Note Taking and Its Role in Helping Restorers Get Paid

One of the most frustrating thing for the Restorer is to respond to a job, doing the work in a professional manner following Standards or other top notch training, leaving a policy-holder happy, and then watching the invoice get shredded by an Insurance Company or Third Party Administrator (TPA). You try to fight the cuts, but the Insurer or TPA won’t budge, and if you’re in a franchise system, you often find that the corporate body is of no help as their goal is to keep the contract intact so they can protect their interest.

It is no secret that insurers came up with Vendor programs in order to attempt to get the best there is to service their policyholders, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The question remains, though, that if you are fortunate enough to be on a Vendor program, then why do Insurers/TPAs (1) seem not to trust your professional judgment, (2) hold you to the IICRC S500, at least when it seems to suit them, and (3) cut your invoice when you’re already providing them discounted services in order to serve them on their Vendor program? It just doesn’t make sense, does it? 

Sometimes it seems as if these restoration partners are nothing more than schoolboy bullies in the hallway. The difference is they have the deep pockets, and much more-so than your average restoration contractor or franchise location, making it hard to fight them. Now, in all fairness, the Vendor programs are understandable given the amount of scam artists that come out of the woodwork on storm events. Still, it seems that if they trust you enough to make you a vendor, then they should trust you enough to pay you what you’ve earned. It almost seems as if there’s just nothing that you can do to fight this uneven battle; or is there?

As lame as this may sound, one of the things you can do to strengthen your side of the battle is to take the best notes that you can imagine. As 22 year industry professional, with the last 12 in the training and consulting side, one of the weakest points I have seen with restorers in their ability to properly document jobs. I have seen days when no monitoring occurs, but no notation as to why. I have seen psychrometric numbers that make no sense, and times when humidity ration or grain depression increases with no explanation. These are the types of things that insurers and TPAs look for to argue against paying you for certain monitoring trips, or to justify reducing your invoice. Even more frustrating is the number of contractors, auditors, data specialists, desk adjusters, and TPA adjusters who either aren’t aware of the S500, or don’t understand its implications.

You, as a restorer, need to vow to ensure that you and/or your employees write the best notes possible on every job you do, including every day, every action, and every interaction with someone, at a minimum. You need to tell a story, a story of a restoration job. You need to make this job so clear that anyone reading it can decipher what happened on that job and what was discussed. You need to document everything you do, whether it’s based on the Standard, or whether you’ve used your professional judgment to act outside the Standard, anyone who reads your explanation has no doubt why you did it and whether or not it worked. 

I spent over 10 years in law enforcement, where I learned to write extremely detailed reports. I testified dozens of times in District Court, and lost very few cases. In Superior Court, I won every case in which I testified before a jury. Why? Because when I got on that stand, my notes were clear and concise and I testified from my notes, not from my memory. You and your employees do dozens and sometimes hundreds of restoration jobs a year. To try and defend your invoice with inadequate notes and other documentation makes you look unprofessional and unprepared. This translates to giving an insurer or a TPA, in their minds, every right to cut your bill.

Take good notes. Answer Who, What, When, Where at a minimum. Make your notes so detailed so that anyone who questions them looks foolish. Taking good notes will help get TPAs where they need to be—out of the industry.
Click to visit 2 hour IICRC approved CE on Note Taking and Report Writing
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