared by licensed Florida Professional Engineers on behalf of their insurance company clients. As a result, I have written over 80 effective rebuttals of their work which generally can’t stand up under scrutiny.

In many cases, a homeowner gets one of these reports and not being a skilled professional reads the report and gives up on proceeding with a claim. Probably for the 500 such clients I have worked for there are thousands more homeowners that read the "engineer’s report" prepared on behalf of their insurance company and just gave up. I probably am just working the tip of the iceberg.

In particular, the engineers and the different casualty companies all come up with the same reasons for why damage observed is not a result of hurricane actions and all use the "same" reasons. It would seem that they all got together and decided to tell the "same" story.

As you may recall, in 2005 Hurricane Katrina first crossed the Florida peninsula before making landfall in the Gulf Coast region. In October, 2005, Hurricane Wilma made a path from just south south east of Naples traveling northeast and exiting the state just north of West Palm Beach. It was a large storm and during its transit produced many strong wind gusts that reached from 100-110 MPH that lasted for a brief period.

As a result of the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, most Florida based adjusters were dispatched there. After Hurricane Wilma produced widespread damage to southeast Florida, adjusters were brought here from many different locations throughout the US. In many cases, these adjusters had very little knowledge of the construction of tile roofs that were mortar adhered or mechanically fastened with nails or screws. Also, I know, based on discussions with homeowners, many insurance adjusters did not even look at the roofs and offered small sums for "repairs" or told them the problem was "wear and tear" and not covered by their policy.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of tile roofs that were either mechanically fastened with nails or screws and adhered to the roof with mortar patties that were affected by this storm.

The result for mechanically fastened tile roofs is that the lifting action of the wind gusts move the nails creating leak points into the roof or the mortar patties are un-bonded in a particular pattern that occurs on the roof. This empirical evidence is supported by research conducted by the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University.

Un-bonded mortar roofs will be flying missiles in the next storm. Due to the slow nature of the leaks from mechanically fastened roof, evidence of the failure will ultimately show up in the house’s interior first as stains on the ceiling. This latter effect is a slow process and droughts in 2006 and 2007 have delayed the occurrence of these symptoms.

However, insured clients only have till October, 2010 to make a claim as the statutory limit of 5 years after the storm comes into play.

I can assure you there are going to be many hundreds of thousands of policy holders that are going to be left holding the bag as a result of what appears to be collusion on the part of the insurance industry and the apparently complicit licensed Professional Engineers that work for them.

I have encouraged many clients to file complaints with the Florida Board of Professional Engineers regarding these "engineering reports". To date, the Board has done nothing that I am aware of. As a result of this experience, I am disgusted and ashamed to say that I am a licensed Professional Engineer having been so for the past 33 years.

Proposal For Action
This will be a two pronged approach.

First, We will be developing a web site with multiple domain names directed to it relating to individuals that have had claims denied, improperly settled, or gave up after getting the insurance company’s "engineering report". The goal will be to identify such individuals for a potential class action and provide incentive for political action. We will gather names, addresses, contact info, claim information/denial/partial settlement info etc. for a potential class action described below.

Second, another action would be to obtain a ground swell of support by homeowners, public adjusters and attorneys working for claimants to extend the 5 yr. statutory limit for Hurricane Wilma claims by say…..two more years as a result of the 2006 and 2007 droughts and pursue this through the Legislature.

Potential
Casualty Insurance Action
In Florida
related to Hurricane Wilma

Possible Claim and Action:
Fraud and collusion to commit fraud

Global Allegation:
The casualty insurance industry has apparently acted in a manner to defraud its clients of full and proper payment of their rightful claims under their policies for damages incurred from Hurricane Wilma. This includes directions to employees and adjusters to not fully investigate claims, offer minimal settlements for such claims and collude with Florida licensed Professional Engineers they retained in order to deny claims on the basis of fallacious reasons for damage observed.

Specific Allegations:

  1. Adjusters were employed that were knowingly not competent to assess damages being adjusted and/or were directed to not investigate damages including not assessing roofs for damage and to offer minimal settlements to clients while assuring clients that such funds offered was sufficient to “repair” damages.
  2. Florida licensed Professional Engineers were engaged by the industry and encouraged and/or directed to offer assessments of damages that would result in limited or minimal settlements for roof damages by unsubstantiated allegations of reasons for damages observed that were not related to Hurricane Wilma. Such unsubstantiated reasons include but are not limited to “foot traffic”, “wear & tear”, “thermal expansion”, “improper installation”, etc.
  3. Many casualty insurance companies have resisted or refused to open or reopen claims for damages from Hurricane Wilma that are now showing effects of damages from Hurricane Wilma which in many cases result from insufficient settlements for damages and/or their apparently fraudulent efforts to limit initial claims by not properly assessing damage or assigning unfounded reasons for damages in order to limit the financial effect on the companies.

One of the interesting aspects of this conference is the varied opinions of the attendees. I was speaking with an insurance defense attorney who told me that he implores his clients to come to this conference, rather than the PLRB, because the adjusters and claims managers can hear the other side of an issue and anticipate or develop a response.

I am certain that many will disagree with Bruce Holmes. On the other hand, I am quite certain many agree and are pondering how to deal with the issues he has raised.

  • Mark Phillips

    SUPERB response, enlightenment, and motivation.

    As the voice of one “crying in the wilderness”.

    Power to the policyholders.

    Let me help when needed.

  • Geaux Bruce!

    We see the same thing in Texas and many times the “engineers report” borders on incompetent at the least and fraud at the worst.

    Sometimes, I wonder if the engineer was actually that bad, or just following a script.

    Matt B. Phelps, P.E., R.S.
    Galveston, Texas

  • Ed Rega

    This is just wonderful! recently I acted as an Umpire (Impartial I assure you) The 2 engineers reports were carefully studied and Honestly, I could not get a feel for which one was the correct evaluation.
    I hired a very non particent Roof Expert over 30 years in the Business. A very knowledgeable man. No iron in the fire.

    Soon after his inspection report was recieved,compared and evaluated, I had a clear cut answer to the dispute.I made a strong decision without any doubt. Both Parties were appreciative,in regards to my careful decision.

    The straight forward accurate reports from Engineers,would make for less disputes .

    Once again your remarks in this blog make lots of sense.

  • shirley heflin

    Not to be a pessimist or anything, but rerferring to:

    “…In particular, the engineers and the different casualty companies all come up with the same reasons for why damage observed is not a result of hurricane actions and all use the “same” reasons. It would seem that they all got together and decided to tell the “same” story…”

    ONE OF THE PREVAILING REASONS THEY “GOT TOGETHER” AND DECIDED TO DO THIS IS TO HAVE A REASON TO DENY CLAIMS AND IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO, OF COURSE, M O N E Y.

    Professional ethics are (usually) nowhere to be found when GREED is in the area.

    SHIRLEY HEFLIN

  • Chris Cury

    Matt:

    Matt Phelps:

    I am sorry to pick on you since I agree with your first statement.

    The problem I have is with your next statement wherein you question whether the PE was actually that bad or just following the script. If PE stands for Professional Entertainer we would not have a problem, but to let PE’s off the hook with this statement is very poor taste.

    I am not a PE but I would assume you have some ethics and professional conduct requirments that prohibit you reporting what your client asks you to report regardless of the facts.

  • I have inspected 100’s of homes as an public adjuster in the Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties and have seen this issue as a growing trend in the industry. Mr. Holmes is correct and the data is there to prove his position. However, the insurance carriers will not agree and continue to pour out the same cookie cutter inspection reports with the same results on every home.

    I used to work as an Independent Adjuster, both as a field adjuster and inside as an examiner, mediation and appraisal specialist. It was working there that I started seeing this pattern in the engineering reports.

    My question has always been how is it that two people having the same education, taken the same exams, have the same license can come up with results 180 degrees apart?

    The sad thing is that it appears to be the carriers engineering reports that are the same. When I get an engineering field report I get a report that is specific to the risk being inspected and the results vary from job to job. The other part of this is the carriers’ 90% of the time do not share their engineering reports when denying a claim or even when partial payment based on their engineering report is made.

    It’s curious to me how the carriers engineers know more than all other licensed, respected and qualified engineers in this state. It’s as though these other engineers who are not on a rotation list to work for an insurance carrier are without merit and are ignored as incompitent or having no value.

  • Anonymous IA

    Correct me if I am wrong, since I am not an attorney; and, I am not proclaiming to be or practicing law without a license,. But, I thought in Florida it was the law if your going to deny a claim you have to provide the basis for the denial. It doesn’t seem like it would be correct to say because our engineer said so but it happened (s) time and time again.

    One other point I would like to make is shifted roof tiles are not wind damaged ? What is it ? Did the roofer install the roof tiles at an angle at the time of installation ? How did it pass an inspection ?

    Every one of us as boys at one time in our life pulled up a small tree or plant from the ground, fighting with it, tugging at it and just when you thought it wouldn’t come out of the ground you found yourself falling backwords as it released it’s hold knocking you to the ground. Is it possible the same thing could happen with a roof ? Could the tiles hold every so tight and then from the constant pressure and repeated gust shift the roof tile but not fracture the roof ?

    Seems like only the carrier and there engineers would know the answer.

  • Chip Merlin

    Anonymous,

    Insurers must honsetly explain why a claim is denied after fully investigating a claim. I appreciate that you admit that you are not an engineer nor an attorney because that is part of the point.

    Adjusters may not be trained in the very difficult aspects of physics, structural science, and other scientific issues that require study and lots of scientific brains. When adjusters start using analagous or homespun theories of physics to support decisions, mistakes will occur. You do not need engineers to support every decision and that is what I explained yesterday at Windstorm. But, some adjusters use knee jerk examples completely wrong, although they sound common sense…but wrong.

    Insurers often use in-house or outside counsel to review facts and coverage law before making a denial. I encourage this practice.

  • Tad Balzer

    I have been in this industry for over 25 years. Before choosing to become a Public Adjuster, I was a contractor actually doing the repairs. Thats right holding the hammer. Climbing the ladders, etc. Not to take anything from those “Professional Engineers”, but it is clear to me that most of them have only seen a schematic of a hammer and never held one.

    I have worked with Bruce Holmes and have NEVER seen an engineer as thorough on an inspection. He gives definitive, common sense explanations to the damages he saw. There are NO reports from the carriers engineers that illustrate the inspection process like Holmes does. They physically inspect the WHOLE roof. Not walk it and take two photos and leave after 7 minutes.

    Recently, I asked a carriers engineer if he will be including a rebuttal to the Holmes Engineering report he had and he refused to do it. I then asked if her was going to mention in his report that he agrees with it, he stated that he was going to ignore its existence. I wonder what his report will say when it arrives. Wait I already have one from last year, I only have to change the name and address.

    I believe those companies are unethical professionally, and perhaps criminal in their unsupported reporting. I would love to see these engineers that cookie cutter the reports have their day in court explaining their behavior. If their licensing and livelihood was on the line, we might see a turn around. The question is, how do we get them there.

    ANY HOMEOWNER, Attorney or Public Adjuster would be wise to use Bruce Holmes if you want a real opinion. He will call a damage a damage and will tell you if it is not. Remember it is what it is.

  • R Patterson.

    I would like to expose a point also that i do not see much attention being given to. I have been on many inspections with MR. Holmes and I have seen the attention to detail he gives to each inspection. Two hours minimum at each site for the ones I attended.

    I also attend the inspections preformed by the Insurance Company’s “Hired Guns.” These usually range from 10 minutes (yes, 600 seconds) to three hours.

    How is it the report written by the insurance company retained engineer who stands at the peak of a roof and takes a 360 deg photo log and leaves after a few minutes, and who will have an elaborate report as if he was the engineer who spent three hours on the roof gives rise to a basis for an insurer’s claims decision?

    This to me is a complete mockery of the engineering profession.

  • My dear friends,

    Please contact the Florida Board of Professional Engineers and ask them why they don’t protect the public.

    cflynn@fbpe.org

    jrimes@fbpe.org

    “Engineers’ Creed

    As a Professional Engineer, I dedicate my professional knowledge and skill to the advancement and betterment of human welfare.

    I pledge:

    To give the utmost of performance;

    To participate in none but honest enterprise;

    To live and work according to the laws of man and the highest standards of professional conduct;

    To place service before profit, the honor and standing of the profession before personal advantage, and the public welfare above all other considerations.

    In humility and with need for Divine Guidance,

    I make this pledge.”

    Makes your head spin, doesn’t it?

  • RECENT LETTER TO USAA.

    The games continue everywhere. Support Frank Artiles for the FL House.
    __________________________________________________

    ………… I am an independent consulting engineer working as an expert witness in the casualty loss area.

    http://www.RealtyInspectPro.com

    I work for both insurance companies and policy holders. I recently had a client that was a XXXXXX that had a tile floor claim resulting from water intrusion into his home at three locations.

    XXXXX had engaged XXXXXXXXXX, to assess the situation. The person handling the claim is XXXXXXX in XXXXXX Property Claims.

    I can assure you as an officer, gentleman, and “Eagle Scout” to boot that the XXXX report dated XXXXXX regarding this claim is patently false and incorrect. I was told by the XXXXX policy holders, XXXXXXXXXX, that the engineer from
    XXXXXX did not even ask them any questions regarding this matter. At the least, this results in an omission of material facts.

    I will be filing a complaint regarding XXXXX and the authors of this report to the Florida Board of Professional Engineers.

    My opinion of the character of the leaders and employees of the operations of XXXXX Property Claims is exceedingly mis-favorable at a minimum.

    Using outside shill supposed “expert witnesses” to deny claims of your policy holders would seem to lead one to conclude that you are possibly engaged in fraud to deny claims of your members.

    What has happened to XXXXX? Is there no honor anymore. Are your ethics “situational”.

    I am very disgusted with XXXXXX.

    I hope you have good legal representation. XXXX is going to need it.

    I have a pending claim for my auto with you. If I now find out you are going to deny coverage after agreeing to cover the loss, my attorney, I am sure will find that most interesting.

    Bruce E. Holmes

  • Check out the following regarding “Foot Traffic” as the reason for your roof problems.

    http://holmes-enterprises.net/proposal_for_action.htm

  • Engineers, as a general rule, are an ethical and professional group. The problem lies in the fact that sometime, some engineers step out of this “creed”, and will report, not true and objective findings, but rather, what their client wants them to say.

    Those engineers that stick to the facts and remain objective are rarely the ones in the news, it is the engineers who do not follow the engineers creed that seem to be in the news.