Major insurers have deployed thousands of claims adjusters in the Northeast in the wake of Superstorm Sandy — they are working from dawn until late night to make contacts with policyholders, complete the estimate process and move claims forward.
They are also facing the same challenges that policyholders have been dealing with since Sandy slammed into the region: limited access to areas most affected by the storm, continuing power outages in some municipalities, cell phone service interruptions, washed-out roads and long lines at gas stations.
“Our adjusters are experiencing a lot of the same things that our policyholders are experiencing,” said Kevin Brotherton, a catastrophe services team manager at State Farm Insurance. He told Insurance Journal that his company has over 1,200 adjusters from its catastrophe services team working in the affected areas, in conjunction with local staff.
State Farm has received approximately 103,900 Sandy-related claims(88,300 property claims and 15,600 auto claims) as of Nov. 11, according to spokesperson Amy Preddy.
“We have a very large group of employees that are being deployed from all over the United States. They’ve all traveled to here. We’ve got the largest response teams in the industry to help our policyholders,” said Brotherton. Many municipalities on coastal regions remain cautious and there is still only limited access to places that are most affected by Sandy. “Some roads are washed out, as are power lines. There are still some access issues,” he said.
The adjusters are also combating the same issues as policyholders when it comes to the mobile technology. “With so many people being on mobile phones, there have been some cell phone outages from wireless phone carriers — and that has impacted the whole Northeast. So it impacts us as well,” said Brotherton.
“The mobile connectivity that they have when they are out in the field has been slower or a little bit limited in some areas — they had to make a special effort to drive back to areas where they can get connectivity to finish their estimates and move the claims forward.”
One other thing State Farm has been experiencing is that some adjusters have to drive further away for lodging accommodations because of the ongoing shortage of lodgings in the affected areas.
Also, adjusters continue to face long lines at gas stations. But because they are working such long hours, they are now going to gas stations during late-night hours when lines are shorter. So they are able to fill up for the next day, Brotherton said.
Advice for Homeowners
State Farm also offered following advice to homeowners in the affected regions. “We want people to be safe. They need to ensure it will be safe for their families before they go back to their homes,” Brotherton said. He warned homeowners to watch out for potential live wires as the electricity comes back on.
“When the power returns, if there is a spike, they could have additional damages to properties caused by the spike when they have the electricity coming back up,” he said. He also recommended that homeowners get estimates when considering contractors to repair damages.
“Having estimates on hand when you meet with a claims representative helps move the claim forward more quickly. And make sure to work with licensed contractors and vendors in the area to ensure that the people they are working with are qualified.”