Playing with my Ding-Dong: A day in the life of an adjuster

“I know you are just sitting there, scratching your ass and playing with your ding-dong” - voicemail message

Voicemail is a great passive/ aggressive tool to verbally assault somebody, without having a retort thrown back at you. More on that later.

So you decided to file a claim. Good for you! Maybe you were in a legit accident, or maybe you need rent money and backed into a pole. Either way, you're in for a treat!

Let's start with the claim intake or as it's jargonly known: FNOL (First Notice Of Loss). I like to call them Fucking Numbskulls On Loan, because industry wide, this position is usually filled by temps who give zero fucks. It's a revolving door call-center job , usually out of state and because of volume/staffing issues, is sloppily done at best. At worst, it is a nightmare. These reps have zero claim or legal knowledge, and basically type out the answers to a list of questions to set up the claim. Some companies actually have their adjusters perform this role, in an effort to burn them out and make them jump off the nearest bridge. Average length of employment of an FNOL is about 3 months, no education is required, and the worse your spelling and grammar the better. Sometimes they get ambitious, and type up a horribly worded description of the accident.

For example: ‘insured car hit another car, need rental.’ Or ‘vehicle is damaged after unknown accident'. No shit. FNOL has periodically given people bad legal advice, made promises adjusters can't keep, or bungled the claim so bad it takes hours or days to correct. There is no accountability, no way to contact this mysterious group of employees, you just have to deal with it.

After the customer service train wreck of FNOL, your claim (with any luck) gets sent to an adjuster for investigation. After correcting the spelling, names and phone numbers in the claim, the assigned adjuster will begin to ‘work’ the file.

  1. Call the goddamn policy holder. You gotta talk to your guy first. You may not know who or what was driving the vehicle, if they had permission to do so, or what's going on. Young Johnny had a fender bender while away at school, so calling his mother to ask if she was aware of an accident is on par with telling her that her son was beheaded by Isis. 99% of the time, it's a fender bender with nothing to worry about. Good luck telling Momma bear that. You can also get a cheating spouse or separated couple, just finding out the new boyfriend/girlfriend is driving the BMW. Good times. Once that's done, throw on your recorder and take a detailed statement from the driver. More on this process later...

  2. Call the Claimant. In the world of insurance there are two groups: insured and claimant. Insured is your customer, the policy holder and the one you have to butter up, console, and smooch the cheeks of, or else the dreaded ‘I wanna speak to your manager’ is uttered. Claimants are the other guy, the one you may or may not pay. The one you don't have to return their endless calls and can send them a letter they will never read, telling them you aren't paying. The next step is contacting this person, find out who was driving, and take a recorded statement.

  3. Police reports, witnesses statements, and setting up an inspection of the vehicle follow, plus any announcement of ‘injury’ needs to be considered.

  4. After you have the recorded statements, police reports, inspection photos and any other evidence (witness statements, video footage, other insurance companies payment demands) you can make a decision on liability based on the law. Whew. Generally, this can take a day or two, or 2 years, every accident is different.

  5. Pay everybody that needs to be paid and close that mofo up. It's finally over.

That's the aerial, big-picture view of the process. We will delve into these topics more in future blogs. For the layperson, I wanted to give you an overview, for the adjuster...well you probably skipped over it because you do it so much,  it's pure agony to see it written out.

Adjusters get about 5-7 claims on average, every day. Monday's are the worst, as weekend claims mount up to create a wall of doom. Monday it's not uncommon to get 12+ claims on your desk before lunch. Not much time for ding-dong playing, sadly. Tuesday-Thursday you get a little reprieve maybe only 2 or 3 claims on those days. Friday is just another Monday.

Now toss in a few hours on the phone with an interpreter for non-English speakers, a few crazy people and a meeting or two about how you need to ‘smile through your voice!’  or on the latest corporate buzzword, and there you have it. Your phone never stops ringing. If it's a new loss, or a 17 month old claim, your voicemail is blinking all day. ‘Why doesn't he answer the phone?’ Because that's all I would be able to do, I get voicemails from 9pm screaming for me to answer the phone, even if my outgoing message says my office hours end at 5. All day the phone rings. All fucking day. Go take a tinkle and come back to 7 angry voicemails.

One hell of a day. Multiply by 5, and boy do you need a weekend. Luckily Saturday duty is once a month! Nothing beats a 6 day, 50 hour week followed by a single day to relax and do all the other things in life. Stressed? Fuck off. You can be replaced instantly by an eager beaver recent university grad who will do your job for a fraction of what they are paying you. That is, until they burn out. Industry wide, burn out rate for adjusters is about 3 years. Does your ding-dong hurt yet?

Next time: ‘My car smells like a bag of farts’: the world of comprehensive claims.