Truth bombs from the knowledge vault (FAQ)

Arming Our Clients

Disaster strikes. Maybe it's a fire ravaging your home, a flood inundating your neighborhood, or a powerful storm leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. In the aftermath, you turn to your insurance company for help, expecting them to be there for you in your time of need. But what happens next can feel like a cruel twist of fate: the insurance companies are screwing people.

Dealing with insurance companies after a disaster is like navigating a labyrinth of bureaucracy, delays, and disappointments. Here's a glimpse into the frustrating reality faced by homeowners trying to rebuild their lives and how the contractor they choose matters:

1. Initial Contact Hell:You've just experienced a catastrophe, and the last thing you want to deal with is endless phone calls, automated messages, and paperwork. But that's exactly what awaits you when you try to reach your insurance company to file a claim. Hold times stretch into eternity, and when you finally get through, you're met with indifferent representatives reading from a script.

This is the point at which you need to also reach out to your contractor. If you don't already have one - do yourself a favor, and pick a local (licensed) General Contractor (GC), not some jackass wannabe who says they are a GC because they "can do everything", but a confirmed and properly licensed general contractor. The purpose of the GC is that he works for you, unlike the toadies the insurance company will recommend to you, who only perform what they ask for and agree to pay for without question. No matter how nice the storm chaser is that knocks on your door, or how desperate you may feel in the moment, remember these people are NOT your friends and are NOT there to help you. They are there to help themselves and their masters. Let them put a tarp on your roof, let them cut out the tree that fell, but that is all you should let them do.

A simple google search of General Contractor in (your city) is all it takes. You will then have a list of local companies in front of you. Refine your search and sort by reviews. Remember that the guys with 5 stars will be more expensive, but they are expensive for a reason. They have probably earned that reputation by taking good care of their clients.

2. The Waiting Game: After jumping through hoops to file your claim, you wait. And wait. Days turn into weeks, and still, there's no word from the insurance company. Meanwhile, your home sits in ruins, vulnerable to further damage and decay. The lack of communication and urgency only adds insult to injury.

If you have already agreed to hire the General Contractor, the state of your home should never reach this point, but the insurance company will remain frustrating and you are responsible for keeping him paid. Your GC should quickly collect data, provide you with an estimate, and a plan to proceed. When you sign his contract, you are on the road to recovery, but you are also agreeing to his price and keeping him paid keeps things moving. Remember he works for you, and he can help you with your negotiations with the insurance, but making sure you are reimbursed is your fight. If he has to wait for you to get insurance money, then your home and your life will remain in disarray. They may write a check quickly, but it is likely only a portion of what it will take before the end. Remember you have a RIGHT to choose your own contractor, and all contractors are NOT created equal. Also remember that although the contractor works for you, he is under no obligation to continue doing so if he is disrespected or if he is not paid in a timely manner. You need him much more than he needs you when bad things happen to your property. He is your ally in this fight, and the only one other than you who is really looking out for the value of your largest investment. Treat him accordingly.

3. Lowball Offers: Finally, the insurance adjuster shows up to assess the damage. You're hopeful that help is on the way, but then comes the gut punch: the settlement offer is insultingly low. It barely scratches the surface of what you need to rebuild your life. It's as if the insurance company is trying to nickel and dime you at every turn.

Your GC can help here. A General Contractor who is accustomed to dealing with the insurance providers probably wont care what the insurance company offered or what he thinks they will pay for. He knows what is needed and will put what is needed into the estimate. Typically, your GC will have decades of experience, education, qualifications testing and licensure, financial security, bonding, etc... kind of like a doctor, but for your home.

This is where the real fight starts, however, because the adjuster you meet won't be the one to decide what the insurance company will pay for. Insurance adjusters come in different varieties, but here is the gist.

a. the first one you encounter will probably be the field adjuster. They are either young and just there to collect data, or they are seasoned and there to bring the process to a speedy end by convincing you that you need less than is necessary, or that there is no way the insurance will pay for what you need. Your best defense against these adjusters is simply to sign nothing and speak very little. Show them the problem areas and leave it at that. They are not your enemy, but merely there because they need the work, and insurance companies pay them well.

b. The second adjuster you encounter will likely be what is called a desk adjuster. They are only available to you over the phone or in email... a Kafkaesque bureaucrat removed from your situation and incapable of empathizing with your situation because they have presided over the crushing of so many people's lives that their souls are diminished, and one can only presume that they are simply husks held together by evil magic. They are typically fluent in how to deny different services and unless they are nailed to telling the truth through email communication only, they will choose to selectively ignore important information to support the insurance company's position. Take pictures, and your GC will too. Photos and emails are the only way to battle this opponent.

c. The last, and most evil servants of the enemy are the Supervisors. They are the ones who seem fairer, but feel fouler. You will only speak to them if you have a very serious problem that the insurer desires to deny or diminish. The only defense against them is to hold your ground and enlist the help of your GC in conjunction with your engineer, attorney, and/or your public adjuster. Sometimes all of these professionals are required versus a particularly obstinate Supervising insurance company adjuster.

d. The only adjuster in this list that you need not fear is the Public Adjuster. They are adjusters who have turned away from the dark side and joined the side of the homeowner. They wield powerful tools designed to ensure that your insurer actually pays for the services your GC will provide. They work for you, and like your GC, you should trust them. The same rules apply when selecting one. Choose the high rated candidates and speak to them directly. Your comfort in their competence matters.

4. Endless Disputes: You refuse to accept the paltry sum offered by the insurance company. You know your rights, and you're not afraid to fight for them. But what follows is a protracted battle of wills, with the insurance company dragging its feet at every opportunity. They demand more documentation, more evidence, more reasons to delay payment.

A common tactic is to switch adjusters. After you speak with one adjuster for a little while, and you feel like you are getting somewhere, they reassign your adjuster. This resets the clock on their side. It is also a tactic used to wear you down. They demand more photos, an engineer's opinion (one they pay for, though you have a right to hire your own), they demand the contractor revise his estimate, and 50 other little tricks designed to delay and break you down to the point where you accept their version of reality. Your only hope here is to limit all communication to email, and only call to demand an email response... something you can use in court. While they can and will freely lie to you on the phone, they are very wary of telling you something untrue or not within their skillset in written form.

5. Policy Pitfalls:To add insult to injury, you discover that your insurance policy is riddled with loopholes and exclusions. What you thought was comprehensive coverage turns out to be full of caveats and fine print. It's a bitter pill to swallow, knowing that you've faithfully paid your premiums for years, only to be let down when you need help the most.

This is the saddest thing of all. While your GC wants to help you, if you are not covered, or able to pay for the repairs out of pocket, you may be in dire straits. You will need to guarantee payment to him and his people. If the GC is a small company, they may not be able to absorb the loss and will be forced to file a lien on your property. This is bad, but it may have a silver lining. If your GC is forced to file a lien, this is proof that your insurer directly caused financial harm to you. and if there is anything insurers do not want, it is to lose a case in court, as this would set a precedent and open them to thousands of other lawsuits. One way to avoid this type of issue is to make sure your policy has all the right coverages (some especially important items are called law and ordinance - which guarantees your home can be restored to meet code if it does not already, and replacement coverage - not just functional repair).

6. Emotional Rollercoaster: Throughout it all, you're on an emotional rollercoaster ride. Anger, frustration, despair - these emotions swirl inside you, threatening to overwhelm you at every turn. The stress takes its toll on your mental and physical health, leaving you drained and defeated.

Your GC can help here as well. Even though your insurance provider is paid to assume a certain fiduciary responsibility, they will fail in this regard by design. Your home is, in most cases, your largest asset. Your GC can and will do what is best for your home. If you vetted the GC, checked reviews and references, verified licensure and insurance, and made damn sure that your GC is the best GC for you, then he absolutely will make sure your investment is protected. That is his job and his duty to you. He may charge for estimates. That is actually a good thing because it means his time is valuable and he isn't competing against the guys who give theirs away for free. Remember he is interviewing you just as you are interviewing him. You don't have to like him, but you definitely have to trust him and feel confident in his competence.

Your GC will alleviate many of your concerns. He will know what to do, and how it is done. He will organize the restoration of your life, and may even give you some homework to do in preparation for his crews to arrive. Gather your belongings, make your product selections, and clear the way. He's got this.

In the end, the insurance companies hold all the cards, and they know it. They count on your desperation and vulnerability to wear you down, to make you accept whatever scraps they deign to offer. But refuse to be silent victims in this rigged game. Demand transparency, accountability, and justice from the insurance industry.

If you're facing the nightmare of dealing with insurance companies after a disaster, know that you're not alone. Reach out to your general contractor, engineer, attorney, or public adjuster. They are the ones who can offer support and guidance and give you the weapons you need to defend your property and rights. Together, we can hold the insurance companies accountable and fight for the fair treatment and compensation required to put your life back together. It's time to stand up and say enough is enough - the insurance companies may be screwing people, but we won't let them get away with it.

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