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Insurance Claims Adjusters Say the Silliest Things

This quote leads off an article in Property and Casualty 360:

    To me, a claims man is a surgeon. That desk is an operating table. And those pencils are scalpels and bone chisels. And those papers are not just forms and statistics and claims for compensation, they’re alive, they’re packed with drama, with twisted hopes and crooked dreams. A claims man, Walter, is a doctor and a bloodhound…and a cop and a judge and a jury and a father confessor all in one.

In my particular line of work, it is pretty easy to take pot shots at insurance adjusters and stereotype them as disciples of Darth Vader who combine the giddy good humor of the Syrian army with a willingness to shoot their own parents in the head if that meant underpaying on a honest claim. I know these stereotypes are easy because I do it all the time on this blog and it is great fun. But, gun to my head, I think that at their core, insurance claims adjusters are no better or worse than doctors, lawyers, or Indian chiefs. Most stereotypes of professions fail.

Still the stereotypes exist. So if I’ve been falsely accused of vandalism recently, I’m going to take down the M-80 casings on the desk and put away my baseball bat with red paint on it because I want to make sure that any false stereotypes about me are not perpetuated or reinforced.

This quote does just the opposite. First, the arrogance is loud and clear. It has the whole “Alec Baldwin in Malice, I am the ultimate power” vibe to it. The reality, pal, is that you are not a surgeon, you are a claims adjuster.

(Look, I’m not a surgeon either but I’m not pretending to be as important as one. A lot of lawyers do. I’m a guy that tries to get his clients as much money as possible, treat his clients well, and hope that all of that equals justice and I’m a useful cog in the circle of life. Gerry Spence said a few years ago that lawyers are the most important people in world. And I think he is nuts unless your name is Thurgood Marshall or something like that.)

The biggest problem I have with insurance claims adjusters – and defense lawyers for that matter – that this quote underscores, is that they think claims are “packed with drama, with twisted hopes and crooked dreams” and that the adjuster is a “doctor and a bloodhound…and a cop and a judge and a jury.” Too many adjusters – here’s one example – think they are all of these things just by reading a patient’s medical records. I talk to a lot of clients where the adjuster could have taken advantage of settled the case without the victim hiring a lawyer, but that “my world and I know it all” mentality came through, the client sensed it, and they called a lawyer.

For those of you who say, “Geez, Ron, relax, it is just a guy pulling out a quote before an article, like you did on your 11th grade book report – it has no moral lesson,” maybe you are 100% right. It just struck me wrong after a day of dealing with adjusters.

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  • http://www.castlelaw-kc.com Heather Lottmann

    Great blog post! Insurance adjusters do often try to play both judge and jury and often try to convince injury victims that a low settlement is their only option. I find it interesting when clients tell me that their adjuster told them not to hire an attorney. That puts up a big red flag for clients or at least it should.

  • Marty Howell

    I think Heather is right. I realize these people have a job to do. I just wish they were not such arrogant know-it-alls while they do it.

  • http://www.fortworthinjurylawyerhelp.com/ jack

    I can speak from experience and completely agree that some of the things they say are crazy talk.

  • Melissa

    The same and worse could be said about a lot of plaintiff attorneys. Inflating an insurance claim, refusing to settle for a reasonable amount and forcing the insurance company to either pay more than the actual value of the claim or face the expense a long drawn out trial has the result of raising insurance rates for all consumers. While not all plaintiff attorneys are greedy bastards, many fall into that category. All of the claims adjusters I know (and I work with quite a few) will bend over backwards to find a way to benefit the insured. If you feel a particular adjuster is not being fair in their dealings, you should take appropriate action with the department of insurance for that state, and quit griping about it online. Just trying to make yourself feel superior.

  • Tom Conces

    Any Adjuster is an Agent of the insuring company and who’s only interest should be in determining a question of coverage/liability. When coverage has been confirmed to the terms of the policy, the Adjuster’s role will change to then making the injured party whole by a fair settlement. Any deviation can expose the insuring company to Bad Faith or expose an Insured to a tort suit that can be avoided. Companies and/or Adjusters handling claims differently as a “business practice” cause legislation like the Unfair Claims Act in California or House Bill 2 in Texas. Adjuster Ego is not a party to a claim.

  • Ron Miller

    “All of the claims adjusters I know (and I work with quite a few) will bend over backwards to find a way to benefit the insured.”

    Melissa, seriously? It is hard to maintain credibility after than one. I certainly would not say the inverse about plaintiffs’ lawyers. It is, ultimately, an adversarial system.

    The only way your statement makes any sense is if your premise is that these animals deserve nothing and should be grateful for whatever scraps the insurance company is willing to give us.

    Here’s what else you have to understand: insurance companies can do awful things that are perfectly legal, awful things that I BELIEVE SHOULD be legal.

    You must be a new reader, Melissa. Because I don’t think anyone who reads this blog things I’m trying to make myself feel superior in my posts about insurance companies. Please read more than one blog post before reaching your conclusions. In fact, even in this post, I point out that we are all pretty much the same.

  • Ro

    I am not sure exactly how to feel about your blog but it did make me laugh. Take it from a seasoned adjuster, we are not all egotistical or bad. Some of us are truly empathetic, which shouldn’t be mistaken with willing to give more then the policy offers. Our job is to determine first if you have a covered claim and second the value. It is sometimes difficult to do. Hopefully some of us good guys (yes, adjusters can be good guys too) will change the perception of at least a few “haters” out there. Keep the blogs coming.

  • Pamela

    I feel that the story is very true, based on my most recent experience, as a claimant for tornado damage. And as an Adjuster/Independent Agent: The IA the carrier assigned, was not willing to consider or document damages that were clearly a direct result of the tornado. His refusal to properly do his job cost me more than necessary, and the Carrier fees that were very unnecessary. The same end result, but what about the people that don’t know how to go to appraisal, and don’t know what they are entitled to: Then, the scalpel should not be in the hands of Frankenstein.