Avoiding Litigation: What's the Secret?
August 12, 2020
When I began thinking about some of the lessons I’ve learned in flood litigation, I made a list of estimating errors, coverage mistakes, and customer service disasters that could have been avoided.
Then I threw the list away.
Of course, many lawsuits are simply about the numbers. But in many cases, litigation is personal. Someone feels they have been wronged, ignored, shortchanged. They just want to be heard and most of the time their adjuster simply was not listening.
I’ve been lucky to have met hundreds of catastrophe adjusters from all over the country and each one has their own unique approach to doing their job. Tape measure vs laser? Handwritten vs paperless scoping? Pickup truck vs fuel-efficient car? RV vs hotel? Early-risers, late-nighters, fast-food junkies, and portable grillers. The combinations are endless. But almost all of them have a few essential tools in common: compassion, tenacity, and a genuine desire to serve the survivor. These adjusters care. They treat each policyholder with decency and dignity. They listen. They teach as they learn. Then they get to work helping their fellow citizens rebuild their lives. They leave no stone unturned in the search for coverage, while patiently explaining why, at times, there is none to be found. These adjusters will almost never have a claim end up in litigation.
Unfortunately, there is another kind of adjuster and it’s easy to spot their files a mile away. This is the adjuster who cranks out vanilla reports with little useful information, cookie-cutter estimates with no attention to detail, and photos that barely tell the story. These files are full of missed opportunities and reek of indifference towards the policyholder and the job itself.
So, what is the real secret to avoiding litigation? Don’t be that adjuster.
If you are motivated by a passion to serve, you won’t think twice about going the extra mile on every claim. You must have an intimate working knowledge of the policy and the confidence to explain it clearly. If you don’t have a commanding grip on all the tools and shortcuts in your adjusting software, keep practicing. A detailed, nuanced estimate is a powerful tool in settling a claim. Finally, be honest and objective with yourself about the parts of your job that you don’t do well. Do you need software lessons, better writing skills, or a more efficient process for collecting data on-site? Then get busy, keep learning and never stop working to relentlessly serve the survivor. They are counting on you.