Insurance Strategy: Having A Fair Shot – Nader Anthony Odeh
Insurance is generally a “mystery-product” that property owners buy, many times out of obligation, but know very little about. You have to know about this stuff because it’s worth tens of thousands of dollars to you. It secures one of your largest investments: your property. While you probably don’t think much about your insurance company or the policy you purchased, it is a huge financial recovery resource.
Typically, property owners pay premiums for their policy but rarely, if ever, need to use it. This disadvantages them when something does go wrong when you do need to make a claim. The insurance industry is serious about making money. Many companies are quick to take your payments but are slow and unforgiving when you do submit a claim, sometimes even denying valid claims altogether. Many property owners, who extended basic trust when buying insurance, had no idea how they’d really be treated after a loss. Because new insurance claims are opened every minute of the day, your insurance company is an expert at collecting premiums and underpaying or rejecting valid claims. That’s why I exist. My name is Tony “The Boss” Odeh, and I am a claims expert. I have thirty years of experience in handling insurable losses like wind, hurricane, fire, flood, burst pipes, vandalism, lost business income, relocating, contents claims, and much more.
Without knowing how to and what to do, managing a claim with your insurance company is like playing chess against a world-championed chess player: you are subject to the strategies and movements of the master player. When using your insurance, it is critical for you to understand the processes and procedures of handling a claim. The burden of organizing, estimating, documenting, creating inventory lists (of damaged property), taking pictures, proving costs, arguing policy terms, and understanding insurance conditions is ultimate all the claimant’s responsibility. Claims are generally underpaid or denied because, without professional help, policyholders fail to make their claim properly. The “independent adjuster” hired by your insurance company to handle your claim is also handling dozens, if not hundreds, of other claims every day. They are ultimately paid by your insurance company, who loses money when paying on your claim. That adjuster has no obligation to protect your interests in any way. He is there simply to collect your claim material. An innocent and untrained policyholder doesn’t usually know to produce claim material for the adjuster to consider, therefore that adjuster produces his best guess on their behalf. Mind you, he has no duty to advocate for you. That adjuster has been trained in only one way, and it wasn’t to protect you.
I tell people that they would never perform their own root canal nor would they hire the best accountant to represent them in a murder trial. That said, it is also unwise to think you are qualified to handle your claim without insurance knowledge or trust solely the opinion of your for-profit insurance company and the people that work for them. It is not that they’re evil, but they are simply a for-profit corporation focused on making money. Your insurance company handles your claim without emotions, knowing you’re vulnerable after disaster strikes. They treat your loss as a business transaction with no empathy towards you. I have experience handling claims with clients ranging from insurance agents and attorneys to housewives and everything in between, and they have all been equally challenged in managing their claim. Approaching a claim, whether commercial or residential, with a large or small loss, and without the advice of a public adjuster, will always disadvantage the person making the claim no matter how smart that person is. Insurance companies know their own policy language and its interpretation thereof, so well that without special training and education, the average person is only able to recover pennies on the dollar.
Even attorneys who claim to specialize in property-casualty claims tend to undervalue an insurance claim. A quick way to gauge the experience and knowledge of an attorney who advertises that they handle insurance claims is asking them how many bad faith judgments they obtained in their carrier. A bad faith judgment is ruled whenever it’s found that the insurance company at hand intentionally disadvantaged their paying client, therefore, it speaks volumes to that attorney’s working knowledge of managing an insurance claim. Beware the attorney who “specializes” in property-casualty claims, never going to court and always settling. Loss victims are easy targets for opportunists and con-artists. Because they are not presented as the typical culprit but rather come in suits with big promises, their track history will reveal who they really are in terms of their experience and success. A good attorney will not only have a history of securing bad faith judgments, but they should also have a team of experts that includes a public adjuster. If you feel your claim needs professional help, the last person to get advice from is an attorney. When I say last, I mean it. Attorneys take larger fees, so it’s wisest to compile and submit your claim with your public adjuster first, extracting any money your insurer is willing to pay without the added legal fees. In some instances, using an attorney is necessary, however, it is possible to handle your entire handle claim without ever hiring one.
Instead, policyholders should get advice from public adjusters, who have active licenses and are in good standing with the insurance commissioner. A public adjuster is specially trained in dealing with the meat and potatoes of a claim. If you’re talking to an attorney currently, it is worth your time to get a second opinion from a local public insurance adjuster. The insurance industry’s corporate players follow court rulings closely and lobby to change insurance laws to benefit their corporation and not you. They are primarily interested in paying as little as you let them get away with. Having an insurance loss expert in your life will assure you that you recover what you’re owed after a disaster affects your world.
Insurance policies are always under valuated, and further, they are rarely used to their ultimate capacity because loss victims don’t understand the claims process. The tricky terms and conditions make it nearly imposable to navigate a policy if you’re handling a claim for the first, second or even third time in your life. A well-seasoned public adjuster will have handled many more claims than you will ever encounter, and a public adjuster is tested by the state for competency in insurance knowledge.
I firmly believe that every insurance consumer, or household, should have a public adjuster contact. It’s always best to ask your public adjuster about claim questions or losses before even contacting your insurance company. Many times, claims are denied simply because of the specific words used when asking about insurance coverage. An example would be a property owner finding a burst water pipe, and as a result of the water overflow, mold grew. An uneducated insurance consumer might recognize the mold and approach their insurance company using the word “mold,” but did you know that most policies have exclusions and limitations for mold damage? In my example, the cause of the loss (the loss is mold growth) was the burst water pipe. A burst pipe and the damage that is caused thereafter are covered by the average policy, however, this claim would be denied because mold in and of itself is not covered by the same policy. Therefore, many loss victims are defeated before even starting their claim because of how they approached their insurance company. A public adjuster would know how to properly present the claim as to avoid this simple yet deleterious discrepancy.
Most public adjusters get paid out of claim funds that they discover you are still owed. Some adjusters charge more on “new money” found from their investigation and work. Others charge less when they are involved from the beginning of the claim and include their fees on the whole claim amount. This is a per-service preference. Personally, I charge either way depending on when I get a claim and how much was already paid as an undisputed payment.
I wrote a booklet to help loss victims understand some basic information, but I encourage everyone to read it. This information will help you for the rest of your life if you ever buy any kind of insurance. Education is at the core of my business. My goal is to educate those I come in contact with. I encourage you to not only read my book but to also share it with those in your life who also buy insurance. It can only benefit you and those in your life to know this information. I offer a pre-loss contract that is designed to limit any gaps in your insurance coverage by discovering shortcomings before a loss ever occurs. These preparations are done in advance to avoid discovering what kind of insurance coverage you have only during a loss when it’s too late to change policies. The responsibility of making sure you are properly insured falls solely on you and not that of your agent, who is tasked to simply sell insurance. I find the worst circumstances are those of loss victims who bought insurance but where unaware of the limitations until things couldn’t get any worse. Suffering a loss of any kind is draining and stressful. Planning in advance can greatly assist you in your recovery, and many times, policyholders save can money while getting the insurance products they actually need.