On-Site Closures

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There are several different ways to handle claims, as you'll see below.  

I've also included a handy cheatsheet which shows the pros and cons for each type of claims handling. Sign up with your name and email to download the cheatsheet:

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The numbers speak for themselves..

The graphic on the left shows my total claims closed from 2011 to 2016. Note that there is slightly more than 1 day between my Inspected and Returned (closed). The reason it's not the same is because many of the claims I handled were large loss commercial and I don't typically close those on site. Also, if I close a claim at 9am and don't upload that claim until after I get home from dinner, that also affects this metric.

(Note - the volume was lower through these years because I also did field support and file review, which are daily so this isn't a reflection of my income or volume for this period)

Three MORE reasons completely closing your claims on site is the best way to go:

  1. Carriers love it. Customer service is the prime driver of company decisions at most insurance companies. The best customer service we can deliver is if we sit down at the kitchen table with our insured and go through their estimate with them and make sure they understand it, and that all of their questions have been answered. If a carrier finds out you always settle on site with an insured, you’ll be known in the office - in a good way.

  2. It saves time in the claims process. Because you don’t have to make a settlement call later, you’re saving all that time spent making phone calls to go over estimates with the insured. Also, technically, you can’t close a claim until you’ve settled with the insured. So if you’re playing phone tag with somebody, that claim is sitting on your desk instead of a check going out to the insured - and you.

  3. Most important for the steadily working cat adjuster: we don’t have to work when we’re done working. In other words, when the sun goes down, we’re done. Maybe make a couple of phone calls here and there, set up some new claims that came in late that afternoon. But other than that, we can relax and get some sleep.

In this next section I’m going to show you the actual math.  Using these assumptions:

20 minutes to scope
20 minutes to write up
10 minutes to settle with insured

Adjuster #1 - Closed on site

Fully closing in the field on a typical wind or hail storm takes a little under an hour.  Obviously there are exceptions to this, both more time and less time.  Assuming you only work an 8 hour day, you’ll close 8 claims in a day.  56 claims closed in a week.

Adjuster #2 - Scope, then write, then settle in a day (aka, “Run n Gun”)

This adjuster won’t be scoping three an hour unless the houses are all right next to each other, so we’ll say they’re scoping 2 an hour.  16 scopes done a day by 5pm

It takes 20 minutes to write up the claim, 5.3 hours.  They’ll get back to their hotel and let’s just say they only take a 1 hour break to eat.  Then they start writing their claims up at 6pm.  It’s after 11pm by the time they’re done writing those claims.  Not too bad.  Many people can get up at 7 and work until 11 for a week or more.

But they still have to contact their insureds and settle.  At ten minutes each, that’s 2.6 hours.  Which they’ll have to do the next morning.  

So the next day starts 2.6 hours later.  Which means that every day after will end at 1:30am.  

If they’re a machine and can make this kind of a schedule work, then they’ll have closed 112 in a week.  I’ve never heard of anybody closing this many regular claims in a week.  It is possible to close that many and more in a week, but under very special circumstances, which I will talk about in another post.

Okay, let’s be slightly more realistic about it:

Let’s say they scope 1.5 an hour…  12 scopes in a day instead of 16. 

They work from 8 to 5pm in the field.  Then they go back and have dinner and take a break for an hour.  Start writing at 6pm.  They’ll be done writing those up at 10pm (at 20 minutes each).  They can’t stop and call otherwise they won’t get their 12 written up before midnight and they won’t get them all called because not many people accept phone calls after about 8pm. 

They make their calls in the morning, which means their scoping day starts at 10am (if they normally start at 8am).  So then their field day goes until 8pm.  We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say the sun is still up at that time.

So they take a break for dinner until 9pm.  Now they’re writing up until 1am.  That’s a long day.

Assuming they can keep this 17 hour-a-day pace, then they’ll close 84 in a week.  

Realistically:  because this adjuster is a human (like the rest of us) and will procrastinate, they will probably end up doing something more like this:

Monday - scope 12, write 12
Tuesday - scope 12, write 8
Wednesday - scope 12, write 6
Thursday - scope 12, write 4
Friday - scope 12, write 0 because hey Friday
Saturday - scope 12, write 6
Sunday - scope 12, write 6

They’ll actually end up closing 42 claims that week and have 42 claims sitting there waiting to be written up.  They will HAVE to take at least one very long paper day to write those up, never mind all the contact calls they’ll have to make.  It’s very hard to get caught up from this type of workflow and it's not recommended.  Many new adjusters on their first deployments will try this since they don't know what else to do.

Adjuster #3 - Scope two days, write the next, repeat

Monday - scope 12
Tuesday - scope 12
Wednesday - write 24 and make calls
Thursday - scope 12
Friday - scope 12
Saturday - write 24 (48)
Sunday - scope 12

Production numbers are lower for this type of claims handling.  Also, because so much time passes between the inspection and when the adjuster sits down to write the estimate, the potential for errors is much greater.  

48 done in a week

Adjuster #4 - Scope and write estimate on site, complete remainder of claim back at hotel.  

This adjuster is doing most of the work on site.  He’s importing photos and writing the estimate.  But he’s not completing the rest of the claim file, which means he’s taking it back to his hotel to finish later over a beer and pizza.

9 a day (because they were able to add another inspection in with time saved).  63 done in a week.

Since there’s only about 6 minutes of work left on a claim after importing/labeling photos and writing the estimate, why not just do it on site and be done with it?  Add up those minutes and this adjuster can probably sneak in one extra claim in a day, but then they’re still sitting up at night writing activity diaries, claim summaries, damage evaluations, and invoices.  

Some adjusters will import and label photos back at their hotel room.  The photos are an extremely important part of the claim and if the adjuster forgets an important photo, they better hope that the file reviewer will be nice to them and not make them run back out and get the photos they missed.  It happens all the time.  The Risk Photo is the most important photo in the file and it’s also the one that gets missed the most often.  The adjuster WILL be making a trip back out to get that one.  In addition, sometimes the photos we take don’t adequately show the damage (or lack thereof) or are blurry.  If we’re still on site while we’re importing photos we can jump out of the truck and get a better picture, thus improving the file.

DO NOT TURN IN BLURRY PHOTOS WITH YOUR CLAIM.  You might as well not include a photo that doesn't show the file reviewer anything.

To recap:  What are the overall goals?

  1. to produce a quality file that tells the story of the claim with clarity AND accuracy

  2. to make sure the insured understands the findings of the claim investigation and is comfortable with the expectations that have been set - customer service

  3. to be consistent and fast - production

  4. to be sane. If you’re spending at least half of your year doing this, the high stress can kill you (literally).

For an adjuster who is used to working hail from April until October every year, living out of a hotel room far from home, having my evenings be my own has made the months bearable.  And because I’ll have good production, great customer service, and great quality on all my files, I’ll be at the top of the first-call list, which is great for my career in the long-term. 

In fairness, I know many veteran adjusters who wouldn't dream of closing their claims on site.  They have built their own systems for handling claims that allow them to be fast, have good quality, and good customer service. I encourage you to try both ways and create your own system for getting through your claims load.  

Remember, no matter which way you do it, you MUST focus on:

1. speed
2. accuracy (minimizing errors and missed damage)
3. customer service


Mathew Allen

I teach new catastrophe adjusters how to get started in the business.  I also build my own websites and sites for friends (who sometimes pay me).  In addition, I film and produce personal adventure videos for hunting and fishing clients.