Year: 2011

Membership in Professional Organizations Helps a Small Public Adjusting Firm Achieve a Big Result

In the true spirit of Labor Day, I hope all of you take time to reflect on your work and still find time to relax. For today’s blog, I encourage you to take a look at the article, Small Public Adjusting Firm—Big Results. It is an inspiring story of one public adjuster who became a public adjuster after having built “his world around serving insurers.”

Clay Morrison is a public insurance adjuster who, in a former life, owned a restoration company. His largest customer was State Farm. Clay is now the president of Morrison & Morrison, Inc. His public adjusting office is based out of League City, Texas and similar, to many public adjusters, the business includes family—the “other” Morrison is Clay’s wife, Ruth, a Texas attorney and corporate counsel for the firm.

Morrison decided to become a public insurance adjuster when he was “urged” by one large insurance company to go against his ethical standards and change the way business was done. Morrison’s article, published in the NAPIA Summer Bulletin, details the closed door meeting he was invited into with an upper level claims manager who made a request for Morrison to help State Farm.

The request:

“We refer a lot of restoration business to you, and we need your help in rectifying the consumer’s entitlement mentality.”

Morrison declined State Farm’s request, but his very successful restoration business was quickly out of business.

Now, Morrison is a public insurance adjuster, member of the NAPIA board, Secretary of the Texas Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (TAPIA), FAPIA member, and a Windstorm Network certified umpire.

Morrison explains that even as a small operator of his own public adjusting firm, he found it very important and beneficial to be a member of professional educational programs. Morrison acknowledges the expense of being active in multiple associations, but explains his two reasons for going the extra mile and spending the extra dollar.

Number 1: “If you want to be successful in a field, you must associate yourself with people who are most successful in that field.”

Number 2: “If you endeavor to do something, you should strive to be the best.”

Two valuable points for all of us to consider as we enjoy this holiday weekend and our work.

Article by Nicole Vinson from http://www.propertyinsurancecoveragelaw.com

Don’t try this at home: Easy ways to mess up your home insurance claims

If your home ever is damaged in a fire or a natural disaster, filing a home insurance claim probably won’t be an experience to which you’ll look forward.

When you’re already in a stressful situation, it’s important to avoid making costly mistakes while dealing with your insurer. Here are eight goofs to avoid after you experience property damage.

Don’t be too quick to clean up

Your first impulse may be to start cleanup and repairs immediately.

home insurance claims mistakesClay Morrison, a property loss consultant with Morrison & Morrison in League City, Texas, observes that in the wake of a fire, tornado or hurricane, “people end up with a pile of water-soaked or burned junk and they’re miserable. So their first instinct is to clean up.”

The problem, however, is that an insurance adjuster needs to come out, inspect everything and take photos. If you clean up too much or haul away large amounts of debris and household items, you’ll likely jeopardize your chance to prove the extent of the damage to your property.

Prevent further property damage

Even though you don’t want to clean up too much after a loss, you shouldn’t let the property languish before a claims adjuster surveys your damage. Depending on the type of incident and how many policyholders were impacted, that could take anywhere from a few days to as long as 60 days.

But don’t sit and let rain pour in.

Following a loss, policyholders are required to mitigate or prevent further property damage. This requirement is found in the “conditions” section of insurance policies, notes Anita Taff of Taff Claim Services Inc. in Marietta, Ga.

Put a tarp over your home or board up the property if that is feasible. If you can’t gain access to your residence because authorities won’t allow it, obtain a letter from the fire department or another city agency documenting the fact. Show an insurer the letter to demonstrate that you took reasonable steps to protect your home.

Protect receipts and photos

One big mistake homeowners make is failing to take “before” and “after” photos of their properties. Each year, make a written inventory of your belongings, take photographs and make a video of all the contents in your home, suggests the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, a group of property-loss experts that works exclusively for property owners. Be sure to store these images in a safe place outside your home.

Also, never give an insurance adjuster original photos and receipts. Supply copies or duplicates and then request a written confirmation that your insurer received the documents. This way, you’ll always have backup photos in case the insurer loses your paperwork or documentation.

Find a witness to the cause

Many frustrated homeowners have tried to get insurance claims processed on the strength of nothing more than their word. It might stand to reason that if your roof has been ripped off, the passing tornado caused it. But often the burden of proving the cause of damage still falls on the property owner.

Having a witness who can testify on your behalf can go a long way toward maximizing your insurance claims. “If a neighbor or someone who doesn’t live in your home can tell an insurer, ‘I saw a tornado hit that house,’ that’s going to be very important to the claims process,” says Morrison.

Stick to the facts

Avoid exaggerating your damage. Even if you think your insurance premiums are too high or you felt mistreated by your insurer in the past, don’t try to make up for it by padding your claim. Those actions are disasters in the making.

“I can’t tell you the number of clients who say, ‘You saved me from myself and I would’ve made a mess out of things because I’m not happy with the last claim my insurance company handled,'” says Taff.

“A good public adjuster will say, ‘Our job is to get you every benefit and everything you’re entitled to; but no more, and no less.'” Aside from being unethical, a false or padded claim can be denied and you could be canceled, she adds.

Don’t let a contractor negotiate your insurance claim

Some policyholders allow contractors to negotiate homeowner insurance claims directly with insurers. This takes you out of the loop and leaves you with no clear idea about the exact repair costs or terms proposed by either side.

It is important to stay in charge of your claims process, says Ron Reitz a public claims adjuster and president of Quality Claims Management Corp., based in San Diego.

“Generally when you have a loss you need to hire emergency services to help with something,” he says. “Whether it is removing flooding or drying out your property or bringing in temporary power, a lot of times these guys will have you sign a contract that gives them 100 percent of your insurance proceeds. They also will ask to negotiate your claim with the insurance company. Those are both big no-nos.”

A better strategy: Do the negotiating yourself, or hire a public adjuster. Here’s how to hire a public insurance adjuster after a disaster.

Don’t sign a release on your insurance claim

Reitz warns that people whose homes have been damaged by flood, fire, or natural disasters may be too overwhelmed and distracted to pay close attention to documents they are asked to sign by their insurers. That’s always a mistake. He advises you never to sign a release on your home insurance claim.

“Generally [the documents] say, ‘You accept this as a final settlement and release us from any and all claims related to this loss,'” he says. “You are not required to sign a release as part of the claims process. They owe you the money. Let’s just say you accepted $1,500 and you think [the damage] is minor. Then they start making repairs and say there is $8,000 in additional damages. If you signed a release, you just took away your right to go after the additional amount.”

Be cautious when cashing insurance checks

Reitz also says you should be very careful about cashing insurance checks marked “full and final settlement.” You don’t want to cut yourself off from claims payments to which you’re entitled.

In some states, such as California, it is illegal for an insurance company even to issue such a check, he notes.

Before you cash such a check, “send a letter to the insurance company,” he says. “Say, ‘I am not accepting this as the full and final payment but I am accepting it as the undisputed amount.’ Let’s say you have a $500,000 claim and they give you $50,000. You definitely want to use the $50,000 and then go back for the $450,000.”

Joplin Tornado Claims Examination – Tornado Insurance Claims

Misguided Trust with Property Insurance Companies for Joplin tornado claims?

Two weeks ago I was in Joplin, Missouri working on Joplin tornado claims. Joplin reminds me of a town copied directly from a Norman Rockwell painting.  The people are genuine, the youth are respectful and I can tell that a handshake is a readily accepted form of transacting business.  While the people of Joplin seem ready and willing to trust that their property insurance company has done the right thing for them following the devastating tornado that ripped their town apart in May, I found a much darker picture as I began to examine claims.

As my work on claims progressed, I began to notice some very disturbing trends on the Joplin tornado claims that no consumer seemed to be aware of. 

  1.  The first problem I noticed is that every property I examined appeared to be underinsured.  Underinsured means that the amount of insurance coverage selected by either the agent or the insured is not enough to cover the real cost of replacement.   At first I thought this was an anomaly, but not only did it appear consistently, it appeared consistently with two companies in particular.
  2. The next issue that I noticed was that all the estimates I examined from one company had made no allowance for overhead and profit.  Overhead and profit is a markup allowance added to the bottom line of an insurance damage estimate to allow for the overhead and profit of a general contractor.   Again, this phenomenon appeared on every estimate I examined that was written by the same insurance company.
  3. Next, I noticed that sales tax was missing from Joplin tornado claims estimates by the same company who had omitted overhead and profit.  Almost every city in America requires that business collect sales tax for their goods and services.
  4. Finally, the unit pricing allowed in the estimates by several insurance companies appeared to extremely dated and much lower than I would have expected.  I need to mention that the problems I noticed are prevalent with two insurers who are probably two of the largest insurers in Missouri.

I cannot tell you that every company has handled Joplin tornado claims in this fashion, but every estimate I examined was handled this way. Joplin seems to be recovering slowly, but I can imagine how many properties are underinsured, how many claims are missing overhead and profit, how many claim payments omitted sales tax, and how many folks are only now learning of these facts as they try to rebuild.

Time Running Out for Joplin tornado claims

Unfortunately Missouri has limited time frames to take formal action for any wrong doing, and at the same time most policies issued in Missouri specify that you must claim recoverable depreciation within 6 months or less in some circumstances.  These two factors, combined with a truly catastrophic situation make for the perfect storm when it comes to the consumer losing in the end.

I suspect that a huge percentage of Joplin claims were handled as I have described above.  If you have a loss from the Joplin tornado, I would strongly urge you to have a professional public insurance adjuster to examine your claim. Even if you were paid policy limits for your Joplin Tornado Claim, I suspect that you were not paid fully to replace your property even though your adjuster may have said that they have done everything they can.

Gloria Dei Church Letter of Recommendation

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church

To Whom It May Concern:

It is with complete confidence that I write this letter of recommendation for Clay Morrison, Licensed Public Adjuster. I have known Clay for over 15 years as a fellow member of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church and more recently as we worked together professionally to recover a loss on behalf of our congregation.

Within hours after hurricane Ike damaged our church buildings, Clay was here to provide property loss consulting to ensure Gloria Dei’s insurance claim was handled fairly, efficiently and expediently. Clay was our expert interface on insurance issues and spent countless hours interpreting policy, detailing damages, consulting for repairs, and communicating with insurance adjusters. At first we thought we could go it alone, but the decision to bring Clay into the process was one of the best we ever made.

The total damage claim was over $525k and I am certain that we would have mistaken some of the loss if it hadn’t been for Clay’s thorough analysis and experienced knowledge. Regrettably, we ended up in litigation on the Business Interruption portion of our claim. The formidable legal team which our insurance carrier had assembled didn’t question even a single element of Clay’s work. Their lead counsel summed it up, “You guys had Clay Morrison work the property side­ he knows what he’s doing, we don’t contest any of that.”

In every interaction with Clay, I’ve observed him to be professional, courteous, and forthright. He manages his business services and personal relationships with integrity and Christian character. I would not hesitate to refer Clay to any individual or business who has a need for expert loss consultation.

Vincent Parks
Executive Director of Ministry

Mike Amoroso Letter of Recommendation

Amoroso Letter of Recommendation

Letter of Recommendation

Morrison and Morrison, Inc.

After my house was severely damaged by hurricane Ike, I quickly realized I would need help from someone that had experience negotiating with insurance carriers. I was very fortunate to have found Morrison and Morrison.

Although my house was damaged beyond repair and required demolition, the flood insurance offered me only 9% of my house value. To get beyond their initial settlement offer required a long and taxing fight with the flood insurance. I contracted with Morrison and Morrison because I needed help. Clay and Ruth Morrison have the experience, knowledge and personal contacts to escalate my case through the bureaucracy of the flood insurance to reach an acceptable settlement.

I’m convinced that without their help, I would have been forced to settle for a small fraction of the final settlement amount, and in effect lost my life savings. Contracting Morrison and Morrison was certainly one of the best decisions that I made.

Michael T. Amoroso

Industrial Materials, Inc. Letter of Recommendation

IMC Reference Letter

Mr. Clay Morrison
Morrison & Morrison, Inc,
2951 Marina Bay Dr. #130-315
League City, TK 77573

Dear Clay,

Thank you for your excellent work on behalf of Industrial Material Corp, (IMC) in making certain we received all we were due after Hurricane Ike, We recovered far more than we would have without your help; and your thoroughness allowed us to focus on serving our Customers and taking care of our people,

Not only would we recommend Morrison & Morrison to anyone considering a Property Loss Consultant Moreover, after our very positive experience with you, we would also recommend using Consultant, even if you are adequately insured and have done your due diligence, vs, doing it yourself

Best Regards,
President

Texas City/ La Marque Chamber of Commerce Endorsement

Download Letter of Recommendation for Morrison and Morrison

September 29, 2011

To Whom It May Concern:

Re: Morrison and Morrison, Inc.

I would like to take the opportunity to recommend Morrison and Morrison, Inc. Clay Morrison was kind enough to speak to our Chamber membership recently at our Hurricane Preparedness Luncheon. Many of our members later thanked us for the information that Clay provided to them, and the event was a great success. Living on the Gulf Coast gives our members the challenge from time to time of dealing with disasters. By providing this type of information trying times are more manageable, our businesses are up and running quicker, our citizens are provided for more efficiently and our city runs at its highest level even during critical events. Morrison and Morrison is a member of the Texas City – La Marque Chamber of Commerce and we are proud to have the expertise that is provided by them.

Morrison and Morrison, Inc. is a highly qualified organization, and I am certain that their services to you will be professional and reliable.

Sincerely,
Jimmy Hayley
President

Texas Wildfires Total Loss Insurance Claim – Update to our 2nd posting

It seems that just when you think you have addressed things properly, something else comes up that causes you to take notice.  We recently posted advice on dealing with a home that was burned to the ground and what to expect from a fire loss regarding proving your damages.  Following our post, a very vigilant blog follower who experienced what he considers to be a total loss from fire to his home, sent me a note reminding us of Texas

Statute 862.053 that reads as follows:

Sec.A862.053.AAFIRE INSURANCE: TOTAL LOSS OF REAL PROPERTY.
(a)  A fire insurance policy, in case of a total loss by fire of property insured, shall be held and considered to be a liquidated demand against the company for the full amount of such policy. This subsection does not apply to personal property.

(b) AAAn insurance company shall incorporate verbatim the provisions of Subsection (a) in each fire insurance policy issued as coverage on real property in this state.

(c) AAThe commissioner shall require compliance with this section.

Our last post was probably not very clear when we described a house that was burned to the ground.  What we need to clarify is “what”   is considered a “total loss” and who determines what a total loss is.  We have had reports from the field of some people being paid in full for their policy limits and some being told that while the house is burned, the slab is still usable.  The questions remain for us as to whether a usable slab causes the home to be considered a total loss and the statute does not seem to define it either.

We wanted to collect various opinions from some of the attorneys we work with and Sergio Leal with Merlin Law Group reviewed this statute and took the initiative to follow up by posting a blog dealing with how the courts have defined a total loss.  Please view the following link to make your own assessments as to what might qualify you for a total loss.

http://www.propertyinsurancecoveragelaw.com/2011/09/articles/insurance/texas-fire-insurance-claims-how-the-law-handles-total-losses/

If you have not been paid full policy limits for your burned down home, you may want to consider asking your insurance company about the above provision. We would like to hear from you on this topic as to whether you have been paid your policy limits.  I want to give our blog follower all the credit for being vigilant enough to bring this to our attention.

Bastrop, Texas Wildfire & Fire Insurance Claim Story?

Bastrop, Texas Wildfire Insurance Claim

Your home is gone, the insurer will have to pay the policy limits… Right?

I have been a public adjuster for many years and have seen just about every loss situation you can imagine. After seeing the wildfire damage in Bastrop, I could not help but envision the following story wildfire insurance claim unfolding….
These videos is a possible senario of Bastrop, Texas Wildfire Insurance Claim.

Wildfire Insurance Claim – Part 1

Bastrop Wildfire Insurance Claim – Part 2

Texas & Bastrop Wildfires Claims Part 3 – Cost of Clean Up & Additional Living Expenses

Bastrop Wildfire Claims: Cost of Clean Up & Additional Living Expenses

I spent last week meeting with property owners in the Bastrop area who are dealing with the aftermath of the horrible fires that dealt a blow to not only their personal financial condition, but also to the hearts of those who live there. In several meetings I noticed how emotions would seem to overtake those who spoke about the ordeal. However, Bastrop citizens are like a lot like other small town Texans in that they choose to pick up a shovel and start rebuilding their lives. This blog post will help provide insurance policy claim information related to the Texas and Bastrop Wildfire insurance claims.

Although FEMA employees seem to outnumber the entire population of Bastrop right now, being self-sufficient Texans the Bastrop citizens seem to be taking the bull by the horns, cleaning up, and taking care of themselves. I wonder if FEMA has lacked in applicants for assistance in Bastrop, because I noticed the following link on my email–(http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=57985). The link seems to be encouraging people to sign up even if they are concerned that they may not qualify. Sorry FEMA, but being a native Texan I can tell you that we are not like other places, and you will find few of us sitting on the curb waiting for the federal government to rescue us. Witnessing the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality has been an inspiration to me over the last week.

With all the discussion of clean up and living assistance for those with damaged homes, two insurance policy conditions come to mind for me. The first policy condition I am referring to is called “debris removal”. Whether you know it or not, your insurance policy likely has a provision to cover removal of debris that is a result of this fire. This will typically cover the demolition and removal of the burned structures on your property and may cover some of the trees involved if they have fallen on, or affected the structure. The amount you are entitled to is typically 10% of your main dwelling coverage limit. So for example if you carried $200K on your home’s main structure, then you likely have access to $20,000 in order to clean up. While many well intentioned folks have gathered fellow church members and friends to get to work with shovels in hand, I have some good news and bad news.

The good news is that if you hire someone to perform debris removal and you have the coverage, the cost is likely covered and you are free to spend your time in other pursuits. The bad news is that if you do the work yourself, most policies have a clause that allows you only minimum wage or some other grossly minimal pay for your time. By doing the work yourself you are giving your insurer a break from what they justifiably owe you. My advice is to look at your policy carefully to see if you have debris removal coverage before doing any work. If you do, find a reputable local demolition contractor who can do the cleanup and let them get to work as soon as your insurer has inspected the property.

The second policy condition I am referring to is ALE or additional living expenses. This coverage is for the additional expenses you incur over and above your normal living expenses while out of your home. To be paid, these must be incurred and you are entitled to assume equal living conditions to what you had prior to the fire.

Additional items that are covered under this coverage can be the cost differential to eat out now that you cannot prepare food at home, any additional travel expenses you incur to travel longer distances to school and work, dry cleaning now that you cannot launder your own clothes and any other costs you incur as a result of being displaced from your home. Like other coverage, ALE usually has limited coverage amounts that are specified as a percentage of your dwelling policy limit or as an incurred time line to make repairs or rebuild. ALE limits are often 10% to 25% of your dwelling limit amount or up to 1 year incurred to rebuild or repair. Read your policy carefully and make sure that you understand this coverage before you end up blindsided and out of money to live.