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How Insurance Claims and Adjustments Have Changed in 30 Years

By Keith Stachowiak on May 24, 2016 // Leave a Comment

Milwaukee-personal-injury-insurance-adjusters.jpgWhen I started practicing law at Murphy and Prachthauser in 1983, I was assigned a smaller auto case and a slip fall case to investigate and work on and do whatever was necessary to resolve them, by settlement or a trial.

My job, which has remained the same to date, is to work on behalf of my client. I investigate the claim, I research the legal precedents and I help my clients to obtain repayment for medical bills, lost wages, property damage and pain and suffering.

Over the years while my tasks has remained the same, adjusters and the claim industry in general in Wisconsin has evolved, and here’s how:

Milwaukee Personal Injury Lawyers: Building Relationships, Working With Adjusters

As I worked on my assigned cases in 1983 and the decade to follow, I started seeing many of the same adjusters, local adjusters working out of offices in metro-Milwaukee or surrounding suburbs. I never met them in person, but I would talk to them quite regularly, giving them updates on client treatment so they could set their appropriate reserves.

The Start of Computerized Claims Adjustments

It was probably the early 1990’s when computers started calling the shots, and it wasn't to the benefit of customers or clients. 


I remember talking to an experienced adjuster who was not at all happy about some computer program making the analysis on what could be offered and losing his discretion to try to resolve claims. 

  • The adjusters would have someone scour the medical records.
  • The data was then entered into a machine.
  • The adjuster would be given a range of values in which to attempt settlement.
  • The adjuster could typically get a bit more authority, what I saw, in the neighborhood of 20 percent of what the computer told them.
  • If the adjuster could not settle the matter, then the claim would be put into suit for a jury to decide.

I recall one adjuster saying they no longer needed adjusters to try to resolve claims and that the personal nature of revolving claims had been eliminated.

milwaukee-personal-injury-lawyer-can-help-with-legal-claims.jpgNew Age, More Automation and Scripts

Fast forward to the 2010s, and I am seeing more and more claims being handled by adjusters from Atlanta, LA and Chicago. The adjusters routinely follow a script; similar to something that is used when you call support for your cable or cell phone when it is not working. Moreover, the adjusters are regularly changed on a single case. I am not sure if they are doing that to make it harder for individuals and lawyers to resolve claims, or if they just have really high turnover on adjusters.

How The Claims Process Has Changed Over Time

The claims process is also changing for cases that are put in suit. Back in the 1980s if a case was put in suit, you were likely to have a private defense firm hired by the insurance company to defend the case. They were mostly paid by the hour, and they had financial incentive to thoroughly defend a case and take all the depositions that were necessary.

Insurance Companies Now Hire Their Own Lawyers

In the 1990s and 2000s, more and more insurance companies began hiring attorneys as employees, to work full time in their claims department and defend claims. These were insurance company employees, paid a salary to handle whatever claims the adjusters asked them to handle. This certainly cut costs, as the insurance company was not paying an hourly rate to private firms to defend the cases. But problems seemed to arise, including:

  • Some of these in-house attorneys were assigned way too many cases.
  • It became difficult for them to take necessary depositions and do other routine work.
  • In-house adjusters were having their support staff cut.
  • Bright and capable attorneys were given too many cases with not enough support to do a proper workup of the case.

Another thing I have been hearing from the private attorneys who still do insurance defense work — the insurance companies are hiring them on a fixed fee basis, and the fixed fee is not all that high. They too, have some incentive to try to have the case resolved with as little work as they can. These are good, reputable attorneys that are put under a time crunch and therefore avoid taking routine depositions or other discovery.

What Does This Mean For You?

If you have an insurance claim to file, you should be ready for some frustrating phone calls. You may be working with multiple adjusters and lawyers and you may feel like you are repeating yourself and getting the run-around.

It may be in your best interest to consider hiring a seasoned personal injury lawyer in Milwaukee to help you understand how best to proceed with your legal case. We might be able to help you manage the hardship of dealing with insurance companies.

Articles to Read Before Your Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

Consider the advice in these recent articles to help you understand why hiring a lawyer is a good idea and how to go about finding the right lawyer for you.

Submit a Free Case Evaluation Now

If you are still looking for the right lawyer for you, consider filling out a free case evaluation and talking with a personal injury attorney today. You’ll see the difference when you have the opportunity to talk directly with an expert Milwaukee personal injury attorney.

At Murphy & Prachthauser we practice personal injury law the way it should be practiced – motivated and equipped to do our best for you. We take pride in being good lawyers who help people.

If you have a insurance claim or personal injury case you would like to speak to a Milwaukee personal injury lawyer about, please contact us to schedule a free consultation and get an experienced team working on your behalf.

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