How to Navigate the Hostile Restorer/Adjuster Environment: An Exclusive Q&A With Peter Crosa
By Jeff Cross
The relationship between insurance adjusters and contractors has been one that has struggled for decades. Now, adversarial relationships are almost expected by both parties. However, does it truly have to be this hostile?
Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing a true expert in the relationships between insurance claims adjusters and restoration professionals. Having a strong connection with Peter Crosa throughout years of working together, I know exactly how much insight and wisdom this professional industry leader has to offer on this subject. In order to see exactly how to create long-lasting and positive relationships between your team and adjusters in your community, read on to see the many valuable takeaways this Q&A delivered.
I’ve known you for many years, we’ve worked together, and I know you’re reasonable as an adjuster when you deal with contractors. Why are you different from some of your peers?
Well, wow, that’s a big profound philosophical question, Jeff! But, I just try to follow the golden rule, and we all know what that is. Treat people like you’d like to be treated, and I try to be fair too. Plenty of adjusters try to be that way as well, but they don’t understand their own bias.
Sometimes adjusters have their own biases, and they don’t even realize it. They lean in favor of the insurance company whenever they can. I know some adjusters that go on a claim and they don’t think they owe anything until policy language forces them to pay something on the claim. That’s their approach, versus an approach like mine where I try to help as much as I can.
There’s a difference in attitude between us more than anything.
Many in the industry complain about “adjuster pushback”. Do you believe that is an accurate and/or fair position to take as a restoration company?
The basic residential adjuster is pre-disposed to mistrust contractors. This is particularly true of the contractor he doesn’t know.
As a contractor, if you want to thrive doing insurance claims work, mingle with adjusters at their claims association meetings and other educational events. Build trust ahead of the claim. That’s what the larger restoration contractors know and do.
What has changed in recent years with restoration companies and insurance claims? Would you say the restorer/adjuster relationship has become more hostile in recent years?
There does seem to be greater hostility, but it depends on the jurisdiction and the insurance company.
About 25 or 30 years ago, when I first wrote my book about soft-selling hardened claims adjusters, it was a time when you still could build relationships. Personally, I think this has to do with the development of estimating software. Prior to its creation, adjusters had to depend on contractors for pricing. Around the mid-70s, they got the idea that you could break things down into unit costs. Thus, they started paying attention to unit costs rather than the cost of doing repairs. Then, with the computer age, using computerized estimating programs became the status quo. This transition put adjusters in a position to challenge what was being done by contractors as a result.
In all honesty, I don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg. Were contractors being too greedy, and therefore adjusters pushed back? Or, were insurance companies starting to deny things that they should have previously paid, and contractors became hostile in return? Florida is a perfect example of that. Boy, it’s the wild wild west there.
I’m seeing the greatest volume and frequency of conflict in residential water and roofing claims. The water peril itself makes up the greatest percentage of residential insurance claims. Nationally, 20% of all Homeowner claims emanate from Florida and yet, Florida accounts for 80% of all Homeowner claim lawsuits.
As an adjuster, what surprises you the most about the current state of affairs between restoration contractors and insurance companies?
I’m surprised when a contractor comes to the job prepared to argue and disposed to litigate disagreements; a “pedal to the metal” attitude. Conversely, I’m surprised by insurers who choose to deny and litigate claims they should compromise or pay.
What are some triggers or issues that restoration contractors should be aware of that may make working with adjusters more problematic?
Just presume that if an adjuster doesn’t know you, he doesn’t trust you.
Does the size of the restoration company matter when it engages with insurance company challenges? Why?
When it comes to the size of the restoration contractor, as an adjuster, I’m probably comforted by knowing the brand. I probably know some of the management because they take the time to know the adjusting community.
Apart from the obvious operational advantages of being a larger company, i.e. available operational cash & equipment, they come to sponsor or advertise at my adjuster association meetings or education events. This gives the impression that they understand the adjusting community and its objectives. They train their project managers on how to deal with and build trust with adjusters.
What are some tips you would offer restoration companies so they can get their work done, and get paid, in a timely and fair manner?
If you want to get work, reach agreements with adjusters, and get paid quickly and fairly, you must learn how to get the adjuster on your side. Quash the hostility.
As someone on the outside looking in, I would think a third party such as a mediator would be a solution to bringing everyone together to get things done easily and simplistically. Is that the case?
Well, yeah, you would think so. But, the reality is that there is some element of larceny out there. There are people that operate on the felonious principle, and they really are into ripping somebody off.
There is the attitude that insurance companies are rich. The truth is that they’ve done consumer research, and most people think that the insurance company is biased against the policyholder and the insurance companies are getting rich off this mentality.
And that’s why juries sometimes are willing to give and award incredible amounts of financial verdicts against the insurance industry because the concept is that they’re very rich and powerful.
So, when it comes to a third-party mediator, we have something called the appraisal clause built into the insurance policy which is in every property policy that basically says, “If you, Mr.Policyholder, and we, the insurance company, disagree, we can invoke the appraisal, pause, and bring in some arbitrators to go through that process and decide which estimate is allowable. But in Florida, that’s still not always the end of the road. People have gone to litigating over that process, so they supersede whatever happens in the appraisal clause to try to get it quashed or to try and delegitimize it somehow in order to let a jury decide instead.
How can the Restoration Strategies event help business owners, managers, and marketing leaders with restoration companies overcome challenges and drive revenues?
If you’re talking about revenues from performing reconstruction for adjusters and the insurance industry (which spends hundreds of billions of dollars on restoring damaged property each year), there is a methodology to becoming a favored, trusted contractor. You can build that relationship that the adjuster values and wants to preserve. Whether they’d ever admit it or not, adjusters need competent, dependable contractors they can rely on.