By Matthew Vanderford

Have you ever watched the kids cartoon movie Madagascar? If you have, then you might know the scenes I’m about to describe. In the first movie, Alex the Lion is on the loose in Grand Central Station. While everyone else is coming un-glued and losing it, this little old lady begins to use her purse, pepper spray and a well-executed, over-the-shoulder throw to neutralize the animal. In the second movie, our action-packed Grandma finds herself again, face to face with Alex while on safari in the African Wilderness.

What happens next? You guessed it – epic cartoon battle #2. Except this time, our little old lady protagonist gets her dentures knocked out after Alex issues a hard blow to the jaw. But dentures or no dentures, our heroine proceeds to go on the offensive taking care of business again, leaving our lion friend wishing he never met her.

Now let’s leave this drama and enter another.

Scene: Niceville, Florida. USA. An age 70 widow just returns home after a long weekend. The AC line has overflowed. There’s water everywhere. She calls for help.

YEAR: 2013

Day 1: Restoration efforts begin to dry out the house. It’s a modest home in Niceville, a typical Florida style rancher with a brick face. Most of the interior looks original except for some new laminate flooring that runs throughout the house. And this is where the showdown begins.

Day 4: (Enter the Insurance Company Adjuster): “Can you show me where the damage is?”

Restoration Contractor: “Sure, the water started here, ran over and under the laminate flooring causing water to spread throughout the entry, down the hall into the kitchen, across the other side hall and into two of the three bedrooms. We’ve removed all the laminate flooring with water under it and the wet baseboards and drywall, too. The small room off to the side was dry, but we’ll have to replace that flooring because they don’t make that type anymore.”

Insurance Company Adjuster: “We don’t pay for that.”

Restoration Contractor: “What do you mean you don’t pay for that? The flooring’s the same throughout the house. It’s the same product and can’t be matched. We’ll have to replace it to make sure everything goes back the same.”

Adjuster: “I understand what you’re saying, but we won’t pay for that – we only pay for flooring up to where the hall meets the bedroom. We stop at the doorway entrance if the material isn’t damaged.”

Restoration Contractor: “I hear what you’re saying, but the flooring material isn’t made anymore. If we replace just the damaged items, the house is going to look funny. The rooms won’t match like they did before. It’s not the same.”

Adjuster: “I get it, but we don’t pay for anything past the room breaks.”

Restoration Contractor: “What then do you suggest I tell the homeowner?”

And with that, the insurance company adjuster reaches across the hall, grasps the brass knob, gently closes the door and states: “Tell her not to look at it.”

Restoration Contractor: “You want me tell her what?!”

Adjuster: “Tell her not to look at it. She can put a rug over it so she won’t have to see it.” (Exit the Adjuster).

The scene you just read is true. Because that restoration contractor was me. Those words were spoken from a licensed adjuster spewing out the company lines they were educated and trained to say. The insurance company might not have trained their employees to say, “Put a rug over it,” but they do educate them to view damage and interpret policies looking for ways to minimize exposure. And this is what causes adjusters to say, “Tell her not to look at it.” It’s not because these are bad people. On the contrary. The adjuster I met that day was very pleasant and easy to get along with. Unfortunately, adjusters are stuck having to report to the insurance companies who pay their salaries, provide their health care, and hand them bonuses based on performance indexes.

Enter our property owner from Niceville: I repeat the statements from the adjuster. She’s not hearing it. She’s not going down without a fight. No way, no how. Look out Alex, this little old lady knows how to take the gloves off.

And what pray tell was the conclusion to our tale you might ask? Well, it was a good fight. Phone calls were made to people who could speak on the property owner’s behalf and put pressure on the carrier to do the right thing. And, in 2013, one less home in Niceville went without a rug on the floor.