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Newhall man follows where disaster strikes

Posted: December 26, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 26, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Dave Humphries assessing the damage inflicted on the Waffles & More in Long Branch, N.J., during Superstorm Sandy.

 

After hurricane Sandy made landfall and devastated areas of the Northeast coast on Oct. 29, Dave Humphries of Newhall headed straight into the disaster zone.

Humphries, founder and president of America First Public Adjusters, knows from his experiences with disasters like Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Issac that working through the insurance claim process can be difficult and rebuilding can take years.

A public adjuster since 1994, the Placerita Canyon resident works with home and business owners to achieve a fair resolution with their insurance companies after property has sustained damage or total loss. As a public adjuster, Humphries does not represent any insurance company but works on behalf of the insured.

Called into the heart of disasters to represent clients often means living away from home and family for months or years, returning home every few weeks or months — depending on how busy he is — to reconnect with family.

In 2008, when Hurricane Ike made its final landfall near Galveston, Texas on Sept. 13, Humphries spent up to three years in Houston because of the size of the catastrophe, he said.

And he’s planning to be in the Northeast about the same amount of time helping with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

“We expect to help with about 500 claims like we did with Ike,” Humphries said.

But it’s not easy to be away from home, he said, so when he does return, he generally stays at home for about 10 days.

Home away from home

His schedule keeps Humphries busy with appointments in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

But with three children, the youngest being a 14-year-old son, wife Alesia said the couple does a lot of co-parenting through lots of phone calls and emails.

Their daughters, both age 23, are grown and while they still need the support of parents, Alesia said the couple focuses mostly on their son who is still growing up.

“I’m really proud of Dave,” she said, “I know for a fact that it’s hard for him to be away from family and everything he holds dear. He pays for our lifestyle, and I know for a fact that his life on the road isn’t as good as we have here.”

In fact, two weeks ago Humphries moved his motor home to Clarksboro, N.J. where he’ll live until he finishes helping the insured with their claims.

“Clarksboro is about an hour away from the severely damaged Jersey area,” he said. “I chose this spot because it’s not near the impact zone; it’s quiet and safe.”

Insurance adjusting

Humphries spent the first several weeks in the Northeast establishing contacts with contractors, roofers, property managers, independent insurance agents — anyone who he needs to be in contact with — as he works through the process of assessing devastating losses and working with the insurance companies to secure a fair settlement for rebuilding lives and businesses.

As for the relationships he forms along the way, they result in long-term business for him in the future, he said.

“With Hurricane Ike, we got to be so well known there we turned it into a regular business of handling claims,” Humphries said. “We’re still getting other calls in Texas as other tornados go through there.”

Often independent insurance agents contact Humphries, he said, because they want to make sure their clients are satisfied with whatever insurance companies the agents represent.

But a new trend has been developing as well. His company just recently reached an agreement with six attorneys to represent claims because most of the “reputable attorneys would like to see public adjusters settle a claim before going to court,” Humphries said.

“The courts are really pushing this resolution as well, he said. The courts felt attorneys in Hurricane Katrina were running up big fees and taking a lot of the money allocated for the insured,” he said.

And a government insurance program in Texas asked his company to serve as mediators, he said.

But as for the Northeast, right now Humphries said he’s just figuring out the logistics of where and how he can help people.

It’s very rewarding work, Humphries said. “I can’t tell you how many times an insurance company has denied peoples’ claims when their home is in ruins.

“We turned those decisions around and got their claims paid and the houses repaired,” he said.

But it isn’t all about the money, Humphries said. He’s done pro bono work for people who just don’t have the money and sufficient coverage to fix their home, he said.

“We have to make a living; we have to make money,” he said. “But we don’t have to make it all the time.”

“Dave uses his innate ability to argue for good,” Alesia said. “He took all the things he’s really good at, bundled them together and created this career for himself.”

But the only way for him to keep the business going and growing, is to keep moving from disaster to catastrophe, Humphries said.

While he ramps up in the Northeast, Humphries is also working as a public adjuster in New Orleans due to Hurricane Issac, which hit this past August, because he was there for Hurricane Katrina, he said.

Katrina

After Hurricane Katrina hit the southeast in August 2005, more than 204,000 homes in New Orleans were damaged or destroyed, and more than 800,000 residents displaced — the greatest movement of residents since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, Habitat for Humanity issued in its report of recovery efforts in 2010, five years after the hurricane struck land.

There was $135 billion in property damages and more than 1 million people were displaced from their homes and livelihoods, the organization reported. By 2010, several hundred families were still living in FEMA trailers.

And Alesia recalls the second day after her husband landed in New Orleans to help people with their insurance claims.

“He was literally in tears and said ‘I have no words,’” she said. “For him that was huge. He always has words.”

But as he always does, Humphries plans to be out amongst people who are in need of help.

jana@signalscv.com

661-287-5599

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