Filed Under:Claims, Education & Training

The Modern-Day Catastrophe Adjuster

Tools of the Trade

Those who have been CAT adjusting for many years likely remember the olden days of the paper files, landlines, Polaroids and handwritten estimates. My, how far we’ve come!

To illustrate the advances technology has afforded adjusters, let’s take a look at a typical day-in-the-life of a CAT adjuster from 15 years ago. Deployed to a storm site, driving anywhere from 24 to 48 hours upon arrival, he or she receives a large, heavy stack of paper files. Next the adjuster begins making contacts and setting appointments. If not lucky enough to have a cell phone, then the adjuster will spend hours in the hotel room making calls from a landline. Often the adjuster would need to leave a message; the policyholder would call back and leave a message at the hotel, leading to a maddening round of phone tag.

Mapping out each inspection location using his or her newly purchased Bible-sized local map book the adjuster ensures they’ve organized appointments in a logical fashion. Back then the adjuster scoped multiple losses over several days, writing estimates on “paperwork day.” Photos needed to be mounted, letters written, calculations completed, and so on. Invariably, the adjuster would have to revisit a loss or two to retrieve a missed measurement. Finally, the estimate would be given to the policyholder and payment issued. Simple hail claims would take several weeks to be settled. The issues with this system are easily identified. Today, however, technology, when used properly, allows the adjuster to decrease cycle times, provide better customer service, and maximize productivity.

A Look at Estimating Software

The biggest advances in estimating software have occurred only in the last five to10 years. These programs have greatly increased productivity, organization, accuracy, and efficiency. Estimating software now eliminates much of the work that used to be done by hand, such as: drawing diagrams, calculating square footage, creating statements of loss, depreciation calculation, and so on. Tasks that once took hours can be done in minutes. Mapping is made easy by exporting loss addresses all at once into GPS programs, and laser measuring devices can take accurate measurements, which are imported directly into the software.

Claims Management Systems

Claims Management Systems (CMS) allow principals to manage their company more effectively. Among the tools of a good CMS are: reporting functions for predicting and analyzing trends, managing performance data, claim assignment capabilities, and cycle time tracking. CMS enables the company to view real-time data, examine customer service indicators, and provide feedback to the adjuster to confirm that they are aware of their service levels and expectations. Having all this information readily available in one place enables management to respond quickly to any issues that arise. This also allows management to make necessary adjustments to ensure they are moving forward to meet or exceed service level goals.

CMS gives adjusters the ability to be more productive than ever before, accessing claims information remotely, setting up diaries, time logs, file notes, on-demand claims information, and automated system alerts.

Centralized Handling

The increased use of centralized or in-office claims handling within the past 10 years has been astounding. Many losses that weren’t considered candidates for phone handling five years ago are routinely handled in those operations. With that, the demand for adjusters specially trained to work in these environments has also increased, as well as the accuracy and quality of these adjustments. Carriers have also created units to handle specific elements of losses, such as business interruption (BI), contents, and replacement cost benefit payments that specialize in these areas to yield a more accurate claim file and a more efficient adjuster. Additional benefits of centralized operations include better customer service, shorter cycle times, ability to handle a higher volume of claims, and better utilization of resources.

Aerial Imagery

An exciting innovation to the industry is the advent of aerial imagery. These services can be utilized to obtain measurements when a roof is deemed unsafe, or unusually steep and high. Many companies claim 99.9 percent accuracy with regards to pitch and square-foot measurements. These dimensions can be uploaded directly into many of the estimating platforms, which results in incredible time saving. Aerial imagery is also useful in centralized environments for estimate reconciliation and avoiding the need to send another field adjuster to inspect the loss. This saves time and money, as well as leads to quicker claim resolution. Keep in mind, while most imagery is very accurate, there are situations when it is less reliable. This is especially true in instances where a roof does not conform to the norm, such as eyebrows, roof line covered by another roof line, different materials, heavy tree coverage, and so on. This tool, however, will continue to advance over time.

Smart Phones

From scheduling, mapping, and checking email to text messaging, dictation, taking photos, and more, cell phones have become an invaluable component of the adjuster tool-belt. Imagine this: an adjuster receives a claim via email. They get the message instantly on their cell phone and can contact the insured to set up an inspection immediately. The loss location can be mapped with the cell phone as well. The inspection can be completed using a mobile estimating utility. Most estimating platforms have applications that interface with cell phones, so inspection data can be directly uploaded to the software. An exciting emerging technology is measuring applications for smart phones. There are several available now, but the accuracy is not yet precise enough for estimating purposes. However, in the next few years, cell phones will likely be used as measuring devices. No doubt, the future holds the possibility that a cell phone may be the only tool an adjuster will need.

Internet and Social Media

The Internet is a valuable claims handling resource. From product identification, to cost comparisons, to detailed property surveys and photos, the Internet provides a wealth of information. Social media sites provide a great deal of information as well. Pre-loss photos posted to Facebook can be used to replace damaged property. Also of value are the by-stander photos taken while a loss is occurring. A home is burning, for example, and someone takes a photo or video of it and posts the images or video on YouTube. Depending on the timing of the photos, the cause, origin, duration, pre and post loss conditions, and so on, may be determined.  The adjuster can also gather valuable information searching videos on YouTube in close proximity to the event.

Fast forward to the present and look at the typical day-in-the-life of a CAT adjuster, who may be deployed to a CAT site, or a centralized or in-office claims handling operation. If the adjuster reports to the field, claims can be assigned to him or her while en-route and they can begin making contacts immediately. Messages can be left and accessed instantly for greater efficiency. This allows the adjuster to begin scoping and closing claims as soon as they arrive on-site, leading to higher production and superior customer service. No doubt the adjuster will utilize a GPS to map all losses and schedule appointments accordingly. The adjuster may not even need to physically measure the entire roof on site, he or she may just simply verify a few key measurements for accuracy, thanks to aerial imagery. There’s no need to make a paper diagram of a loss any longer either. Estimating software is available Photo mounting? Forget about it, all photos are digital and attached electronically to the claim file. In many instances, the adjuster can create an estimate, settle on the spot, and issue the payment. The result: closed claim, happy policyholder, happy carrier, and happy adjuster.

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