If you are a claims adjuster or manager or are employed in any capacity in the insurance claims industry, then you are familiar with the concept of subrogation, and your company probably has a subrogation department, or at least a subrogation specialist. The procedures used in subrogation are pretty standard across the board. Essentially, claims which are paid out due to the partial or full negligence of a third party are referred to the subrogation department where concentrated subrogation efforts are initiated.
The companies that realize the best recovery rates utilize a combination of methods to realize as many recovery dollars as possible. Depending on the quantity of claims coming into a claims department, the best recovery procedure can change dramatically. In general, here are the techniques my experience has shown me to be most effective. I will break down the processes by categorizing claim departments by quantity of new claims per month (keep in mind we are talking about automobile claims only).
0 – 500 new claims per month (small companies)
For small companies, employing one highly trained, subrogation specialist is the way to go. An experienced specialist can identify, manage and collect on all potential recovery claims if the amount of new claims coming in per month is less than 500. The specialist should be auditing every claim for potential recovery. Additionally, the specialist should not wait until the claim has been paid to begin auditing and directing recovery efforts. The recovery specialist should have the power to direct front line adjusters on the investigative needs of the recovery department prior to actually taking over the handling of the subrogation/recovery aspect of the claim.
Working as a team is paramount when it comes to maximizing subrogation / contribution recoveries. By getting involved in subrogation early on in the claims process, an experienced recovery professional can anticipate obstacles to recovery and eliminate them before they occur. Using an active “eye” on recovery is one major part of recovery that many insurance claims departments neglect. The difference in recovery can be huge.
500 – 2000 new claims per month (medium companies)
For companies in this bracket, it is beneficial to utilize a specialist and an assistant to the specialist. It is profitable to have the senior specialist train an assistant to handle all of the administrative tasks associated with managing a book of recovery business. In addition, companies in this bracket may find it useful to employ the services of a good subrogation attorney.
Locating and hiring a good subrogation attorney can be challenging as it is hard to find an attorney that will not neglect a company that doesn’t send a large quantity of assignments. There are a lot of considerations to be made when selecting a subrogation attorney, in fact, there are so many, I cannot include them in this article, but a great specialist should be able to screen an attorney properly, and there are some great articles floating around which were written by lawyers that give great advice on the general factors to consider when searching for a subrogation attorney. Additionally, companies in this bracket will benefit from using a specialty recovery company that focuses on recovery from uninsured motorists. This type of recovery is the most difficult and time consuming for an “in-house” specialist. Additionally, to efficiently work this type of recovery business, skiptracing prowess is mandatory. Managing claim information with an eye towards skiptracing is normally not possible with an insurance company’s claim management system, but a good specialty vendor will have a different way of maintaining claims data which is tailored towards the location of and contact with tortfeasors.
If the recovery potential is identified, the easy money is collected, and the management of the data is handled “in house”, then it is worth it to screen a vendor for the “hard dollar” recovery efforts. The vendor should be able to report their activity in a live manner that coordinates with the insurance company’s needs, and they should be able to demonstrate their effectiveness in quickly resolving uninsured motorist recoveries. The vendor should never spend more than 90 days making recovery attempts in “collection” mode. Within 90 days, the vendor should be able to refer the recovery claims back to the insurance company and suggest legal action if it seems prudent. Then, the in-house specialist or team can assign the file to an attorney for immediate litigation or if they are really sharp (and incorporated), they can usually litigate the file themselves in small claims court, if the total damages fall within the proper jurisdictional limits.
Time is of the essence here! A major advantage to subrogation recovery is that if the at fault party has a driver license, then over 90% of the time, the validity of the license can be put in jeopardy as a way to coerce settlement. Many people will just avoid paying a damage claim until there is a real consequence such as a driver license suspension. It is a myth that most uninsured motorists don’t have money. I have recovered money from doctors, lawyers, teachers, and many other professionals that were uninsured and involved in an accident, for whatever reason. Taking swift action after making the proper collection efforts is paramount in maximizing recovery.
2000 new claims and above (larger companies)
For companies in this bracket, the same philosophy as used for the medium sized company should apply. The difference is that the number of in-house specialists should most likely increase and be divided into teams. Any company that receives 2000 or more new claims per month is surely handling claims in more than one jurisdiction, and therefore since the laws are slightly different, and the claims tendencies are different in the different jurisdictions, the approach should be to have sufficient talent employed to properly manage and negotiate recovery in all jurisdictions.
The utilization of vendors for “hard dollar” recoveries should also reflect specialization in jurisdiction. Vendors that tout nationwide recovery services simply do not have the “talent” to properly recover “hard dollar” claims. The “talent” is paid a nice salary at an insurance company and doesn’t work for a small salary and commission, which in and of itself lends to the wrong philosophy when it comes to recovery. “Hard dollar” recovery is not profitable when working on commission, period. Most vendors work on a contingency basis, and the profit goes to the owner of the vending company, not the specialists that are trying to find that “easy” money so as to make a living on the “not so lucrative” commission structures that are available.
Don’t get me wrong, many large companies fail to utilize proper “in house” methods, and when they utilize “nationwide” vendors, the specialists that are lucky enough to work for these vendors will have a great opportunity at making a nice living by catching the large quantities of missed “easy” money left behind by the lacking methods of some of the larger companies. For companies that want the very maximum in recovery dollars, nationwide vendors will not be very helpful in recovery “hard dollar” claims, which is all that should be left over from the “in house” efforts.
In addition to using specialized vendors and attorneys, it is also very profitable to utilize recovery procedures to audit recovery demands from other carriers. Auditing demands can reduce subrogation related liability payments by as much as 18%. Even more profitable is to find a “hard dollar” recovery vendor that can serve a dual purpose and audit demands as well as perform the “hard dollar” recovery services. These types of vendors are few and far between. The blending of the two services has not been a traditional type of company because of the expertise and licensing required to audit claims.
Vendors that have this capability can provide actual recovery services at a reduced contingency and can also perform subrogation audits at reduced rates because of the blending of the services which have different profitability timelines. Subrogation audits are billed on a per claim basis and provide a vendor with immediate income whereas subrogation recovery on a contingency is not immediately realized.
Doing both allows a vendor to properly work “hard dollar” recovery assignments while still maintaining some immediate income on new demand assignments. The dual vendor is not forced to pursue quantity assignments of recovery claims like the traditional subrogation vendor, and they normally have only a couple of clients that they work for exclusively so as to maintain the profitability factors and provide the highest returns. Insurance companies who luck into finding one of these vendors will find that they get the most bang for their buck. The relationship is profitable for both the vendor and the insurance carrier.
Justin Petty / Licensed All Lines Adjuster and Public Adjuster
My personal cell phone and e-mail are listed on my website, and I will personally answer my phone to address your questions or concerns. I work for the “little man”, be it a small business, speciality recovery niche, or an individual. If you think honesty and integrity are a thing of the past, research me. I am truly a horse of a different color, so visit my website and give me a call or drop me a line. I trust you will be surprised when I personally answer the phone. I am the founder and CEO of Petty Details, LLC, and I have the power to bend my own rules and prices for the benefit of justice. Plead your case!