Documentation—what is it and why is it important?

“Documentation,” as defined by Alan Olson, the founder of the Adjuster Guy, “is the backbone of everything we do in the insurance industry when it comes to handling a claim. Documentation reports—from receiving the claim all the way to the approval of the claim to the payment being issued—everything, every step along the way...the main purpose of the documentation is to provide the insurance carrier with an accurate assessment of damages occured during a loss so that they can properly apply coverage for coverages available, but not apply coverages on specific items that may be excluded from the policy.”

Whether you are just starting out in the field or you have been in the game for decades, it is important that every insurance adjuster understands what documentation is and how important it is for the file.

In order to understand documentation and know its importance, documentation first needs to be defined.

What is Documentation?

Documentation is the backbone of everything adjusters do in the insurance industry when it comes to handling a claim. Good documentation reports everything—from receiving the claim all the way to the approval of the claim to the payment being issued. It reports every step along the way.

The main purpose of the documentation is to provide the insurance carrier with an accurate assessment of damages that occurred during a loss. Once this occurs, they can apply proper coverage for what’s available but do not apply it to specific items that may be excluded from the policy.

What this means is that documentation gives detailed information about everything having to do with the claim. From the moment an adjuster receives the claim, to when they contact the homeowner, to when they inspect to house, to when they write the claim, to when they submit it back to the carrier. Everything that happens is put into the file on record.

What is good documentation?

The biggest thing for good documentation is keeping up with file notes. Managers and adjusters that work for the firms monitor the claim files daily. If they look into your claim file notes and can’t figure out what’s going on with your claim, you don’t have good documentation. 

Every note that you put in should leave an expectation of when the next note will be placed there. If you schedule an inspection day for five days out, you need to put a note in that explains it.

“I’m inspecting the property on this day at this time.”

If that day goes by and no notes are in the file, the managers don’t know what’s going on. 

That’s when you go back in the file and say: inspected the claim today, found this damage, expect to complete the file and upload it by this day. Then they know what’s going on. 

Good documentation doesn’t just mean you took good photos and wrote a good general loss report. Good documentation means from the day you received a claim, nobody was guessing where you were at with that claim.

You went and put file notes at the right times. You also made sure anybody reviewing the file knew what the status of the claim was, what the next expectation of the claim was and when it would be for the claim, and when you thought you were going to get it uploaded.

Why is documentation important?

In addition to reporting what is going on with the claim, documentation is important because it provides everyone involved protection.

It’s protection for the adjuster. It’s protection for the reviewer. It’s protection for the insurance company. And it’s protection for the insured.

If you are properly documenting a file, then everyone knows what’s going on all the way through it and where a mistake was made–if a mistake was made when handling a file.

Documentation lets everyone involved with the claim know what’s going on, what’s damaged, what’s not damaged, what should be covered, what’s not covered, how it was interacting with the insured, when a certain step was planned and accomplished, and what actions were taken. 

This may sound like a lot; but generally, when an adjuster is documenting, they want to be as clear and precise as possible.

Good documentation can be simple and still be good documentation. Adjusters will have to learn over time what good documentation in a file is. It’s something you learn from experience.

If you can complete a file; send it to your reviewer; they can clearly identify what you are accounting for—what is damaged and what’s not damaged; you have photo-documented it; and written a narrative to explain everything in a clear manner, that’s good documentation.

It may be 10 photos and six sentences in a paragraph—that’s probably going to be a really small loss—but that’s how simple it can be.

Final remarks

Overall, when an adjuster is writing documentation for a claim, they want to be factual, precise, to the point, and informative. This helps the people reviewing the claim to not only know what’s going on with the claim—which saves everyone time—but it also protects everyone involved with the claim at that moment and later down the road.

You’re documenting it for the carrier now so that they’re not overlapping in coverage from a prior claim. You’re preparing the file so the next guy that comes along on the next claim has good information about what happened before you got there.

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