Sending your child off to college this fall?

Make sure their belongings are protected.

As you head out to drop off your child at college, don’t forget about protecting all the stuff they’re bringing with them. Kids arrive at college with a lot of paraphernalia these days including their computer, fancy head phones, tablet, cell phone, and games. The combined value of it all can be pretty high, so you wouldn’t want to have to replace it should it be stolen.

Luckily, insuring your college student’s stuff is pretty easy and straightforward. Chances are, he or she will be living in either a dorm on campus, or an apartment off campus. Because they won’t be owning the home, they just need to protect their personal property, not the building itself. 

Living in a dorm?

If your son or daughter lives in a dorm, your homeowner’s insurance should cover their possessions since they are still an “insured” on your policy. The clause that defines them as an insured reads something like this:

“A student enrolled in school full time, as defined by the school, who was a resident of your household before moving out to attend school, provided the student is under the age of: 

1. 24 and your relative; or

2. 21 and in your care or the care of a person related to you and a resident of your household”

Check your policy to see the limit for property at other residences. It’s usually a percentage of your on-premises personal property coverage, also known as Coverage C. You can find your Coverage C limit on your declarations page (usually the first page) and the guidelines in Section I:  Property Coverages: Coverage C – Personal Property. If your child has possessions that add up to more than that limit, or fall into one of the limited categories, you may want to purchase more insurance. 

Living in an off-campus apartment?

If your child is living in an off-campus apartment, he or she will probably need renter’s insurance to cover their possessions. Renter’s insurance should also cover them if they need to find temporary housing due to a covered claim at the apartment. Here’s some more information on renter’s insurance.

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc. has more than fifty years in the insurance adjusting field and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Bob McCormack has adjusted every type of property claim there is: fire, storms, water, robbery, you name it. Licensed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Florida, Bob can handle your claim from start to finish. Contact us today via email or telephone 508-588-4243.

Behind the Scenes with a Public Adjuster

What’s the process when you hire a public adjuster?

When you hire a public adjuster, your job is to sit back and have him or her handle the whole claim. But what’s happening behind the scenes? Here’s a breakdown of the process.

  1. First, contact your public adjuster. Call the public adjuster first(after any emergency calls), beforeyour insurance company or agent. When the public adjuster is in on the claim from the beginning, it’s a much smoother process. 
  2. The public adjuster will come to your property, look at your insurance policy, get a description of the incident, take photos of the damage, and create an estimate of the cost of repairs. By viewing your policy and getting a description of the incident, the public adjuster can let you know if it’s a good claim, whether it’s covered, or not worth putting in at all. Having a good handle on the incident will put the public adjuster in the best position to represent you.
  3. The public adjuster reports the claim to the insurance company, once the estimate is finished. The insurance company will assign their own adjuster. 
  4. The two adjusters meet at your property.This usually happens about a week after the public adjuster’s initial visit. The public adjuster will show the other adjuster the damage and describe the incident. 
  5. The insurance company adjuster will create his or her own estimateand forward it to the public adjuster. 
  6. The public adjuster will analyze the insurance company adjuster’s numbers and scope. This is where the magic really starts. The public adjuster will make sure everything you’re entitled to is included in the adjuster’s estimate. Sometimes, the negotiation lasts a few weeks. Sometimes, it may take a few payments before the claim is finally settled. But sometimes it goes pretty fast. The end result is the two adjusters agree on a satisfactory settlement.

If your claim is more complicated, or if you’ve started your claim without a public adjuster and then bring one in, there are a few more steps. But the basic structure is the same. It’s all negotiation.

Having a public adjuster in your corner is a good idea. Not only does it almost guarantee you a better settlement, it ensures you a smoother, lower stress claim process. Having a public adjuster saves you time, money, and aggravation.

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc. has more than fifty years in the insurance adjusting field and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. We have adjusted every type of property claim there is: fire, storms, water, robbery, you name it. Licensed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas, we can handle your claim from start to finish. Contact us today via email or telephone 508-588-4243.

Does the insurance company ever reverse a denial?

Yes! A few weeks ago, we published a blog post discussing what to do if your claim is denied. Well, Bob just got a denial reversed on an ice dam claim.

An ice dam forms when ice builds up at the gutters or valleys in your roof, causing water to leak into the house. The damage caused by ice dams is unmistakable: water stains and damage at the exterior walls. Look for ceiling stains, drip stains down the walls, and warping of the floor boards. It all appears at the exterior wall.

This case was a classic ice dam claim, made obvious by the water damage being solely at the exterior edge of the house. The house had no history of leaks at other times and locations which tells you the roof is good enough to keep water out. But, in spite of this obviously being an ice dam claim, which has nothing to do with the roof, the insurance company sent a roofer out to view the property. As you might expect, the roofer’s report found what the insurance company was hoping for: the roof was old and worn. Based on the roofer’s report, the insurance company denied the claim on the basis of wear and tear.

Our client had initially attempted to handle his claim by himself. But when the claim was denied based on the condition of the roof, he made the smart decision to hire Bob as his public adjuster. Bob pointed out to the adjuster that due to the location of the damage and the lack of historical leaks all over the house, this claim was definitely ice dams. The claim was denied again!

But Bob did not give up. He kept arguing that the roof has nothing to do with this claim. Finally, after much back and forth, the company reversed its decision and paid the claim.

It is undeniable! Having Bob as the public adjuster on this claim basically made the claim a success. If he hadn’t been on it, the insured would not have collected.

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc. has more than fifty years in the insurance adjusting field and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Bob McCormack has adjusted every type of property claim there is: fire, storms, water, robbery, you name it. Licensed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas, Bob can handle your claim from start to finish. Contact us today via email or telephone 508-588-4243.

Did you know that a blizzard lead to the implementation of subways?

On March 11, 1888, a blizzard hit the northeast section of the US including New York, Boston, and the rest of New England. The super nor’easter lasted three days and dropped up to 58 inches of snow and sustained winds up to 85 miles per hour. Railroads shut down, telegraph lines were disabled, and emergency services like fire, rescue, and police were impeded. The wind produced snow drifts up to 50 feet. About 400 people died in the storm and the ensuing cold temperatures.

Many businesses were shut down during the storm, but workers tried to get to work anyway. Hundreds of people were stranded on train platforms and in cars that couldn’t move. Some people tried walking to work and several froze to death. Famed politician Roscoe Conkling died as a result of attempting to walk to work and catching pneumonia.

Damage caused by the storm

Downed utility wires caused fires throughout the area and since fire stations were disabled, the fires destroyed more than they would have normally. More than 200 ships on the Chesapeake were wrecked. High winds and the weight of ice and snow caused roofs, trees, and utility poles to collapse. The icy cold temperatures caused pipes to freeze and burst. Severe flooding occurred after the temperatures rose and the snow melted. Estimates of the damage were as high as $50 million (about $1.3 billion in 2019).

What role could a public adjuster play after a storm like this?

Most of the damage caused by the storm would have been covered by insurance and a public adjuster would have been able to assist home and business owners with their claims. Many businesses were unable to stay open during the storm, but unfortunately, unless a business was closed as a result of damage to its building, lost income would not be covered by insurance. However, weight of ice and snow, fire, pipe bursts, and fallen trees are covered.

Changes made due to the storm

The storm lead to many utilities being placed underground including water, telegraph, and gas. The storm also lead to plans for placing trains underground, with Boston opening the first subway system in the nation in 1898.

For more information

Check out this Weather Channel video about the storm. For even more in depth information, read Mary Clark’s The Blizzard of 88.

Your Claim is Denied. What now?

It’s not a good feeling when the insurance company denies your claim. While it’s hard to get them to reverse a denial, it’s not impossible. Here are a few pointers on what to do if your claim is denied.

When a company denies your claim, they are required to tell you the reason for denial in writing and where in your policy the basis for the denial is. When you’ve received the denial notification, read it carefully and then check your policy to determine whether their denial is warranted. Then go over your initial claim and see if there is anything either you or the insurance company adjuster missed.

The biggest reason for denial is that the cause of loss is not covered. For instance, many people don’t realize that sump pump failure is not covered on a standard policy (you need an endorsement for it). If you have a sump pump failure claim but don’t have the endorsement, you’ll get denied and there’s not much you can do about it. But occasionally you can attribute a cause to something that is covered. For instance, the wild fires in California caused mudslides. Mudslides are generally not covered. However, since these mudslides were caused by fires burning trees and creating conditions for mudslides, there is an argument that the cause of loss was fire, not mudslides.

Consult with contractors to determine the true cause, don’t just guess. We had a client who guessed what was causing a leak under his kitchen sink. It turned out he was wrong, but before we were involved, he had already told the insurance company what he thought was causing the leak. Once you do that, it’s hard to walk it back. His claim was denied.

Another reason a claim is denied is the company determines the insured was negligent. The terms of your policy require you to take reasonable measures to protect your property from damage. Maybe you left your heat set too low when you went on vacation and the pipes froze. Maybe you waited too long to have your roof repaired and rain damaged the ceilings. If your claim is denied on the basis of negligence and you can prove you were not negligent, for instance by supplying oil or gas receipts proving you did maintain heat, you may be able to get the company to review your claim.

Another basis for denial is wear and tear. Wear and tear is damage that naturally happens at a property due to normal use and aging, for instance, fading paint, worn carpeting, scuffed floors. If your adjuster determines that your damage is a result of normal wear and tear, your claim will be denied. Again, if you can prove otherwise, they might reverse the denial.

The best way to avoid having a claim denied is to do your homework before you submit the claim. Know your policy and make sure the cause of loss you’re claiming is covered. Having a public adjuster in your corner will minimize your chances of denial because the public adjuster will collect all necessary and accurate information and submit the claim from the best possible position.

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc. has more than fifty years in the insurance adjusting field and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Bob McCormack has adjusted every type of property claim there is: fire, storms, water, robbery, you name it. Licensed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas, Bob can handle your claim from start to finish. Contact us today via email or telephone 508-588-4243.

What’s a “named storm” deductible?

Some insureds may have noticed a “windstorm deductible” or a “named storm” deductible on their insurance policy. What does “named storm” mean in the context of insurance?

Generally, both the “windstorm” and “named storm” deductible apply to insurance coverage for hurricanes. A hurricane is declared, or named, by the National Weather Service or U.S. National Hurricane Center. A “named storm” is broader and applies to hurricanes, typhoons, tropical storms, or cyclones which have been declared and namedby the U.S. National Weather Service, the U.S. National Hurricane Center or the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (like Super Storm Sandy which was not a hurricane but caused quite a lot of damage).

Why is there a higher insurance deductible for hurricanes and named storms?

The deductible is the share of the repair costs borne by the consumer. Since the risk of hurricanes is higher in some areas than others, the insurance industry places a larger burden on those homeowners in order to keep the premium costs lower for everyone. This strategy was put into place in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew devasted the southern coasts of the US and cost insurers billions of dollars. In order to mitigate these costs, the insurance industry adjusted the deductibles for hurricane claims.

What about winter storms? We had Winter Storm Riley last year and Winter Storm Harper this year. Do those count as named storms for insurance?

No. Those storms are named by the Weather Channel and other media outlets to help in identifying and reporting on them. These are not considered “named storms” on your insurance policy and any damage they cause will have the normal deductible.

Need a Public Adjuster to help you with a storm claim?

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc. has more than fifty years in the insurance adjusting field and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. We have adjusted every type of property claim there is: fire, storms, water, robbery, you name it. Licensed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas, we can handle your claim from start to finish. Contact us today via email or telephone 508-588-4243.

What was Boston’s Molasses Disaster?

On January 15, 1919, Boston suffered one its biggest, and strangest, disasters in its history. More than two million gallons of molasses burst out of its holding tank, creating a two-story tidal wave that traveled 35 miles per hour and flooded the streets with sticky, viscous, dark liquid. The wave destroyed everything in its path, including part of the elevated railroad track, and killed 21 people.

This molasses, which was stored in a 50-foot tall, 90-foot diameter tank in Boston’s North End neighborhood, was on deck to make alcohol for the manufacture of munitions, in high demand because of World War I.

What caused the burst?

The tank had been quickly and cheaply erected in 1915, without basic safety tests. The steel used for the tank was only half as thick as it should have been. The tank leaked so badly, the company painted it brown, so the leaks would be less noticeable. Children playing nearby would eat the sticky, sweet treat as it leaked from the tank.

It is thought that the unseasonably warm temperature of that day fermented the molasses which increased the pressure from inside the tank. Unable to withstand the pressure, the tank burst, sending steel pieces through the air, molasses over the ground, and rivets shooting out like bullets. The warm temperature of the molasses inside the tank allowed it to flow rapidly but as it cooled in the open air, it became thicker and hampered efforts to rescue people.

How could a public adjuster help?

In our current day insurance framework, a public adjuster would represent the home or building owners whose property was damaged. The public adjuster would put in a claim through the owner’s insurance company and manage the claim, including arranging alternative housing, handling remediation companies, and getting the insured the best settlement possible.

Why through the individual homeowners’ policies and not the owner of the tank’s?

When there’s a widespread disaster like this one, it’s tough to prove who is liable and sometimes it takes years. Was it the owner of the tank? Was it the company who constructed it? Was it the manufacturer of the parts? It’s faster and easier to have your public adjuster put the claim through your individual policy. Then, your insurance company could subrogate against the other parties if they choose. In the meantime, you’re on your way to rebuilding.

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc. has more than fifty years in the insurance adjusting field and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. We have adjusted every type of property claim there is: fire, storms, water, robbery, you name it. Licensed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas, we can handle your claim from start to finish. Contact us today via email or telephone 508-588-4243.

Looking for more information on the molasses disaster? Check out Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo. Here’s a clip of the author discussing the flood.

What happened in the Halifax, Nova Scotia explosion of 1917?

On December 6, 1917, two ships collided in the harbor in Halifax, Nova Scotia causing one of the worst explosions in history. The Mont Blanc, which contained a cargo of explosives heading to France for use in World War I, exploded with such force that the 3,121 tons of her iron hull vaporized and shot up more than 2,000 feet. This was followed by a tsunami of sea water that swept over the city. Twelve-thousand buildings within a 16-mile radius were damaged. Almost 2,000 Haligonians were killed by the blast, debris, fires, collapsed buildings, and the tsunami, and possibly 9,000 injured. As if that wasn’t enough, within twenty-four hours, a major blizzard hit Halifax, hampering rescue and relief efforts.

The town before the explosion

Who was at fault?

Investigations determined that both ships were equally responsible for the explosion. Therefore, if this happened today, both ships’ insurance companies would split any payouts. This is called a “third-party” claim since it’s being paid by a third party rather than by the claimant or their own insurance company.

The causes of loss

There are several causes of loss in this case and differentiating them is important to who pays for what. The explosion, which caused fire and debris damage, water from the tsunami, and damage caused by the blizzard. Damage resulting directly from the explosion, including the tsunami, would be covered by the third-party insurance companies. If the tsunami had been naturally occurring, it would not be covered since water traveling across the ground and “wave wash” are not covered by a regular homeowner’s policy.

Any claim resulting from the blizzard that came in the days after the explosion would be covered by the individual homeowners’ policies.

How could a Public Adjuster help in this case?

Third party claims can be hard to collect on in a timely and satisfactory manner. It’s often much easier to file a first-party claim with your own insurance company who will then subrogate against the third party after their own insured has been satisfied. A public adjuster would represent the claimants in this case. A public adjuster can also help with placing a family in an alternative residence for the duration of the claim process and the reconstruction, and a public adjuster can help with remediation vendors. Having a public adjuster manage the claim allows the survivors to move forward with their lives and deal with the trauma of the explosion and its aftermath.

Interesting fact

The Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee sent a delegation to Halifax shortly after the explosion. In appreciation, Halifax sent a Christmas tree to the City of Boston in 1917. In 1971, the gift was revived and has been continued every year since.

Christmas Tree In Boston

For more information 

This is a great little video illustrating the lead-up to the disaster. https://youtu.be/OSuX9RvLq54

A great book about the disaster and its aftermath is Curse of the Narrows: the Halifax Disaster of 1917 by Laura M. MacDonald.

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc. has more than fifty years in the insurance adjusting field and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. We have adjusted every type of property claim there is: fire, storms, water, robbery, you name it. Licensed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas, we can handle your claim from start to finish. Contact us today via email or telephone at 508-588-4243.

Cocoanut Grove Fire Anniversary

What was the Cocoanut Grove Fire?

Today marks the 76th anniversary of the most devastating nightclub fire in US history, The Cocoanut Grove fire which took place in Boston on November 28, 1942. The popular nightclub, located on Piedmont Street in the Bay Village neighborhood, offered patrons several levels of a tropical party atmosphere with music, dancing, dining, and cocktails. While the club’s legal capacity was 460, there was an estimated 1,000 Thanksgiving weekend club-goers there the night of the fire.

The fire, which was deemed of “unknown origin,” started at about 10:15 pm and spread quickly through the Melody Lounge on the lower level of the club. Materials used in the club’s décor and the structure of the building created a perfect environment for the fire which moved faster than the patrons could escape. Non-functioning or hidden exits, and the single revolving door at the front of the building which became inoperable as the panicked crowd charged the exit, made escape almost impossible. Many guests were overcome by smoke while still in their seats. Four-hundred and ninety-two people lost their lives.

Insurance implications

As a result of this incident, fire safety laws in Boston and throughout the US were changed to ensure the wellbeing of nightclub patrons. If this happened today, and the owners of the Cocoanut Grove had fire mitigation in place but a fire broke out anyway, the building losses would be covered. Any damage to surrounding and adjacent buildings would be covered by their own insurance policies.

How could a public adjuster help?

A public adjuster could represent any of the building owners in their building damage claims, including the owners of the Cocoanut Grove. A public adjuster would estimate the extent of the damage and the degree of coverage and act as the building owner’s representative to the insurance company. A public adjuster would also help manage remediation vendors, including emergency board-up the night of the fire. If business interruption is an issue, the public adjuster could manage that part of the claim as well.

Get more information about the Cocoanut Grove fire

Here’s a little video of experts discussing the fire: https://youtu.be/Q0BMsefS8fY

If you want to read more about the fire, check out a book called Fire in the Grove, by John C. Esposito. It’s a great book with highly detailed accounts of the people involved, the club, that night’s events, and the aftermath of the fire.

Interesting facts

Along with several other safety laws enacted as a result of the Cocoanut Grove fire, a lesser known law is that no club in Boston can ever use the name Cocoanut Grove, forever.

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc. has more than fifty years in the insurance adjusting field and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. We have adjusted every type of property claim there is: fire, storms, water, robbery, you name it. Licensed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas, we can handle your claim from start to finish. Contact us today via email or telephone 508-588-4243.

How To Catalog Your Stuff

Catalog Your Stuff: Create a Home Inventory List Before You Need It

Imagine your home is destroyed by some catastrophic event. You can take some comfort knowing your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy covers the contents – in other words, all your beloved your stuff. A contractor or public adjuster can go through your house and estimate the damage to the building, but, it’s pretty difficult for an outsider to list every item that once occupied your house. It’s going to be up to you to make sure the list is comprehensive, so you can collect what you’re entitled to in your insurance claim.

As public adjusters, we recommend creating a list of your personal property and storing the list in a safe place. Your list should include photos, a description, where and when you purchased the item, and what you paid for it. 

Do it before you need it.

Imagine having to list every single item in your home from a pencil and can of shaving cream, to furniture, wardrobe, personal papers, and books after a fire has destroyed everything. It’s time-consuming and emotionally draining. The photo above was once a beautiful family room. Can you tell what all of the contents used to look like? That’s why it’s best to do the contents list before you need it.

Sound overwhelming? It is. But there are a few tools that can help you out:

  • Microsoft Excel templates: Open up Microsoft Excel, go to File>New from Template. Then type Home Inventory into the template search.
  • Look at some samples: This will give you an idea of what one should look like. Here’s one from our favorite site, United Policyholders.
  • Hire a personal property inventory specialist. Google it and find someone in your area. A little team will show up at your house with a voice recorder, go through all of your stuff, and type it all up including dollar values. As public adjusters for one of our clients, we used one of these organizations to list a total loss and there were thousands of items on the list. This service cost about $2,000 which wasn’t cheap, but was well worth it for that claim. But even though we did that, our client still had to go through that list with a fine-toothed comb to make sure everything was listed and correct.
  • There’s an app for that! United Policyholders created an app for your home inventory. It’s pretty cool. You can store photos and everything.

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc. has more than fifty years in the insurance adjusting field and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. We have adjusted every type of property claim there is: fire, storms, water, robbery, you name it. Licensed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas, we can handle your claim from start to finish. Contact us today via email or telephone 508-588-4243.