Loss adjusters leave… finally

The last two loss adjusters staying full-time on Grand Cayman while working for Axis International on Hurricane Ivan claims are leaving the island today.

Their departure ends an 11-month stay by Axis, which had as many as 40 loss adjusters here at one time handling claims for its three main insurance clients and a couple of other companies.

‘It’s been a long haul,’ said David Jamison, chairman of Axis International. ‘This is far and away the longest (loss adjusting stay in one place) for me. That’s just an indication of the enormity of the event.’

While loss adjusters and the whole insurance industry in general have received criticism in the way Hurricane Ivan was handled, Mr. Jamison thinks things went well considering the circumstances.

‘It’s good, what has been achieved here,’ he said. ‘The insurance industry has something to be proud of.’

Having been a loss adjuster for more than 25 years and having worked at various Caribbean and United States locations after many hurricanes, including Gilbert, Hugo, Andrew, Marilyn and Lewis, Mr. Jamison is well aware of the insurance problems that arise after a disaster.

All in all, he thinks Cayman’s insurance industry came out of Ivan very well, especially from the standpoint of staying solvent and being able to pay claims.

‘Do an analogy with Andrew in Florida,’ he said. ‘Several insurance companies went bust after that, but only one went bust here, and that was later on,’ he said.

Mr. Jamison realises loss adjusters are often seen to be adversaries after a hurricane, but he does not believe that perception is deserved.

The biggest problem occurred when people were underinsured.

‘Contrary to what some people believe, we’re here to help people,’ he said. ‘It’s a lot easier if you don’t have to tell them their claim is subject to average.’

Loss adjusters were often criticised for applying averaging to claims, but Mr. Jamison said if a property was underinsured, it was no fault of theirs.

‘I think there was a bit of shooting the messenger going on,’ he said.

Mr. Jamison said some abuse comes with the job.

‘Policyholders are under a lot of stress,’ he said. ‘For the most part, people here, given the stress, behaved very, very well (toward the adjusters. But there were some cases, maybe out of frustration, were the policyholder became upset.’

Mr. Jamison was quick to point out that policyholders are not the only ones under stress.

‘There’s been no real recognition of the enormous efforts made by the loss adjusters,’ he said.

‘You need to remember the context in which we were working,’ he said. ‘We were sleeping on floors and sharing cars just like everyone else.’

Extremely long hours were also part of the job.

‘Basically, as the curfew moved later, we extended our working hours,’ he said.

Mr. Jamison pointed out that the loss adjusters were working in a foreign land.

‘These adjusters all have homes, jobs and existences elsewhere. They have to go back.’ he said, noting that there is a high turnover rate for loss adjusters as a result.

Mr. Jamison, or perhaps one or two other Axis employees, will still return to Grand Cayman from time to time for short stays to complete some of the large Ivan claims that remain outstanding.

After this long stint in Cayman, Mr. Jamison is looking forward to a holiday in the UK, where he is from, later this month.

But, with a very active Atlantic hurricane season predicted, and the peak coming soon, he does not know if he will be able to take his full holiday.

‘We’re always on stand-by and the hurricane outlook for the Caribbean is not good,’ he said.

For Cayman’s sake, however, Mr. Jamison hopes he does not have to return here for any new claims’ adjusting any time soon.