Monthly Archives: June 2011

Question Time

Question Time

This blog has taken on the form of me posting articles and asking your opinions on them. I now want to enter into new territory by just posing questions and gaining your feedback. I will post questions peridocially and only hope that you find them thought provoking and informational. Any feedback is greatly appreciated as always. So here goes the first question in my “Question Time” series.

People ask me what is the most important element in getting customer cooperation. In my book Gaining Cooperation one of the revolving themes is that people like to be acknowledged. What do you think?


What Makes a Great Manager?

The 8 Characteristics of the Awesome Adjuster available on

In the claims world, and in every profession where managers are used, there are many things that a manager can do to inspire their staff to greatness. I have written about this topic as it relates to the claims world and came up with 8 characteristics of a good adjuster. I believe that a good adjuster should have the correct attitude, desire for excellence, show initiative, use teamwork, provide great customer service and empathy, be great at time management, continue their education, and have strong interpersonal skills.

I was recently turned on to a podcast entitled “How to Inspire Your Staff to Greatness” and found the tips very informational and something that,when taken with my characteristics, will make managers even more effective. The podcast can be found here but I am going to list the 10 points made for you to read in case you don’t have time to listen to the entire thing.

The 10 points are as followed:

1) Adopt the mindset that you want to be more than just the average supervisor or manager

2) Model exemplary behavior

3) Keep your rules and regulations as simple as you can

4) Remove obstacles for employees, contractors, potential clients, etc

5) Find out how the people you are involved with learn the best

6) Make it safe for people to take reasonable risks

7) Help them to find their passion

8 ) Frame everything using motivational language

9) Create a memorable experience for your employees

10) Develop a culture of trust

What are your thoughts on the podcast? Do you think that the points relate to mine? What are some things that you feel make an adjuster better? I’d love to hear your feedback.

What’s Happening with the Gulf Coast Claims?

I thought this was an interesting article, especially since I like in the Gulf Coast region. I’m interested in know your thoughts about what is currently happening with the claims of all the oil spill victims, positive or negative.


Claims czar Kenneth Feinberg says pace of payments quickens

Published: Monday, June 20, 2011, 11:00 PM
David Hammer, The Times-Picayune By David Hammer, The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune

Procedural questions and disenchantment remain, but to hear oil spill claims czar Kenneth Feinberg tell it — and to look at statistics from his Gulf Coast Claims Facility — the compensation process he oversees has finally hit its stride.

feinberg-pensive.jpgThe Associated PressKenneth Feinberg, manager of the Gulf oil spill relief fund.

Feinberg, who was tapped last year by BP and the White House to administer economic damage payments, has settled nearly 150,000 claims, paying out almost $4.5 billion.

Most of that money, $2.6 billion, was paid in 2010 as part of an emergency payment phase. It took four months to pay the first $1 billion in “final settlements” this year, almost all using a quick-pay process designed to get rid of the simplest, noncontinuing claims.

But in the two months since April 20, which marked the first anniversary of BP’s devastating spill, Feinberg’s operation has paid about $700 million for more complex claims — the ones requiring full review and complete documentation — and the average payment is steadily rising.

On the anniversary, the average final payment was $16,000. It’s now up to nearly $20,000.

On the anniversary, Feinberg had paid just 11 percent of final settlement requests. That number is up to 26 percent now, and GCCF has made offers to nearly half of the 115,000 settlement-seeking claimants, who have 90 days to accept whatever Feinberg puts on the table.

On the anniversary, the question hanging over the process was: How many claimants would accept final offers from Feinberg rather than hold out for more through the courts?

Now, with coastal tourism bouncing back, each passing day seems to bring Feinberg closer to his stated goal of serving at least 90 percent of those with legitimate claims. And with BP questioning the standing in court of tens of thousands of plaintiffs who have not yet presented their claims properly to Feinberg, the GCCF’s appeal is only getting stronger.

The claims facility has processed more than 95 percent of the 300,000 claims that were filed before the end of May. Feinberg’s team deemed about 40 percent of those either deficient or ineligible. But the only other claims GCCF is still working on that were filed before this month are the most complex ones, Feinberg said. The number of new claims being filed has slowed to a trickle.

There are only 54,000 claimants seeking final payment whom Feinberg considers eligible. If the new claims have really leveled off and Feinberg keeps paying claims at the rate he’s been over the last two months, he will have paid all of the claims that he considers eligible in the next four months. And even if the rising pay rate only holds steady from here on out, that would still mean another $1.1 billion in settlements by Halloween.

The biggest lingering question is: What claims are still out there? The uncertainty rests mostly in the fishing industry, where the true measure of the spill’s economic pain is still unfolding. Only 24,000 fishers, crabbers, shrimpers, oyster harvesters and seafood processors have sought final payments so far, and half have settled. The vast majority of them — about 11,000 — took the quick payment option of $5,000 for individuals or $25,000 for businesses.

The fishing settlement figures could rise dramatically, however, if Feinberg and industry representatives can reach agreements on changes to the GCCF’s payment calculus. For example, Feinberg said he and his staff are working on “a more generous methodology” for oyster fishers, one that would “reflect the fact that the future of oysters in the Gulf as we speak is still, over a year later, very uncertain.”

If the calculation method changes, Feinberg promised that oyster harvesters who took quick payments under the old system would get another shot.

Feinberg’s methodology in February was more generous to oyster fishers than others, granting them four times their 2010 losses, rather than just twice those damages. Mike Voisin, owner of Motivatit Seafood and a key negotiator with the Gulf Oyster Industry Council and the Louisiana Oyster Dealers and Growers Association, said the four-times calculation was not the problem. The use of the calendar year 2010 was.

Because oyster season begins in September and runs through the following spring, half of the 2010-11 oyster season was being left out of the calculation as it was originally devised. Now that a full year has passed, the oyster groups want to compare their April-to-April earnings to previous years to come up with the true loss due to the spill, then multiply that by four. Voisin is confident that Feinberg will agree to that and, when he does, that wary oyster fishers will be willing to finalize their claims.

“I think Ken’s gonna make it right,” Voisin said. “We have a responsible party that I believe is acting responsibly in this case. Will people fall through the cracks? Certainly. You have this many claims, it will overwhelm even Ken Feinberg. But overall, I think people will become his cheerleaders in the end.”

Others don’t share Voisin’s optimism. Catholic Charities case managers say they haven’t seen too many of the 1,300 fishers who have reportedly taken full-review final settlements from Feinberg. They have, on the other hand, seen thousands who have been denied interim payments on a quarterly basis.

Federal law requires Feinberg to pay for ongoing losses without forcing claimants to sign away their rights to sue. But he’s made only 16,000 such payments.

Tom Costanza of Catholic Charities said most of the interim payment offers are minuscule and are attached to final payment offers. Even if those final offers aren’t close to what the claimant requested, the prospect of another quarter without aid is often too much to bear.

He said that 70 percent of the claimants who have turned to state-financed technical assistance advisers for help are still waiting for resolution.

“I just can’t see how this is moving in the right direction,” Costanza said.

The stalemate is most pronounced with subsistence claims, a crucial issue in the Gulf Coast’s fishing-centric Vietnamese communities.

David Hammer can be reached at or 504.826.3322.

More than Just Negotiation

Reading this article made me think about the similarities between it and some of the topics I wrote about in my book The 8 Characteristics of the Awesome Adjuster. In order for an adjuster to come out with a win-win scenario they need to not only follow these guidelines but also realize that they are in the customer service business. This means that they need to understand the concept of showing empathy and understand that having the right attitude about and during a situation can make all the difference. Without those things, a favorable negotiation for all parties would not be possible in my opinion. What do you think? Read the article below and a summary of my book at and leave comments.


Negotiation: Do you cooperate or compete?

* By Larry Edmonds, Workplace Issues Examiner
* June 10, 2011 12:55 pm ET

Just as people differ in the ways they manage or work, they differ in how they negotiate. Some of us tend use a more cooperative, sharing, “win-win”approach while others tend to work more toward a “winner-take-all” approach. In their classic book “The Manager as Negotiator: The Negotiator’s Dilemma: Creating and Claiming Value,”Lax and Sebenius note that there are key differences among negotiators, including:

· Differences in interests

· Differences in opinions

· Differences in risk aversion

· Differences in time preference

When negotiating, we need to remain aware of these potential differences between ourselves and those with whom we are negotiating. These important differences can often be barriers to reaching our desired goals in a negotiation. Finding common and different interests to create value in the negotiation can be a very effective way to enhance our chances for a lasting agreement.

Generally in negotiations we either work toward cooperating with the others in the negotiation so we can create value or we work toward competing so we can claim value. When we engage in creating value, we tend to strive toward increasing the available resources, toward identifying potential gains for both/all parties or what we commonly call “win-win” situations.

When we negotiate with “win-win” in mind, we are trying to create value so that both/all of the parties will realize some benefit(s) from the end results of the negotiations. In creating value, the negotiators cooperate and maintain a demeanor of openness and creativity. Information is shared, communication is open and clear, and the goal is to develop common interests that can benefit both/all parties.

Conversely, negotiators who claim value tend to treat negotiation as a way to claim the biggest piece of the pie for themselves or those they represent. Value-claiming negotiators generally employ a hard-bargaining approach. This is the style we often think of when we try to negotiate a home purchase or buy a car. These negotiators generally begin the negotiation high, then concede slowly, often exaggerating the value of THEIR concessions and minimizing the benefits of the YOUR concessions.

In claiming values, these negotiators also tend to conceal important information, argue for principles that imply favorable settlements, make commitments to accept only highly favorable agreements, and are often willing to outwait the other party(-ies).

While it may seem counterintuitive, Lax and Sebenius suggest that value creating and value claiming are actually linked activities. Creating new value can improve the outcomes of both/all parties. This being said, having created new value, these negotiators still must face the task of dividing the pie.

It should be recognized that the competitive strategies used to claim value tend to work counter to the cooperative strategies used to create value. The exaggeration and concealment used by the value-claiming negotiator runs contrary to the open sharing of important information used by the value-creating negotiator to find benefits for both/all parties. At the same time, employing an open, cooperative approach makes the value-creating negotiator vulnerable to the hard-line strategies of the competitive, value-claiming negotiator.

When negotiating, do you tend to use the “win-win” style of creating value or the more “winner-take-all” style of claiming value? Keeping in mind that there are differences between us and those with whom we negotiate can trigger more positive negotiation strategies. After all, it’s quite possible in a business setting that we will have to negotiate with that person/those parties again.

Recent Publications

Two of my articles have recently been published.

Saying “No” the Right Way has been published in the following publications: Looking Fit, Article Weekly, Promotional Consultant Today, TechJournal South, The Pulse Legal Publications, and newly added Exchange Magazine.

Gaining Cooperation has been published in HVCR Business and Advance for Hearing Practice Management.

Take a look at them and tell me what you think.

Welcome to the World of Claims

Hello everyone! For those of you that don’t know me my name is Carl Van. I am the President and CEO of International Insurance Institute Inc., an insurance claims company. I go around the US, Canada, and the UK teaching technical workshops and giving speeches on the topic of claims. That was just a brief introduction so if you want to know more about me look at the about me section and the many links posted of my websites.

The goal of this blog is to not rattle off information about how to handle claims but to open up a dialogue. I will constantly post my opinions on topics new and old to the world of claims in the hopes that you learn something and teach me something along the way. I will also give you information about upcoming events and talks that I will be at just in case you want to stop by (and I hope you will). So read, comment, and enjoy!

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