Interview: Frank Kolb General Council

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(General Counsel)

Introduction (who I am):  I'm Frank Kolb. I'm an Attorney in East Haven, a longtime friend of John Giordano. We've spent a lot of time together. He's my guy for claims these days.

You can continue reading or watch my video here

I was a public insurance adjuster and John had a piece of property on the beach in East Haven that suffered a fire loss, so I met John when I was a public adjuster before he was.

Well, John was in the state legislature and he had lost in the election, unfortunately. I was not yet an attorney when I was a public adjuster and I called in the morning after and I said, "Are you ready now to go to work?" And he came to work and got his own license and worked with me for a little bit, then he went off on his own and he's done well from there.

First, I was an insurance adjuster working for the insurance companies then a public insurance adjuster, and then I became an attorney.

No, there are a fair number of people that, from my vintage that did that. Some of the names I forget now but it did occur.

Iterviewer: I like the term vintage. That's a great way to put it. When you were an actual adjuster, who did you work for and how long was that?

Frank Kolb: Oh, I worked for a firm called General Adjustment Bureau which is no more. They were independent insurance adjusters. They work for any insurance company that would pay their bill. We didn't have our own adjusters on the payroll. That's called an independent adjuster and some of them still exist today but not as many as before.

It's a good makeup between him and me. John is a good guy. Mr. Frank Kolb

You've been doing this for quite some time, what's changed from then to now?

Frank Kolb: Technology, outlook by the claims people, their hands on in the claims, they scrutinize, the policy. Although, the insurance contracts themselves have remained essentially the same, the way that the insurance companies approach to the adjustment does change.

Interviewer: Could you give me more detail?

Frank Kolb: Well, everything was done by hand then. Now, they're done by programs that everybody seems to use the same estimating program; I believe it's an estimating program called Exactimate. Whether it's an insurance company, a cleaning company, a public insurance adjuster, they're going to push out the same numbers.

It's a matter of whether or not they agree on the scope of what has to be done. By scope, I mean, is the wall taken down completely or is it cleaned and repainted, for example? They may disagree saying, “Well, we can clean it and paint it,” as opposed to somebody says, “well, the wall is so severely damaged that it can't be and we have to replace them.”

So that's where your basic disagreements come in the adjustment of a claim as to the scope, what has to be done, and then of course, we go to pricing after that.

Interviewer: How has that changed? It sounds like it’s essentially the same; it's essentially moving through a software program then.

Frank Kolb: It's essentially the same, but it is going through software. The insurance companies now, I think, are taking, because they have the opportunity to use the software, they're looking at things more closely but I'm not in the field, so your question maybe a little misplaced with me but the problem comes with adjusters because this is where I get involved. It's the fact that in different areas, they have their entry level people.

Not everyone in the insurance company is trained to the same level as others. For instance, if we're talking about an automobile claim, we get an entry-level person who's going to handle the automobile claim before they move up to handling a bodily injury claim because a bodily injury claim takes more expertise than just handling a body shop and writing a check to get the car fixed. They're determining what the value is on the total loss. So there is a difference.

Q -  Why do people need a public adjuster?

When a loss occurs, as with anything else, there's two sides to it. The insurance company's job, and they’re mandated under the insurance contract, is to treat people fairly, in good faith, and you'll never find a contract that has the words in it “in good faith.” It's implied.

You enter into a contract; you're going to act in good faith. Sometimes, insurance companies don't act in good faith and the insurance adjuster from the company, his master is the insurance company or her master is the insurance company. It's not the insured.

The insured needs somebody equally qualified to represent them, such as John Giordano

Interviewer: So what I'm being programmed, for lack of a better term, by the insurance company marketing, like you're in good hands, I am under the assumption that they are working for me and they are helping me get whole again. That's not necessarily true?

Frank Kolb: That's what they would like you to believe and it's not necessarily true on all cases, nor am I saying that every insurance adjuster that comes out should be wearing a mask and carrying a sword, but one must understand that from their side, their master is the insurance company.

The insurance company’s master is their shareholders.

On the other hand, the insured has nobody to assist them.

It's usually their first claim. They don't have experience with this. They don't have any idea what its worth, and the service is, that a public insurance adjuster such as John renders, is going to get them more money that will more than satisfy the fee that he's charged.

He works for his fees, entitled to his fee but overall, he will get them things that they paid for that maybe they didn't realize they should have been paid for but only by bringing it to the attention of the insurance adjuster do they get paid for it.

It's a matter of looking at it and saying, the trained eye of a public insurance adjuster to look for what has to go into the estimate is different than the insured looking at it.

If you went to your home and you looked at your walls after they got finished painting, you’d say, “Wow, this is really good,” but when you sit there for a day and you start watching TV and you go, “Wait a minute, they missed a spot up there.” Well, that spot's going to be found, so to speak, by the public adjuster that won’t be found by the insured.

Did you know you're entitled to this or did you know you're entitled to that? Maybe the insurance adjuster from the company didn't tell them that but the public insurance adjuster will.

People need help, now more then ever

Interviewer:  Most people don’t know what a public adjuster is. They’ve never heard the term before. It sounds just the way the world is going that corporations are very dollar-conscious and that’s really important. I did some research before I came to talk to you and it seems like there are a lot of people having problems with claims and insurance companies.

Frank Kolb: That does happen. That’s why public adjusters, when I was in the business actively, in the state of Connecticut, there were probably only five or seven of us, maybe ten, tops. Now, there’s many, many more and I think that shows the need for a public insurance adjuster.

Frank Kolb: Well, my experience with the state of Connecticut Department of Insurances, they do not fill the void and represent the consumer that they should. They’ve failed miserably over the years.

When a complaint goes into the insurance department, at least from what I’ve seen:

  • They would copy the complaint that comes from the insured; send it to the insurance company and say, “Please respond.”
  • The insurance company responds, the insurance commissioner’s office sends it back and says, “Here’s that response,” but does the insurance commissioner’s office, you can check the number of disciplines online.
  • I haven’t but check. They don’t take an active role on behalf of the consumer that I believe they should nor have they in the history that I have in the business.

Interviewer: Why do they exist?

Frank Kolb: It’s a government agency. Some bureaucracies and they exist; they do more than handle claims. I mean, they do licensing. A person gets a license as an adjuster, as a claims rep, as an agent, they cover anything to do with insurance in the state.

But I think they fail miserably when it comes to handling complaints of consumers, saying, “Well, that’s a contract dispute,” as opposed to, “Well, we’re here to protect you from that.”

It’s like the motor vehicle department, if you say, “My car didn’t get repaired properly,” maybe they’d step in and say, “Hey, wait a minute.

You didn’t follow the rules here, Mr. Body shop. You charged $85 an hour when your sign says 75,” and they will go in on those violations. I haven’t found the insurance department to do something like that.

Interviewer: As an insurance agent, my understanding is that they get rewarded by having lower volumes of claims.

Frank Kolb: That’s my understanding but I can’t address that. I don’t what the current status is on that.

My experience with the state of Connecticut Department of Insurances, they do not fill the void and represent the consumer that they should. They’ve had failed miserably over the years.Mr. Frank Kolb

What are the steps when you have an issue with the insurance company?

Well, the attorney is not one who’s going to prepare the estimate, visit the site. The skill that is necessary for that goes to the public adjuster. If by chance we get to a situation where the insurance company is refusing to adhere, to live to their contractual provisions, that’s when it’s time to say, “Okay, let’s get a lawyer.” But to handle the actual claim dealing with the insurance company? I honestly think that the public insurance adjusters are better prepared to do that. I am a litigator, not a public insurance adjuster.

Interviewer: So you are probably the last step even though I would think you would be the first step.

Frank Kolb: Some people come for advice first and that advice first might be, “Let’s go talk to your public adjuster, and let’s see what happens.” I can always get to the courthouse but my goal is to settle something before we can at all, before going through the litigation process. It’s costly and it takes time, and a public insurance adjuster is designed to do that quickly, expeditiously, and to the benefit of the client.

If you were my client and you came to me and said, “Look, I had a fire, what do I do?” I would say, “Well, the first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to have a public insurance adjuster” because you really don’t know what to do.

  • You don’t know what you are entitled to.
  • Are you capable of writing an estimate?
  • Are you capable of doing an inventory?
  • Are you capable of doing the pricing?
  • Do you know what the requirements are under your insurance policy?

This guy does. This guy is an expert at it.

Your 10% or whatever fee you negotiate is well worth it. It is well spent because in the long run, you’re going to come out much better, it’s going to be handled quicker, you’ll get a better resolution than you could do yourself if you’ve never had any experience about it.

Just think about it. Somebody, whatever your profession is, you go to work and you come home, it’s not anything to do with handling an insurance company or an insurance loss, the public insurance adjuster is the one who has that expertise to do such.

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