Each of our claims adjusters is an intelligent, resourceful, problem-solving investigation professional...
The men and women we employ are very specifically selected for their ability to push through all barriers to get the information insurance companies and attorneys need to either accept or deny insurance claims, and who can leap tall buildings and high fences to get a subpoena served. This sets Churchill apart from other claims services companies you may have been using in the past. We just won't turn in an incomplete report. We eliminate the confusion and frustration you may have encountered with other adjusters who just don't do a thorough job and leave you hanging with incomplete information. We get the job done right the first time!
The Case of the Uncooperative Witness and the Stolen Street Signs
We were asked to track down a witness to a vehicle accident, however, the witness was suspected of being a friend to the claimant and it was doubtful that he had actually been present to observe the accident. The witness lived in a government housing project in East Los Angeles and had been very uncooperative, but finally agreed to set an appointment for a statement one evening in November. The neighborhood was infamous in East L.A. as the site of a shooting of two German tourists a few years prior, who had driven off the 10 freeway at the wrong exit.
On the night of the appointment our adjuster drove to the neighborhood only to discover that all the street signs had been ripped from their poles, making it extremely difficult to locate the witness’s apartment. It was beginning to get dark, but undaunted the adjuster began asking anyone he could find on the street as to the location of the building he was looking for. He questioned 17 people that night, including several gangbangers who were heavily wallpapered with tattoos, and even several L.A. police SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team members with guns drawn and night vision equipment before finally finding the apartment, and amazingly arrived only a few minutes late for the appointment. As the witness’s version turned out to be not credible, the claim was ultimately denied.
No matter what the situation, including dangerous environments, uncooperative witnesses and even the lack of street signs, Churchill will always do what’s necessary to get you the facts!
The Case of the Gangbanger Confrontation
One of our adjusters, a petite 110 lb. 5’ 6” inch California blonde, cold-called a potential witness in a lower income district of Los Angeles. Ignoring the warning signs in the area, such as graffiti on the side of the house along with the barred windows and loud rap music emanating from within, she knocked at the door. A man in his mid-20’s wearing a tank top with amply tattooed arms and sporting a neat moustache, answered and beckoned her to come inside. She had just begun her statement when FIVE more muscular men of similar age and equally threatening appearance, entered the room from the back of the house and proceeded to stand in a circle around the adjuster and watched her intently as she continued with the statement. One of these men repeatedly interrupted the adjuster during the interview, demanding to know why she needed to ask certain questions and otherwise acting in a semi-threatening manner. Rather than being defensive or wilting under the potential danger, our adjuster simply carried on with the interview in a highly professional yet respectful manner. Still looking cool and in control, the interview continued for 20 tense minutes until all the pertinent facts were obtained. The adjuster concluded and with a courteous “Thank you, Sir” to the witness and edged her way out of the front door, not making eye contact with any of the men present. She got into her car and simultaneously locked the doors and hit the gas to get out of there as quickly as possible. The statement turned out to be vital to the investigation and led to a denial of the claim.
We know that not every assignment is straightforward — and often contains situations that require us to think on our feet to get the information our clients need to settle or deny claims. For example, we received an assignment to handle a vehicle accident whereby our insured, a trucking company, had rear-ended a passenger car with five migrant workers in it who spoke only Spanish.
Our adjuster called the day after the accident and found out that they all worked together at a local golf course. He drove to the golf course and found all five of them present. Waiting for them to finish their shift, he then first-call settled each of their claims for around $500.00 each, obtaining signed releases. As the claimants did not speak English the adjuster enlisted the help of another employee of the golf course to translate for him.
A few days later a phone call was received from a local Personal Injury Attorney who claimed that the settlements were invalid, as the claimants, who he now represented, did not speak English. The adjuster returned to the golf course and obtained a signed statement from the employee who had helped translate, in essence stating that he had translated thoroughly and that the claimants had understood and had fully agreed to the settlements. The carrier maintained the position that the settlements were valid and the attorney eventually dropped the claimants case.
One of our adjusters was given a task assignment to investigate a claim of excess force and battery by security guards employed by the insured at a night club in the West Covina area of Los Angeles. The claimant, a patron of the club, had been removed from the premises but was claiming that the bouncers had beaten him up outside the main entrance and he had the injuries to prove it.
Arrangements were made for the adjuster to meet with the insured owners and the security guards at the club. Upon arrival he was shown into some offices off to the side whereupon several heavy set, tough looking men who looked like "mafia" types proceeded to brow beat the adjuster as he attempted to take statements. Intense suspicious looks interspersed with monosyllabic answers to the adjuster’s questions made for a tense atmosphere.
Nevertheless, the adjuster persisted and at the end of four statements was none the wiser as to how the claimant had ended up with a broken nose and three cracked ribs. "Omerta" [the code of silence] was definitely the situation.
The adjuster was almost ready to leave when another guard who had not been in the room but who had some knowledge of the incident approached him and asked if the adjuster would come into the bar area of the club and sit down as he had some information to divulge. It turned out that this person was an ex-police officer and upon finding out that the adjuster was also an ex-cop decided to come clean about the incident.
What he relayed was 180 degrees opposite to the other guards’ versions and so the adjuster was able to report the truth of what had occurred to the insurance company and the claim was settled accordingly avoiding costly litigation.
We were hired to serve a subpoena on a man who lived in a large apartment complex. Upon arrival there it was discovered that the building had more than usual security. The walk-in front entrance was a large pair of glass doors which were locked and which had an intercom system off to the side. Upon finding the apartment number the adjuster called but it was a completely different person to the witness. Undeterred, the adjuster found the buzzer for the on-site manager and pressed it. He asked if the manager knew what apartment the witness lived in and got the correct number. However, when he looked on the intercom again there was no listing under that number. He buzzed the manager again and asked if he could be given access to the building but the manager refused.
The adjuster decided to wait until someone came to the door in order to gain access. However, after a half hour, there had been no foot traffic at all. The adjuster noted that there was a secure entrance to an underground garage to the complex and so he stood by it off to the side in some bushes. Before too long a car came to the gate, activated it and drove through. The adjuster waited until the car had disappeared inside the underground garage and just before the gate closed he ducked through the entrance. It turned out that this was only one out of four garages for the complex and that there were another 3 garages deep into the massive building. Working his way through various hallways and concrete labyrinths the adjuster came across a fire exit that was propped open. From here he was able to gain access to the apartments above the garage. When he checked the numbers on the apartment doors it was obvious that the address that the manager had given him was way deep into the complex and the very last section of units about a quarter mile from where he currently was.
Then the adjuster found that there were security doors that required a pin number in order to get from one section of the complex to the others. Not convinced that it was hopeless, the adjuster went back down to the parking garages and found a way to get to the very last garage under the units where the witness lived by again waiting for cars to pass through security gates. Upon finally reaching the witness’s units he made his way up into the units and located the correct apartment. No reply. He decided to check with the neighbors who informed him that they had seen the witness taking his clothes to the laundry room a few minutes earlier. The adjuster asked the neighbor how to get to the laundry room and set out to find the witness. However, upon reaching it, there was an “Out of order-room closed” sign posted. The adjuster stopped a passerby and asked if there were any other laundry rooms for this set of units. This turned out to be on the other side of the complex on a lower floor. Upon arrival here the adjuster turned a corner just in time to see an elevator door which was next to the laundry room closing. He checked the room and it was empty but there was an empty laundry basket on top of one of the machines and somebody’s laundry was in progress. He quickly found the stairwell next to the elevator and ran up three flights of stairs to the floor where the witness’s apartment was located just in time to see a man turn a corner at the end of a long corridor. He sprinted after the man and caught him just as he was about to enter his apartment. Having identified the person as the witness he produced the subpoena and served him with it. Job completed.
We were asked to serve a subpoena by a defense attorney on a witness. We arrived at the address and there was a man who fit the witness’s description working outside the home on a car. After denying that he was the witness, the adjuster was not satisfied he was being truthful. A young boy was riding his bike around in the area. A subtle inquiry by the adjuster revealed that the boy was a neighbor of the man working outside on the car. Further inquiries revealed that the man was in fact the witness. The adjuster returned to the man with this information, upon which he confessed to being the witness and the subpoena was served. Churchill always gets the job done despite any barriers or problems along the way.
The Case of the Unusually Air Conditioned Trailer
Our adjuster’s assignment was to get a signed statement from a witness who lived in a trailer park in one of the more economically challenged areas of Los Angeles. Upon arrival at the address, she was confronted with a dilapidated, rundown old trailer that had definitely seen better days. There was a large “No Trespassing” sign in the yard, and in one of the broken windows was another sign that read “insured by Smith & Wesson” over a picture of a rather menacing- looking handgun. Undeterred, our adjuster walked up to the door of the trailer, positive but on guard. The door dangled nearly off its hinges and the front “steps” consisted of a couple of old milk crates placed at such a precarious position to one another that they almost guaranteed a slip and fall. Carefully balancing on the crates in heels, the adjuster knocked on the door and was invited in by the witness. Glancing around the inside of the trailer, the adjuster noticed a gaping 15-inch hole in the floor which provided a clear view through to the dirt below. A few plastic chairs scattered haphazardly around the small space appeared to be liberally covered with greasy stains. Tactfully declining an invitation to sit down, the adjuster was able to get a complete statement and had the witness sign it, all the while trying not to touch anything inside the trailer which seemed to be uniformly covered with a layer of grime. Finishing her asignment, she beat a hasty retreat back to her car and the arms of civilization. Based on the witness’s version of the incident in question, the insurance carrier was able to successfully deny the claim.
The Case of the Unreachable Federal Reserve Employee
Our adjuster was assigned to obtain a statement from a witness who could only meet with him during work hours. The unique problem was that the witness worked inside the ultra-high-security vaults of the Federal Reserve Bank of Los Angeles and told our adjuster that it would therefore be impossible to meet with him. Our client had absolutely insisted on an in-person statement with the witness, so the adjuster got on the phone and after a considerable amount of time and effort was able to get through to the Federal Reserve Bank, persisting until he was able to speak with the right person who could get him inside this imposing Fort Knox of a building.
He learned that it WAS possible to gain access to the building providing he was willing to go through a lengthy pre-screening process to ensure he was who he said he was and without criminal connections. The adjuster answered a lengthy list of personal questions and provided a huge amount of information and accreditations so that background checks could be run. Being of good and honest character, the adjuster passed the pre-screening and was granted access to the building. Once inside, he realized that the security gauntlet had yet to really begin. A total of 6 separate security checkpoints followed in succession as he laboriously made his way through various rooms, tunnels, halls, stairways and elevators to finally reach the witness. Along the way he was amazed to see huge stacks and entire rooms full of currency worth billions of dollars. The adjuster got the statement and completed the assignment, which turned out to be favorable for the insured and the claim was able to be settled accordingly.
An interesting case involved a Fidelity Bond claim by a local church in which employee dishonesty (embezzlement) was the key element. After interviewing the Pastor of the church and obtaining all the evidence, our adjuster learned that the suspected employee had resigned recently. He obtained the address for the employee and decided to call on her to see what she had to say about the claim. Upon opening the door and learning who the adjuster was, the former church employee asked him to wait. She came back to the door a few minutes later looking a shade contrite and with a check made out to the church for the missing funds. The check cleared a few days later effectively ending the insured’s claim.
We received a claim to investigate the theft of an expensive fur coat from a residence in Beverly Hills. When the adjuster arrived at the insured’s residence, where the alleged theft had taken place, he was met by the insured who turned out to be an elderly lady. In her statement she related to the adjuster that the fur coat had been stolen from her closet in her upstairs bedroom.
About half way through the interview the insured’s husband entered the room and asked who the adjuster was and why he was there. Upon learning the reason for our presence he immediately left the room. Not deterred by this somewhat strange behavior the adjuster continued the statement. About 5 minutes later the husband returned with an expensive looking fur coat draped over his arm. Upon seeing this elderly lady almost jumped out of her seat and said "Oy, oy, oy! Where did you find that?" to which her husband replied that it had been in the back of the closet all along. End of claim.
The adjuster was called to an 'on-scene' accident at a busy intersection involving a waste disposal truck (the adjuster’s client) and another vehicle. Our client was alleging that the other party had run the red light. It was a Saturday night and as the adjuster was fairly close to the location he arrived on scene before the police. After having made sure no one was seriously injured and that no ambulances were required he made his way over to the driver of the other vehicle who was leaning up against the side of his vehicle on the other side of the intersection. Prior to this, the adjuster had learned that his client had not spoken to the other party or obtained any information from him.
As the adjuster approached the other driver it became immediately apparent that he was under the influence of some substance. The adjuster noted that the other driver’s eyes were glazed, his speech was slurred, his movements were incoherent and his breath smelled of alcohol. After identifying himself to the driver the adjuster began to ask the man if he remembered what had happened. The man, sensing that he might be in a spot of trouble, began to move towards his car where the engine was still running. The adjuster immediately began to distract him by asking him more questions, not necessarily related to the accident and kept on engaging him in conversation until at last the police sirens could be heard approaching. By communication alone and amazingly being able to penetrate the man’s drunken haze, the adjuster was able to prevent the other driver from leaving the scene and he was eventually arrested for DUI. The client was able to make a successful claim against the other driver’s liability carrier for damages.
A three vehicle rear ender on the freeway in which the insured was the front vehicle had come about due to a couch having allegedly fallen off the back of a flat bed causing the insured to break sharply and then be rear-ended. No police report had been made and there were no independent witnesses. The two drivers behind the insured were claiming the insured to have been partially, if not wholly, at fault for coming abruptly to a stop on the freeway for no reason. Both claimant drivers were alleging that the insured had stopped without cause and that there was no couch. The adjuster received this assignment within a couple of days of the accident occurring and having interviewed all three drivers was at an impasse as to whom to believe.
On the off chance, the adjuster decided to cruise the stretch of freeway where all three parties said the accident had occurred. After several passes of the area he spotted a couch on the shoulder. He pulled over and risking life and limb took photographs. Upon further inspection there was a sales invoice inside a plastic pouch stapled to the couch. The adjuster noted the information from the invoice and contacted the second hand store the next day. The owner confirmed that one of his delivery drivers had “lost” a small couch during a delivery run a couple of days earlier and that his route had taken him along that particular stretch of freeway. The adjuster advised him that the couch was still there if the owner wanted to go pick it up and the owner thanked him. Confronted with this evidence both claimants changed their stories and admitted that they had in fact seen the couch and their claims were eventually denied. The insured successfully made a claim against the carrier of the driver immediately behind him for his property damage.
Churchill ALWAYS gets the information you need to accept or deny a claim, no matter what the situation may be. We will never turn in an incomplete report, which means our reports are always frustration-free!
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