Canadian Underwriter

How adjusters can benefit from putting consumers in control of their claims

January 19, 2023   by Jason Contant

Fallen tree damage to the roof of a house

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When severe weather events take place, not everything can be fixed overnight. There are only so many contractors and thousands of homes will likely need repairs ranging from major to minor.

“It comes down to triaging and putting the insured in control of their claim and enabling them to make the decision on how they want to proceed,” said Patricia Davis, national catastrophe manager, Crawford & Company (Canada).

“That decision inevitably helps on the capacity side; it enables us to determine whether we need to use an insurer’s contractors, or perhaps the insured can engage their own contractor, or the insured may even wish to do some of the work themselves.”

So how do adjusters best communicate the process to consumers? Davis uses the hospital emergency room triage example when speaking to clients and reiterates some problems take precedence.

“A roof blown off a house will need immediate attention, versus fixing a broken fence,” she told CU. “We look at individuals’ needs on a case-by-case basis. Simply providing a cash settlement to someone who has mobility issues isn’t going to fix their roof.”

Vulnerability also is taken into consideration. Sometimes claims process disruptions happen because of other simultaneous events like shortages of building materials, so it’s important to let insureds know about delays as soon as possible.

“Lately, it’s just been a constant relay race of storms. The supply chains, the shortages, the resources and capacity are always coming into play,” Davis said. “It comes down to triaging and putting the insured in control of their claims, enabling them to make the decision on how they want to proceed.”

In most cases, insureds who have their own contractors are eager to get work done as soon as possible, and the contractors often are open to discussing their pricing, Davis said.

“When an insured’s contractor prepares an estimate, we review it and write a comparative estimate or make recommendations to the client,” she said. “Once a figure is reached, payment is then requested for the insured and their contractor.”

If there’s a large difference between the quote and the scope of damage, a certified contractor can be asked to go in and determine a price.

“In rare situations, if an agreement has not been reached, an appraisal can be initiated,” said Davis.

“An important message to insureds who use their own contractors is that they are fully in charge of repairs with their chosen contractors. They need to ensure the competency of their contractors by asking for certificates of insurance and references.”

It’s important to involve insureds in the claims process, she said. For example, while waiting for emergency drying to be completed, an adjuster could ask insureds for pre-damage photographs of the property, or get them to put together an inventory of personal property that was affected for review by a contents evaluator.

She also works to make sure her teams’ conversations with customers don’t create confusion. “If I overhear contractors or adjusters using lingo such as ‘de-hu,’ I take them aside and ask them to explain that they’re talking about a dehumidifier,” Davis said.

“Insureds need the full explanation – ‘We need to install dehumidifiers and fans in your house to reduce the excess moisture for about a week. We will have our project manager come back in a couple of days and take some moisture readings to see what the levels are.’”

In all, it’s worth it to spend extra time with homeowners and break down the phases of the claim.

“We tell them clearly that, given the severity of the claim, repairs may take several months,” she said. “Overpromising and underdelivering is detrimental to building rapport with insureds and clients.”


This article is excerpted from one that appeared in the December 2022-January 2023 edition of Canadian Underwriter. Feature image courtesy of