Interview of an Insurance Field Adjuster


 As I fumbled through radio stations, the unforgettable memories of
a horn blaring, tires screeching, and turning just in time to see a truck
smashing into my car came flooding back.  Glass shattering, the airbag
deploying, I had gasped for breath from the sudden impact. It is sad that
most people will have to go through a car accident like this one at least
once in their lifetime.  Kathy Highland was the insurance adjuster from
Shelter Insurance Company who was assigned to my case.  Her
professionalism, courtesy, and understanding changed this horror story
into just another chapter in my life, a chapter which I am now able to
look back upon as a valuable learning experience. 
        The morning sun warmed the air that April day.  It was Thursday
around nine a.m. when I arrived at the Shelter Insurance building.  I
looked around Kathy's office noticing her diploma from the University of
Oklahoma and a couple of certificates for the insurance company hanging on
the wall. 
 Directly behind her was a quotation in a small frame.  It read, "When
looking for the reason why things go wrong never rule out sheer
stupidity." I asked Kathy what it meant to her.  Kathy looked at me and
said, "People come into my office thinking I have all the answers and I
can give them everything they want." It is easy to see that Kathy's
knowledge is what people desire.  With her professionalism and courtesy
she is able to ease the suffering of her clients and not compensate them
more than the company is willing to.  About that time the phone rang, and
she picked it up and said, "Kathy Highland."  She listened for a few
seconds as she tapped her pen on the desk, and finally said, "What is the
claim number."  As if she had done this a million times, Kathy told the
person on the phone to go ahead and extend the car rental and then hung up
the phone.  Clearly Kathy handles her work swiftly and methodically easing
the anguish of the ordeal as easy as possible. 
        As I asked Kathy, "Where does the claim process begin?"  She
started to explain to me the claim process from beginning to end.  First
the adjuster will call both parties involved in the accident.  Kathy said,
"This could be the fun part.  Most of the time you get two different
stories of the accident."  Then the adjuster will go to the scene of the
accident with the police report to determine what percentage each person
is at fault.  She said, "This is the hard part, trying to imagine the
accident happening.  By the way that reminds me, I have a case I need to
work on today.  Would you like to come along?"  Happily, I said, "Yes," so
we headed across town to the accident scene.
        The accident had happened only two days before when.  An 82 year
old man made a left turn in front of a high school student who had a new
Mustang.  Kathy said, "This case appears to be clear as to who is at
fault, but if the student was speeding he could be held partly at fault." 
The police report stated that the Mustang laid 47 feet of tire marks, 40
of which were before impact and 7 after impact.  The police report noted
that the older man received a ticket and the student did not.  It was
clear to me that the older man was at fault.  Kathy was still not certain
the student was not speeding.  After the adjuster has reviewed the police
report and the accident scene, she will go to the wrecker yard to appraise
the damage of the vehicles.  As we pulled into the wrecker yard, I saw all
the vehicles as if it was a cemetery of cars and trucks that no one wanted
anymore.  Kathy, knowing her way around the yard, pointed out the writing
on the windshields.  Each vehicle had an accident case number in grease
pencil written on it.  Kathy quickly found the 1979 Delta 88 and new
Mustang near the front of the yard. 
        As I walked through the yard, I saw the damaged vehicles.  I
realized how many lives were lost and changed.  The damage was minor on
one car and massive on another.  As we looked at the Mustang, I saw that
it was a total loss and no amount of money or time could restore it.  The
old battle wagon had minor damage compared to the Mustang.  Kathy told me
that it would be a total loss because of its age.  It appeared to me that
Kathy knew the damage and age of the vehicle would cost more to repair the
vehicle than what it was worth. 
           As we headed back across town to Kathy's office, I asked her if
the student was at fault.  She responded, "By the amount of tire marks and
damage to the vehicles he is going to be 20 percent at fault for speeding. 
If he would not have been speeding the damage would not have been so
           When we arrived at the insurance company, I realized I had
learned much about Kathy's job.  This insight into her life had helped
ease the pain which I had felt since my accident.  Weather she knew it or
not Kathy had an ability to comfort her clients while she helped work
through their claims.  This comforting, along with the knowledge of the
adjusting process that I had received from her, transformed a terrifying
accident into an experience which I often look back on even now,
appreciating everything Kathy did for me. 

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