Claims Adjusters Fear Threats From Irate Mississippi Property Owners

September 23, 2005

Insurance adjusters working to settle claims in Mississippi sometimes fear for their lives when working with irate property owners, according to Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale.

Dale told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger that at least one agent along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast was threatened with a gun.

“It’s stressful for all of us,” Dale said. “I don’t relish the position I’m in having to tell someone who’s lost everything they’ve got that they aren’t covered. I don’t relish that at all, but the biggest harm I could do is give somebody incorrect information.”
While Dale said there hasn’t been a mass evacuation of adjusters from the state, some say they won’t put themselves in harm’s way.

Dave Massey, a semi-retired adjuster living in Houston, Texas, said he began to worry after receiving a telephone call in which the caller cursed at him and refused to give his name.

“If I’m going to stumble into this guy’s house I don’t know, I don’t need to put my life on the line just because I’m doing my job,” he told the Clarion-Ledger.

“We’re already under a lot of pressure, then to add on to that fear,” he said. “I’m not afraid of the damages and the snakes; I’m used to that. I’m fearful what I might run into as far as the people.”

Massey said some adjusters carry protection, but others refuse.
“If I need to carry a weapon, I won’t go,” he said.

In some cases, the policy holders don’t agree with the adjusters’ damage assessments. Some irate homeowners either do not have adequate coverage or feel the response has been slow. But the real problem is that people want immediate results, Massey said.

“What they don’t understand is that there are a couple million of them and only several hundred of us,” Massey said.

Massey has been sitting in his Houston home this week plowing through a stack of about 70 claims from southeast Mississippi. Work on another stack of claims filed more recently from the Gulf Coast and New Orleans has not yet begun.

Insurance companies are itching to send the semi-retired adjuster more work, but he says he just can’t handle the load and still do a good job.

“I do have about 125 assigned to me right now. They’d love to send me another 125, but I dug my heels in and said, ‘No,’ ” Massey said. “I want to do as good a job as I can for the people.”

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