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I Love CAT Adjusting

Five claims professionals share what makes their jobs so tough—and so rewarding.

June 18, 2012 Photo
If you listen closely, you can almost hear the crank of the RV engines as they come to life, a winter’s rust shaken off with a grumble of combustion and a belch of exhaust. It’s the start of another disaster season, and catastrophe adjusters across the nation are preparing to deploy upon the first reports of Alberto, Beryl, or Chris forming in the Atlantic and heading towards the U.S. coast.

Of course, this romanticized notion isn’t completely true, as CAT adjusters are busy year-round resolving and managing many other types of disasters. But there is something undeniable about June, when the hurricane experts and meteorologists analyze their algorithms and portend (pretend?) to know not only how many storms Mother Nature will bestow upon us, but also how many will make landfall. The busy season for CAT adjusters is just beginning, and it doesn’t end until December.

In any case, the career of the CAT adjuster is like no other. As first responders, they witness emotional and physical disaster in a way few of us can imagine. They find insureds at their worst, pick them up, and then come back for more. What inspires their drive and keeps them coming back? We asked five independent Crawford & Company CAT adjusters to answer that question, and their responses reveal at least one thing: these professionals deserve the admiration they have earned through their hard work and dedication.

August Chandler, CAT Adjuster

Years of Experience: 25

Worst Disaster Worked: Hurricane Katrina

“The life of a CAT adjuster is one of constant variety,” says Chandler. “To be successful, you need to adapt to different environments very quickly. For instance, you might be working in an area affected by a tornado for a few weeks, then move to a hurricane-stricken area, followed by a flood zone. You also have to be willing to adjust your lifestyle, since you can be away from all the comforts of home for a long time. Finally, you need to accept that the job often will be very intense, though you usually have time off between assignments to recharge. Luckily, I enjoy all of those elements of the work, along with travel and the chance to meet new people and embrace and enjoy the diversity of different areas of the country.

“The best part of the job, though, is having the opportunity to help individuals, families, and businesses recover and get back to normal as quickly as possible. It gives me a great feeling of accomplishment to know that I have made a difference in people’s lives in such a dire time.”

Laurie Rasberry, CAT Manager and Adjuster

Years of Experience: 8

Worst Disaster Worked: Hurricane Katrina

“Living south of Houston, our family dealt with tornados, floods, and hurricanes, so I have experienced losses from both sides and have a great deal of understanding for the situations insureds find themselves in,” says Rasberry. “Many times I find myself not only assessing damages, but also listening patiently to the story the insured has to tell. We allow individuals to heal not just from the material aspect of a loss, but from the emotional element of it as well, and that is very rewarding.

“At the same time, I have to work towards a fair and equitable assessment of damages caused by the loss. I have to be very thorough yet as expedient as possible in my work product. This balancing act—showing compassion while also dealing professionally with the realities of insurance coverage—can be difficult, but satisfying.

“I love my job for many other reasons,” continues Rasberry. “There is no monotony to the work, since every storm and loss is different. I also travel to different locations and meet an array of people. As a CAT manager and trainer, I’m also an educator, with the opportunity to provide adjusters with knowledge, learning, and support. On a personal level, since I’m a wife and mother, juggling work and family responsibilities can be hard. But in the end, the positive aspects of my job far outweigh the negatives.”

Roy Cupps, CAT Field Operations Manager and Adjuster

Years of Experience: 26

Worst Disaster Worked: Exxon
Valdez Oil Spill (Man-Made); Northridge Earthquake (Natural)

“I enjoy many of the same things that draw other catastrophe adjusters to the profession, particularly the variety of the work and the travel involved,” says Cupps. “You never know where the next catastrophe will occur, so you never know where you may be deployed. The travel involved gives me the opportunity to see and explore different parts of the country.

“Each catastrophe I’ve worked on—whether man-made or natural—presents its own set of challenges, including the type of claims generated, their location, their severity, or all of those and others. Each unique situation is what keeps the job interesting and helps me learn.

“When I started managing field operations, I found the position came with a satisfying new responsibility: the opportunity to assemble a team and work with that team to accomplish a successful operation,” continues Cupps. “One of our main objectives when we are deployed to a CAT site is to work ourselves out of a job by taking care of losses as quickly as possible. Organizing our approach, directing and helping others, making sure the work gets done accurately and efficiently—all of that is highly rewarding, particularly when we know we’ve done our best to satisfy both our insurer clients and their customers with fast, fair settlements.”

Jasper Seale, CAT Adjuster

Years of Experience: 26

Worst Disaster Worked: Northridge Earthquake

“The reason I enjoy CAT adjusting is simple: I like helping people resolve problems, which in my job usually takes the form of settling claims related to their homes,” says Seale. “I find it very rewarding to assist people in a time of need.

“Here’s one example from my career: The Northridge Earthquake fractured a crude oil pipeline running through a neighborhood in San Fernando, Calif. The crude caught fire, seriously burned a man, charred 17 cars, and burned one house and its garage apartment to the ground. A number of homes also received fire and smoke damage.

“The next morning, I arrived to a neighborhood that had blackened cars and trees lining the street,” continues Seale. “I remained for weeks to do intake, make advance payments, settle automobile and property damage claims, and work on homeowners’ earthquake claims. At one point, while I was inspecting a home, we had a 5.3-magnitude aftershock that lasted about 30 seconds in the area. The noise made by the aftershock was deafening. The people in the neighborhood stood outside huddled together, terrified and crying from the ordeal.

“Catastrophes traumatize people—there’s no other way to put it. You only have to work one bad disaster to understand the positive impact that a claims adjuster can have on people.”

James Warren, CAT Adjuster

Years of Experience: 25 (17 in CAT Adjusting)

Worst Disaster Worked: Hurricane Katrina

“I began my career as a staff adjuster 25 years ago and was trained in all areas of claims management,” says Warren. “During that time, I had the opportunity to work some catastrophe losses. Most were regional hailstorms, but a few times we went out of state to help with a hurricane. I spent three weeks in South Carolina working on Hurricane Hugo claims, and, while I was there, I met some CAT adjusters who tried to sell me on the benefits of the job. My wife and I had a new baby, and I wasn’t ready to live on the road.

“Six years later, a co-worker left to join a growing CAT adjuster group that had a contract with a major insurer. A few months and several phone calls later, I also decided to join. I haven’t looked back since.

“There isn’t one single thing I can point to that caused me to change my mind,” continues Warren. “I like the travel; I like meeting new people; and, frankly, I like getting paid well for the experience. I’ve been on the road about six months every year since 1995. The longest distance I’ve traveled for an assignment was in 2010, when I spent three months in Melbourne, Australia, working a hailstorm. It was great seeing how other countries handle losses. Anyone who likes work that offers variety, travel, and the chance to learn definitely should consider CAT adjusting.”

About The Authors
Eric Gilkey

Eric Gilkey is vice president of content at the CLM, and serves as executive editor of CLM magazine, the flagship publication of the CLM.  eric.gilkey@theclm.org

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