Following yesterday’s post, Claims Jobs are Disappearing and One Suggestion for Insurance Career Safety, I received a number of private emails concerning my note that insurance adjusting was a “noble” business. I also had a number of public adjusters asking about and reminding me of the certifications offered by NAPIA for public adjusters. These private emails deserve some attention and highlights.

Genuinely helping others to the best of your ability at a time of catastrophic trouble is “noble.” The insurance industry recognizes that its claims adjusters obtain a satisfaction in their occupation that goes beyond a mere paycheck because of the importance of properly conducting the claims function. Many of the books written by insurance companies which explain their history proudly describe instances where claims activities were carried out, despite great personal hardship to the claims adjusters, so that the promise of the insurance contract– prompt and full indemnification—
was fulfilled.

Claims representatives are taught honest and honorable ways to handle claims. The standard textbook for claims handlers, which leads to an Associate in Claims designation, was historically James J. Markham, et al., The Claims Environment (1st ed., Insurance Institute America 1993). There is now a revision to that book. Doris Hoopes, The Claims Environment (2d ed., Insurance Institute of America 2000). These textbooks for claims handlers and students of insurance set forth simple, clear claims handling principles that highlight duties of ethical and good faith treatment owed to policyholders.

Indeed, the Insurance Institute of America has published a treatise dealing exclusively with this basic relationship. William Park Rokes, Aggressive Good Faith and Successful Claims Handling (1st ed., Insurance Institute of America 1987). In another claims management reference which specifically discusses ethical behavior, the Insurance Institute of America provided:

The business of insurance, perhaps more than any other, is based on trust and commitment. Insurance products are intangible and simply reflect a promise on the part of insurance companies to indemnify insureds for financial losses if an insured event occurs in the future. The contract between the insurer and the insured is a contract of utmost good faith and requires honesty and trust from both parties.

George A. White, Ronald Duska & Victor D. Lincoln, Organizational Behavior in Insurance, vol. 1, 62 (1st ed., Insurance Institute of America 1992).

Many, if not most, executive claims managers possess the Society of Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriters designation, CPCU. A CPCU agrees to abide by the Canons of the CPCU Code of Professional Ethics, which include, in part:

CANON 1: CPCUs should endeavor at all times to place the public interest above their own.

CANON 2: CPCUs should seek continually to maintain and improve their professional knowledge, skills and competence.

CANON 3: CPCUs should obey all laws and regulations; and should avoid any conduct or activity which would cause unjust harm to others.

CANON 4: CPCUs should be diligent in the performance of their occupational duties and should continually strive to improve the functioning of the insurance mechanism.

CANON 5: CPCUs should assist in maintaining and raising professional standards in the insurance business.

CANON 6: CPCUs should strive to establish and maintain dignified and honorable relationships with those whom they serve, with fellow insurance practitioners, and with members of other professions.

So, to those who suggest that claims handling is not supposed to be a “noble” occupation, you may be unfamiliar with these guidelines or may not have witnessed noble conduct.

For public adjusters, I did not mean to suggest that the public adjusting certifications were not to be obtained. Instead, I would also suggest public adjusters obtain the AIC and CPCU designations as well either the CPPA or SPPA designation. What is the downside to being better educated? Public adjusters should strive to obtain the NAPIA sponsored certifications which are described as follows:

The Certified Professional Public Adjuster (CPPA) and Senior Professional Public Adjuster (SPPA) designations are awarded to public insurance adjusters who have met specific experience and educational requirements, completed a qualifying examination prescribed by a Board of Examiners, and subscribe to a code of ethics for business and professional conduct. The program is sponsored by the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA).

The Certification program requires experience and credentials—it is not as easy as simply taking a test:

The CPPA/SPPA designations are awarded by NAPIA. The American Institute for CPCU / Insurance Institute of America (AICPCU/IIA) is responsible for administration of the examinations.

Candidates are required to have at least five (5) years experience in adjusting on a full-time basis to sit for the CPPA examination. Ten (10) years full-time adjusting experience is required to sit for the SPPA examination.

Applicants must have a college degree or its equivalent in education, experience, or knowledge. Applicants who are not college graduates or who cannot obtain acceptable educational credentials should write to the Board of Examiners at NAPIA regarding methods of establishing the equivalent.

Obtaining and maintaining peer reviewed certifications is not easy, but I feel that it is worth every penny and minute spent. I believe my own experience in becoming a Florida Bar Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer is well worth the time and money. Attorneys are ethically prohibited from advertising as being “specialists” except for few exceptions. This is what the Florida Bar says about my Certification:

While all lawyers are allowed to advertise, only certified attorneys are allowed to identify themselves as "Florida Bar Board Certified" or as a "specialist." Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

A lawyer who is a member in good standing of The Florida Bar and who meets the standards set by the Supreme Court of Florida, may become a "Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer."

Certified lawyers in civil trial law deal with litigation of civil controversies in all areas of substantive law before state and federal courts, administrative agencies and arbitrators. In addition to actual pretrial and trial process, civil trial law includes evaluating, handling and resolving civil controversies prior to the initiation of suit.

Every board certified civil trial lawyer has practiced law for at least five years and been substantially involved — 30 percent or more — in the area of civil trial law during the three years preceding application. To be certified, the lawyer is required to have conducted at least 15 contested civil cases in courts of general jurisdiction during the lawyer’s practice, including cases before a jury and as lead counsel….

Each certified lawyer must also have passed peer review, completed 50 hours of continuing legal education within the three years preceding application and passed a written examination demonstrating knowledge, skills and proficiency in the field of civil trial law to justify the representation of special competence.

Board certification is valid for five years, during which time the attorney must continue to practice law and attend Florida Bar-approved continuing legal education courses. To be recertified, requirements similar to those for initial certification must be met. Not all qualified lawyers are certified, but those who are board certified have taken the extra step to have their competence and experience recognized.

When you are engaged in jobs that are intertwined with helping others in distress and at their most vulnerable moments, why wouldn’t you want to be as well trained as you can be? Why would anybody suggest that the alternative is better? Do yourself, your career, and the public a favor and invest in educational and ethical training that promotes the highest ideals of your profession.