Adjusters International is a major disaster recovery consulting organization focused on the principles of maximizing and expediting their clients’ financial recovery from insurance and FEMA claims. AI helps policyholders by providing public adjusting services and also guides FEMA grantees and applicants through the FEMA public assistance program. Adjusters International is comprised of more than 35 offices. Many are family-owned firms, handed down from generation to generation, working to help their communities recovery after disasters. Many of the regional firms that are part of the Adjusters International family have kept their family name but have added Adjusters International to their titles. This team of disaster recovery consultants has helped after every major disaster in the United States for the past 25 years.
Greg Raab, Manager of Integrated Services at Adjusters International, recently explained to the Associated Press the value a public adjuster brings to a property insurance claim dispute process. In the resulting article published by MSNCB and CBS Money Watch, Clause in Home policies can help resolve disputes, Raab explains that he has never worked on a claim that he did not think he could ultimately resolve with the insurance company. Raab is very familiar with the claim bumps that policyholders hit after a disaster, and he explained that the policy is the roadmap to recovery for the policyholder.
Policyholders should review their policies to see what types of alternative dispute resolution options may be available to resolve a claim. Appraisal and mediation are popular options. As reported by Eileen AJ Connelly, “[a]t least 24 states have statutes that refer to a formal arbitration or mediation process for homeowners insurance. Many states, including New York, require that policies include a provision for an appraisal process. This allows the homeowner and the insurer to choose neutral appraisers, who evaluate the loss, and an umpire who settles any disagreement about the value.” Many times, public adjusters are hired by policyholders to represent them as their insurance claim appraiser. Even if a state does not mandate an alternative dispute provision, it may still be in a policy.
Raab points out that before the dispute snowballs, a policyholder can hire a public adjuster to resolve the dispute because the public adjusters can explain is covered by the policy covers and do an independent assessment of the damages.
Last month, Greg Raab also had his own article published in the University Business Magazine. In Navigating Insurance Claims in a Higher Education Facility, Raab gives colleges and universities tips on how to handle a major loss Other businesses, churches, and condominium associations can benefit from Raab’s tips.
After contacting the agent or broker and reviewing the policy, Raab suggests:
- Assemble a Claims Management Team – Comprised of senior campus leadership and members of Risk Management, Health & Safety, Legal, Campus Security, Facilities Management, and Information Technology, all information should flow through one designated leader and the team should meet routinely to ensure a consistent, coordinated approach. A mismanaged insurance claim could negatively impact college funding sources, future enrollment, and key faculty and staff retention.
- Initiate a Public Relations Program – Communicate to students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, banks, donors, vendors, suppliers, funding sources, news outlets, and local community contacts appropriate developments regarding the claim.
- Identify ownership or responsibility for damaged property – In a campus setting, there is property owned, leased, or controlled by the institution, students, faculty, staff, vendors, research partners, and others, with potentially overlapping policies to navigate.
- Mitigate Damages – Take reasonable actions to preserve and protect all insured property, with a focus on campus safety and continuity of regular campus business. Mitigation may include water and mold remediation, emergency board-up, demolition, or shoring up of damaged structures, and protecting hazardous areas with signage and security personnel.
- Initiate an Emergency Plan – If the event is widespread, you may be required to address temporary student housing, classrooms, and essential services such as medical and dining. The insurance policy may contain extra expense and business interruption provisions; both are funding sources that expedite the recovery and mitigate financial loss, albeit with specific requirements and limitations. Work closely with the insurance company and broker to ensure the proper allocation of funds.
Raab writes that claim navigation can get more difficult as time passes, and the assessment of a claim begins. “The waters may get choppy and obstacles may begin to multiply. This is the result of the institution having to balance ongoing day-to-day business with issues such as damage assessment, asset valuation, cash flow management, student and faculty service interruptions, oversight from governing bodies, bids, permits, debris removal, and other post-disaster issues.“ His navigational tools to consider include:
- Properly value campus assets – Colleges tend to abound with specialized buildings and equipment, antiques, and high-tech science and computer laboratories, and have unique valuation challenges such as non-reproducible research, intellectual property, branded items, and libraries with rare books, microfilm, and microfiche requiring environmental preservation. Negotiations regarding replacement cost and depreciation (money the insurance company will withhold) will profoundly impact the recovery. Obtain your own expert opinions. The insurance company will often hire outside experts such as engineers, equipment specialists, architects and accountants; the institution should engage consultants and valuation experts who can independently offer opinions from the institution’s perspective.
- Document everything – We cannot stress enough how vital proactively assembling, organizing, and presenting all necessary claim support documentation is, as the responsibility of proving damages solely rests with the institution. Put everything in writing and take numerous photographs: a picture says a thousand words, therefore hundreds of labeled, organized, and sourced pictures both pre- and post-event will speak volumes.
- Give special consideration to IT – Recovering electronic information, hardware, and software is essential to campus business, and may require restoration of back-up data.
- Manage claim finances – Create a separate general ledger account to track all claim-related costs. Work within your policy provisions to account for continuation of ordinary payroll and related continuing expenses if business is disrupted. Closely monitor all subcontractors to ensure the work being completed is aligned with the scope of damages and repair amounts agreed upon.
- Be aware of applicable building codes and other standards – Historic campus buildings may be picturesque, but if damaged, these same buildings may have to be brought up to current building codes, which can be an expensive proposition. Additionally, governing bodies such as OSHA, ADA, NIH, DEC, and USDA may implement standards and reporting or inspection criteria concerning asbestos, lead paint, accessibility, debris disposal, etc. Coverage may be available, but often contains restrictions and requires negotiation and planning.
- Research non-insurance funding sources – Depending on the type and severity of damage, there may be alternate funding sources for recovery for any under- or unfunded portions of your claim. Grants, low-interest loan programs, and FEMA funding (if damages result from a declared disaster) may be available. Coordinating the insurance claim with other funding sources requires careful attention and specialized programmatic knowledge.
To learn more about Adjusters International or Greg Raab, visit www.AdjustersInternational.com