Over 82,000 victims of Hurricane Harvey have so far filed claims with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), reports say.
The number does not include any Irma victims.
More problematic than the number of claims is that several of the adjusters assigned to assess the homes of claimants have very little training, if any, and work in a system that rewards them for carrying out as many inspections as possible – leading some to rush their assessments.
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reported that after Sandy hit New York and New Jersey in 2012, approximately 15% of policyholders complained about being short-changed; something similar could happen following Hurricane Harvey and Irma.
In a special feature, NPR
compared the workflow of two adjusters inspecting homes in Texas to highlight how some of these inspectors are carrying out their jobs haphazardly.
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Sean Westerling, one of the adjusters featured, is meticulous with his inspections – everything from closets, doorways, and windows are checked. He also carefully lists the serial numbers of appliances that have been damaged by flooding.
“If you don’t watch what you’re doing, if you don’t remember to get your windows, you don’t remember to get your doors, well, not only are you going to pay for that drywall and that window, but you’re going to forget about the door trim and the door,” Westerling told NPR
On average, it takes Westerling and his assistant more than two hours to assess each house.
By comparison, adjuster James Gardner spends under 45 minutes per house he inspects; he does not measure or count windows, nor does he take down the serial numbers of appliances. While Gardner has a lot of compassion for his customers, most adjusting companies assign claims in stacks – this allows adjusters like him to generate more profit by inspecting fast enough to be assigned another stack.
“You definitely wanted to get as many claims as you could on those because you don’t know when they’re going to stop,” Gardner explained.
Mark Buntyn, a man contracted by FEMA to train new adjusters, confirms that the business model does pressure adjusters to inspect as many houses as possible. But there are other, uglier problems that could arise when adjusters get greedy, he admits.
“Individual companies are not going to give an adjuster too many claims generally,” Buntyn stated. “But some adjusters, just like any other people, are unscrupulous and they get claims from another company. And then that’s when trouble happens.”
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