Friday, 04 May 2007 05:41

Poor treatment of insurance company employees may explain adjuster behavior

Written by Lee Amaradio Jr.
    I recently received an email about an article of mine from a gentleman in the collision industry for more than 50 years. I loved what he had to say. and his interesting comments really made me think a bit differently.
  There was one comment that stood out in my mind about how bad insurance companies are treating their employees. I had to stop and think about what he said. His comments really opened my eyes to something that I had not given much thought to. We know the abuse we feel from time to time but never really think about what is happening on the other side.
    Have you ever wondered why some adjusters refuse to pay for anything without a fight? Some are literally being worked to death and are easily discarded if they mess one thing up. The people I used to deal with, with the exception of a few, are all gone. I see a new face every month or so. Most have been replaced with a new less experienced adjuster that will agree to anything the insurance company demands just to keep their job. Like the DRP networks, the insurance company employee is being asked to do more and more, and if they question anything they are threatened with the loss of their job.
    I saw for the first time how some insurance companies are working both ends. They dangle the jobs of their own employees like they dangle our accounts before us. And we both react the same way. We agree to everything to keep working. No wonder we have such a hard time coming to an agreed-upon price with some adjusters.
    Take a quick look around and you will see that things are changing. Insurers are using less people to do the same job and expecting them to work harder. This is why more adjusters are coming over to our side of the industry than ever before. I barely have a week go by that an adjuster doesn’t ask for a job. They are as insecure with their futures as we are.
    What about Internet claims handling? I foresee in the near future when the insurance companies will eliminate the majority of their personnel. Everything will be downloaded to some claims center with a bunch of adjusters that just look at pictures all day and cut estimates. These centers already exist and save the insurance companies millions of dollars. They are being trained with the sole purpose of cutting your estimates. They know little or nothing about collision repair, absolutely nothing about the P pages and their sole purpose is to deduct, deduct, deduct. Could this eliminate the need for adjusters?
    If you agree to remove something from your estimate that is a necessary part of the repair process you are falling into their well-calculated plan. When you allow someone to cut your labor time from looking at a photo, in essence you’re cutting all of our throats. This is unprofessional and nothing short of extortion. If they can’t see the damage in the photo then they should send someone out to look at the vehicle before it is repaired. Any adjusting after the fact should be considered theft.
{mospagebreak}    If I allow some person sitting behind a desk 2,000 miles away to cut my labor times because of looking at a photo, then I must have been cheating in the first place. If we allow this to happen once then it will continue to happen. Either they use our experience and trust us or they should come write the estimate themselves. You can’t have it both ways.
    To all the adjusters that are reading this, I believe your jobs are hanging by a thread. The insurance companies have realized the profits from passing the claim handling process over to us and it won’t be long until they make their next big cut, which will be more of their personnel. Soon the supervisors won’t have any troops to supervise.
    I have watched the experienced adjusters disappear while a new group of young, cocky, and inexperienced adjusters take their place. This new crew is always willing to put up a fight even when it makes no sense at all.
    I know two great people that work for an insurer I have been doing business with for years and they both lost their jobs. I wonder if it was because of the mentality that cheaper is better, and they just weren’t cost effective. I hope not, but I would assume this to be the case. Big corporations often replace higher-paid, experienced employees with younger, less-expensive employees.
    It’s like the military, they need young men full of energy with little battle experience because when they are told to charge a hill, they just do it. Someone with more experience may say, “What about those big guns pointing at me? You’re nuts, I’m not doing that.”
    Experience will question authority. Inexperience won’t. So if you remove the experienced adjusters that understand collision repair it eliminates any challenge to authority. This is a well-thought-out plan, like telling a trainee adjuster to leave certain items off the estimate because if the shop really needs it they will ask for it.
    I can see trouble coming a mile away and many adjusters see it as well, but they are afraid to challenge anything because they know it will be perceived negatively. I think that being politically correct may ultimately be their demise. I would like to see someone speak up against some of these issues before it’s too late and there is no one left that understands how to adjust an estimate properly.
    Every time estimators force something on us that they know is wrong, it destroys their own credibility. If the insurance company employees stand up for what is right they will protect their own jobs and protect the consumer as well. If they don’t and continue to turn a blind eye, they better make friends with our side of the industry so we will welcome them when they come looking for jobs.
    In business for 26 years, Lee Amaradio, Jr. is the president and owner of “Faith” Quality Auto Body Inc. in Murrieta, California. With 65 employees, he attributes his success to surrounding himself with good help, claiming to have some of the best office staff and techs in our industry. Amaradio has been in this industry long enough to see the handwriting on the wall. He feels that now is the time for us to unite as an industry before it’s too late. He can be reached by email at lee@faithqualityautobody.com.