I took this picture of an alligator while in the bayou south of New Orleans. Our airboat had just come to a stop and “Lisa” (our guide gave this little 8’ beauty a girls name for reasons that become apparent when you watch the short video) swam towards us through the muddy water and without a care in the world. Lisa was the largest of 5 other gators that circled our airboat. By the way she carried herself, you could tell who was in charge of this section of the bayou.
When we threw chicken in to the water, Lisa and her friends would casually swim over, open their mouths and eventually swallow the floating chicken. But when a marshmallow was tossed towards the gators, the excitement substantially increased. That little bobbing white dot on the brown colored bayou water was something special and the gators knew it.
Our guide referred to our long-tailed guests as “crack gators” because once these swimming scales tasted a marshmallow, it was game over. As he so eloquently stated, “Once they taste a marshmallow, they’re on the payroll for life but that didn’t necessarily mean they always show up for work.” After watching the tossed marshmallows quickly disappear over the next couple of minutes, I knew the true facts were a bit different.
These gators loved marshmallows and as soon as they heard our airboat arrive and come to a stop at the far end of the bayou, it was game on! They were attracted by the sound of the large loud fan that propelled our boat through the bayou. They swam around our airboat and stayed for the special floating white treats. I have a sneaky suspicion that these same gators “performed” on cue twice a day.
So, what do alligators and marshmallows have to do with claims adjusters and insurance companies? Well, just like alligators, adjusters and insurance companies are what they are. It’s pretty simply to figure them out if you take a step back and look at the big picture.
When it comes to gators, if you’re not careful and fall in the water, you can lose your hand, arm or life. As for claims adjusters, if you jump in to an insurance claim unprepared, with the wrong game plan and with your eyes closed, chances are you’ll get eaten up by the adjuster and big insurance company.
It’s not good or bad. It just is what it is. Here’s what I mean…
Alligators are very primitive reptiles and when you enter the bayou you’re walking in to their territory. If you’re inexperienced or careless, there’s a good chance you’ll get hurt.
Truth be told, this doesn’t make the alligators bad reptiles. This is simply what evolution would have them do. They look and act a certain way because they’re alligators. Stay on the airboat, respect their space, and feed them marshmallows from a distance and you wont have any problems. Let your hand hang over the side of the airboat like our guide did (watch the video) and you may not have a hand at the end of the day.
In a similar fashion, most insurance claims adjusters are just doing their job. Their job is to minimize how much money they pay out on any one particular claim. It’s also their job to maximize their company’s end of year corporate profits. Sometimes a claims adjuster will take it upon himself to improperly or even illegally handle a claim but for the most part, this is the exception and not the norm.
Now here’s the secret. If you know where the claims adjusters are and know when and how to feed them marshmallows, you’ll be able to appreciate them from a distance and co-exist with the species for many years to come.
Claims adjusters need information to analyze your claim. The more chicken and marshmallows… facts and details… you can share with an adjuster, the better he or she will be able to evaluate your client’s injuries and damages.
But here a big warning– you can’t make it too easy for the alligator or adjuster.
After all, if you sprinkle an entire bag of marshmallows across the top of the bayou, the alligators will get a bit board, eat what they see and get full, and then eventually swim away. You’ve made it too easy for the gators. The party’s over.
The same approach works for claims adjusters. You need to slowly feed them the marshmallows in your case. You need to toss them over to the claims adjuster in a way that keeps their attention and keeps them focused on maximizing the value of your claim.
Our guide was in control of the gators. He knew each of their names and knew exactly where to toss the marshmallows and how many to toss.
With claims adjusters, you need to keep things hot and heavy and keep them thinking about when they’ll get the next marshmallow. You need to make sure that for every marshmallow you toss their direction, you get something in return.
We knew after meeting “Lisa” and her friends, that if we hopped in the water, we’d be in their “house” and their rules would control. With claims adjusters, if you start asking “how high” every time they demand that you jump, you’ll be empowering them to dictate how and when your case is resolved. Remember, you don’t work for them. You work for your clients.
Staying on top of the airboat is your safety net when feeding alligators. Not being afraid to litigate and try your case in front of a jury is your safety net when handling a personal injury or wrongful death case. If your focus is litigating and trying the case, then you’ll have the proper attention of the claims adjuster and they’ll take you and your claim seriously. If you spend all your time jumping through hoops and trying to settle your case to avoid litigation and trial, the adjuster will smell blood. The outcome will not be pretty.
When dealing with alligators or claims adjusters, be smart and take control. Stay on the top side of the airboat and play by your rules and not theirs.
Every now and then toss them a shiny white marshmallow. They’ll appreciate your gesture, stay interested, and give you and your client the attention you deserve. Keep the adjuster’s interest by litigating your file and preparing for jury trial. Adjusters are not in control of what a jury may do so use this final marshmallow to get what your client is entitled to.
Use this approach when divvying up your marshmallows and by the time you get to the bottom of the bag, you’ll have all the alligators or claims adjusters in your life right where you want them :-)
Mitch and Lisa have been helping victims of personal injury and wrongful death for 27 years. Chances are, they can answer your questions and help you too! If you have a question about how to deal with alligators or claims adjusters, give them a call. They’re standing by with a bag full of marshmallows!
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