There is definitely one thing that you could accurately accuse me of, being behind in my reading. There is a bookshelf across from my desk that is full of books that I haven’t read yet. It mocks me.
I bring that up because I’ve finally finished a book and I wanted to tell you about it. The book I just finished is “Pay Up” by Chip Merlin.
This book is part the story of how Chip decided to become a coverage attorney, part adventure with insurance companies that attempt not to pay legitimate claims, and part sales pitch for his team’s services, which doesn’t bother me at all but more on that later.
Chip does a great job detailing several of the issues that he and his firm have dealt with over the years as they have worked to advocate for their clients. Chip is a coverage attorney who represents people who believe that their insurance company is underpaying a claim, or who they believe is unreasonably delaying the claim payment.
If you are an insurance executive, work at a carrier as a claims adjuster, or you are otherwise interested in how “the other side” views insurance companies, you should read this book. It might make you mad. You might not believe what he has to say. You might believe that there’s no way that your company (or any company) could work the way that he describes. None of that matters as much as reading the book.
This is part of the reason the general public doesn’t like insurance.
This book is twelve short chapters and in each one, Chip relates the story of a case he is familiar with. In each case, an insurance company is alleged to have acted more in line with their bottom line, than with making appropriate claims payments to their customers. I can’t speak directly about any of the claims because I wasn’t involved with any of them, so I have to take his word on them, at least mostly.
Whether or not you agree with his assessment that the insurance company did wrong by their customers, you can’t escape the fact that these stories, and more are out there. It isn’t just apocryphal information. Insurance companies have acted like their bottom line is the most important number in the world to the exclusion of making timely and complete claims payments.
If you’ve ever wondered why people react to you when they learn that you’re in insurance, this book will help you to understand it. The people that you know, and many that are in your family, have heard stories like these or worse. They may have even lived stories like these. It’s not just the attorney advertisements that tell people that their insurance companies are trying to steal from them. It’s their experiences and the experiences of the people they trust, too.
This is a good cure for insurance myopia.
Let’s face it. We all like to think that we’re doing good work for the good of others. To some people at some insurance companies, their slogans sink deeply into their souls. They believe that they are the good hands people. They really think that they are good neighbors. Sometimes we have blinders on to what might be going on around us. Sometimes, we are so focused on what’s right in front of us that we can’t see what’s going on around us.
I believe in the premise and promise of the insurance contract. I believe that I’m paying to transfer some of the risks in my life to someone else who is better equipped than I am to pay for them. I also believe that more insurance people are people who want to do right. I also believe that not everyone believes the way I do.
If I were to rely on my own experience with claims from an insurance company side, I would counter the book with other facts. I would be able to detail the times when we paid claims that weren’t owed because we wanted to maintain our relationships with agents and clients. I would talk about the times when we paid claims for clients who acted badly from the start of the claims process through the end of it.
Yet, I also have to recognize that there is more to the insurance world than the corners that I’ve seen in my professional life. I could also talk about the claim that someone close to me had, where they spent years arguing with an adjuster about a hurricane claim. I could talk about the claim that another friend of mine had where they paid money out of their pocket for a rental car that should have been covered. The insurance company didn’t pay for the rental car until the client reached out to the company to ask about what the policy said about rental cars.
Getting out of the policies, underwriting manuals, and claims procedures is good for you.
This is a good introduction to his firm.
A part of the reason that he wrote this book was to let the insurance buying public know that there is someone out there that is willing to fight for them. This is one long advertisement about what he and his firm are capable of. That’s the truth and it doesn’t bother me. It’s a whole lot better than him taking out billboards up and down the interstate. That’s icky and another conversation.
One of the best parts of the book comes at the end, where he details nine steps to take when you have an insurance claim. That is gold. Yes. He recommends that people get an attorney involved if they have to, or if they think they have to, but that’s not the first thing he recommends. In fact, he doesn’t bring up an attorney until step seven (of nine). Before he recommends calling an attorney, he recommends that clients call their agents for help and read their policies themselves. He also recommends considering getting a public adjuster, but at least he recommends getting a good one, not like the one that sent me the nasty email attacking me when I was honest about some bad public adjusters.
Side note, I agree with Chip. There are good public adjusters and there are bad ones. If you’re going to get one, at least get a good one. That goes for lawyers, too.
If you happen to find yourself facing the Merlin Law Group on a case, if you’ve read this book, you’ll know who you’re up against. You should also subscribe to their blog, Property Coverage Law blog. That’ll give you more insight into them. I’m of the opinion that I need to know as much as possible about the people that I disagree with as I do the people that I agree with.
Bottom line: I apologize that I’m late in reviewing the book, but here it is. Go get it and read it.
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