“Chipper, how have you been?” and “Chipper, we need to get together with Ira and play some golf” were two phrases I recalled when I learned of Bruce Swerling’s death last week. Harvey Goodman was on the other end of a late Friday afternoon phone call concerning a coverage issue, and he told me he just left Bruce’s funeral. I was shocked and saddened. I told Harvey I was more interested in a drink and remembering a person I enjoyed both personally and professionally.
Bruce Swerling was a gentleman. He carried himself with dignity and as a true professional, especially when it came to business interruption and extras expense claims. Whenever he was in the audience during a speech, Bruce would always invite interesting debate. It was obvious that he was one of the best at his profession. His peers recognized this as well.
The 2005 NAPIA Winter Newsletter contained a brief biography of Bruce Swerling, as he received the Person of the Year Award in December, 2004:
Swerling, who was instrumental in establishing a memorial fund in memory of the association’s late executive director and counsel, Paul Cordish, was recognized for his invaluable service, inspirational leadership and continuous support of the public insurance adjusting profession and the goals and ideals set forth by the association.
For the past two years, Swerling has worked tirelessly to generate the pledges needed to establish the Paul Cordish Memorial Fund. The purpose of the fund is to advance the profession that Cordish served by providing an award to a law student at the University of Maryland School of Law who successfully competes in a writing competition developed in consultation with NAPIA and approved by the School of Law.
Swerling, a past president of both NAPIA and the Massachusetts Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, represents the third generation of his family to serve the insured public. A recognized business interruption expert, Swerling has handled a wide variety of claims involving commercial, manufacturing, and retail enterprises, and has lectured widely on contemporary insurance issues.
A graduate of Newton High School and Colby College, Swerling is currently licensed in all six New England states, along with New York, New Jersey, Florida, and the United States Virgin Islands. He and his wife, Roberta, have two daughters — Dayle and Diane.
Bruce was a public adjuster since 1963, and he served as NAPIA’s President in 1988-89. NAPIA awarded him the designation of Fellow in the Profession of Public Adjusting (FPPA). This prestigious designation is awarded to practitioners who have made significant contributions to the quality and advancement of NAPIA’s educational programs. After receiving that award, Bruce said:
As public insurance adjusters, it is our role to help people during difficult times. Business and homeowners need someone to stand up for them and it is very satisfying to be able to help them work through the complexities of an insurance claim and obtain the settlement they deserve to make them whole again.
Marvin Milton, Bruce’s partner, was the first adjuster to be awarded the FPPA designation over 20 years ago. They were a dynamic team. I wrote about Marvin Milton in NAPIA Has Many Special Members:
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.
Marvin Milton has an interesting quote on the Swerling Milton Winick website. Many policyholder attorneys share the gratifying feeling Marvin describes:
I often feel like David versus Goliath, going up against these large insurance companies. As an attorney, I am pleased that I can help my clients better understand the complex issues, especially the legal aspects, of their claims so we can get the best settlement for them.
Bruce Swerling was a friend of another NAPIA President, Ira Sarasohn. We often talked of Ira, our fondness of him, and the important aspect of sharing knowledge and experience with younger professionals. Ira Sarasohn was very important to me as I noted in Increased Cost of Compliance to Code and Ordinance or Law Coverage for a Typical Loss Situation:
There is just one final point which is important to me. The 1959 Feinbloom decision was the result of a very creative public adjuster, Ira Sarasohn. After I left Paul Butler and the world of representing insurance companies for helping policyholders in February 1985, Ira Sarasohn was one of two public adjusters (the other being Dick Tutwiler) to immediately suggest that their clients consider me as a possible legal counsel. I was only twenty-six at the time they made those recommendations. Sadly, Ira has passed, but we often talked about the Feinbloom case and how insurance policies, if interpreted from the standpoint of the policyholder, can help soften the financial blow caused by the impact of a loss. More insurers should adopt Ira Sarasohn’s view and write their products in a way that would truly help their customers after a loss.
Bruce encouraged me to join them for golf in Boca Raton; I will miss both of them on the course and in our profession. With Bruce’s death, I lose a friend and a close friend of a deceased friend and mentor. Bruce Swerling was one of NAPIA’s most special members.
After I said my good-bye to Harvey Goodman, I poured that drink and played a quirky, snappy song with a little message about enjoying, letting go, and moving on.