Harry Rinehart, casualty general adjuster II in Allentown, Pennsylvania, recently took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his career as a claims adjuster.
When asked how he decided to enter the field, Harry says, “A neighbor of mine was an insurance claims adjuster, and he had explained to me what he did for a living. That stuck with me. While trying unsuccessfully to master accounting in college, I began (perhaps subconsciously) to take more and more classes on insurance.”
Shortly after graduating from Virginia Tech in July of 1976, Harry landed a job with Crawford & Company in Greensboro, North Carolina, a short distance from his home town of Roanoke, VA. “I received wonderful training there as a rookie independent casualty claims adjuster. My first supervisor was Dennis Smith, and my first branch manager was Archie Meyers. Little did I know what good hands I was in there!” Harry explains. Both gentlemen went on to serve as presidents and CEOs of Crawford & Company.
Harry describes his career path and training like this, “While focusing on casualty training, I took the Advanced Adjuster home study course, and later went on to take many Insurance Institute of America (IIA) courses earning designations of Associate in Claims (AIC), Associate in Management (AIM) and Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU). Upon transferring from Greensboro to Washington, DC, I was fortunate enough to work with Archie Meyers again, who had moved on to be the branch manager there. Later I became a supervisor there; then one of the company’s first six unit managers; and then on to become a manager for the first time in Wilmington, DE. Later I moved on to become the manager in Allentown.”
We asked Harry about his favorite and least favorite aspects of the job, and he replied, “My favorite thing about my work is having the freedom to organize my own work schedule, calendar and agenda for each day, for the most part. Also, being able to be on the road part of the time and in the office part of the time is a nice mix. My least favorite thing is typing on this computer!”
Harry walked us through the way he handles a claim:
‘In all claims, we first determine if there is coverage under the policy for the loss. Second, we determine if there is liability under the policy, and then – only after having both of those – we focus on damages with an eye towards evaluating the case for negotiation and settlement.
One of my never-forget-to-ask questions is “Were you injured; did you receive any medical attention; and do you intend to receive any medical attention?“ Routine claims can be anything from a minor cut finger in a workers compensation case to car A rear-ends car B in an auto liability case to a slip and fall in the grocery store aisle in a general liability case. More serious claims can involve 50-100 vehicle pileups on the highway involving many tractor trailer rigs, explosions involving major damage to homes or business, and storm-related losses that can trigger liability exposures for environmental cleanup. All can involve serious injury and sometimes loss of life to those involved.
Like the Postal Service, we must do our work in all sorts of weather, as well as in the middle of the day or in the middle of the night, and sometimes when you least expect it.
Harry describes one of his most interesting clients, “When I was in the Washington, DC office we handled a circus account. I remember handling a claim where a high wire actor lost his balance and dropped the metal balancing pole into the crowd, puncturing a customer’s foot. An instance involved a circus train wreck with all the animals on board.”
Some of Harry’s other most memorable cases include:
– I’ve worked on many fuel-related cases. In Delaware we handled an oceanliner cargo vessel oil spill involving damage to hundreds of boats and many marinas nearby. While in Pennsylvania, I assisted with a fuel oil company substation explosion that involved damage to homes and vehicles in several neighborhoods along with injuries. And recently I have been handling underground storage tank fuel leaks and the resulting environmental cleanup exposures to homes going back as many as 20 years.
– Superstorm Sandy caused a great deal of property damage along the East Coast which resulted in sizeable liability exposures for the resulting environmental cleanup.
Harry is philosophical about his job. He says, “You could say this is a service to the community that has to be done by someone. Like the fire fighters who run toward, rather than away from, a burning building, we are much the same when unfortunate claims hit home.”
We asked Harry what has been the biggest surprise about claims adjusting, and his answer is heart-warming. He says, “Most people are honest and are just looking for what they are entitled to under the policy. There are some who will try to beat the system, but they are a small minority. Most who try soon realize they are real amateurs up against real professionals.”
Harry offers this tip for other adjusters or people considering the field:
“Like ALL careers there are positives and negatives. From the beginning I found this career to be both challenging and rewarding. However, you cannot be too thin-skinned. There are people out there who will ask much more of us than the ever-present question ‘Where’s my check?’ There are those who would take advantage of us if we give them half a chance.”
Harry concludes by saying, “Looking back over the past 37 years in this career and with this company, I have been far more successful than I ever thought possible, and it has been far more rewarding than I thought was in the cards for me. I have no regrets and would do it all over again. Here’s to ten more years!”