Narratives from the North
True Story From an Alaskan Adjuster
As adjusters, the job is rarely a simple task at hand. This is especially true here in Alaska where the terrain and conditions have created our fair share of adventures, challenges and obstacles. With these adventures come stories. Some stories are exciting, some are nerve wracking, but all are unique and speak to the challenging, moving and sometimes dangerous situations our adjusters have found themselves facing.
This series, “An Adventure of an Alaskan Adjuster”, will highlight an adventure that one of our very own adjusters has faced and their specific thoughts while on the job. Welcome to the true stories of an Alaskan adjuster.
One claims adjuster, who has worked for Northern Adjusters for over 26 years, could write a book of her adventures. She shared an experience that stood out to her which was a liability claim that involved a huge fire that burned many acres, including multiple remote cabins.
This adjuster was kind enough to fill us in on the experience and share her thoughts about this particular adventure she embarked upon.
As an adjuster, you have to deal with navigating through difficult terrain in order to do your job and process a claim. What was the first obstacle you thought about when you got the call regarding this particular fire?
Adjuster: “I was asked to travel to where the fire originated to investigate the fire. The initial challenge was figuring out how to get there as it was many miles from the closest road so to go off the grid I would need transportation and a guide. I would need a truck, trailer and 4 wheelers to drive as far as the road would take me, then go the rest of the way on the 4-wheeler.”
That definitely sounds like a difficult task to accomplish. Was that the most challenging obstacle you faced?
Adjuster: “Everything with this claim was a challenge! Since I didn’t personally own a 4-wheeler, I had to find someone that was willing to rent one to me knowing that I would be taking it into an actively burning fire area. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, the next step was to find a guide that not only knew the area well, but would be willing to travel through the fire that was still burning to try and help me find the cabin where the fire started. Even the guide was amazed at how disorienting it was to ride through an area you know like the back of your hand which was now filled with smoke. It looked so different with the missing cabins, tree lines and landmarks that it was a challenge to keep your bearings. It took a very long day of 4-wheeling through the still burning and smoldering acres to get to the cabin.”
I’m sure that was a very long day for you! What happened once you got to the cabin?
Adjuster: “Unfortunately it took us all day and by the time we found it, darkness was upon us so we had to repeat the adventure the next day. But, I was able to locate, investigate and secure the necessary aspects.”
What was the next step with the evidence you found?
Adjuster: Once we were back, the next step was to arrange a way to have the evidence sent to have it tested for defects and product liability issues and shipping from Alaska is always sure to be costly!
The typical Homeowners policy has a limited amount of liability coverage and remote cabins are commonly not insurable, however in this instance, the liability elements involved other policies and coverages. After sending in the evidence to be tested and learning there was no subrogation, I began working on the nuts and bolts of the claim. I worked with dozens of people to identify their loss and then determine and agree on a fair value for that property they lost in the fire.
Wow, I’m sure that was stressful for everyone involved. What was the final outcome for the claim?
Adjuster: “After all was said and done, an umbrella policy ended up covering the losses. I was sent a huge stack of checks and had to put together dozens of releases and make contact with all the claimants. It would have taken too much time to travel to every person’s house so I chose a day and a landmark and the claimants were scheduled to meet me at various convenient locations around the Peninsula. After many, many phone calls and extensive prep work, the day finally came and I spent a beautiful 70 degree Alaskan day handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars to people that were affected by the fire.”
That sounds like a very rewarding experience. How did you feel that day?
Adjuster: “It was a rewarding experience and I can tell you that it doesn’t get much better than that! I used my car as an office that day and I would show up at the bank or grocery store we agreed on and people showed up, signed their releases after I verified their identities, and they walked away with their checks with large smiles on their face. It was definitely the best day I ever spent as a claims adjuster. I just cannot explain how fun it was to drive around the peninsula handing out money so people could begin rebuilding what they had lost in that fire. Everyone was very grateful for the money and happy with the insurance industry.
What was the most important thing you learned from this experience?
Adjuster: No matter how bizarre the circumstances surrounding the claim may be, do whatever it takes to do a solid investigation. With lots of effort coupled with adventure, I was able to investigate and evaluate the claims, the evidence and policy coverage and process covered claims.
It sounds like a great experience and an even better outcome. Do you have any advice to give other claims adjusters that might face a similar challenge?
Adjuster: “Appreciate the rewarding claims like this!”
It is successful experiences like this that make adjusters love their jobs. By going above and beyond the call of duty to make sure a claim is handled both professionally and effectively, positive results can and will happen. No one knows the challenges of Alaska’s terrain like we do and we are so proud of the work our adjusters do.