Kermith Sonnier always knew he wanted to be an insurance adjuster from the age of ten. At that tender age in 1957, Oberlin, the small town in which he lived in rural Louisiana, was hit hard by Hurricane Andy and many homes were destroyed while many others were left seriously damaged.
Because a great proportion of Oberlin homeowners spoke only Cajun French, the adjuster, who was sent out from Colorado found he had a severe communication problem and Kermith Sonnier’s father, who was a local contractor, and two local insurance agents responsible for writing the homeowner policies, suggested to the adjuster that he needed someone to accompany him on his inspections to translate for him. This job fell to young Kermith, who rode along each day and acted as interpreter while the adjuster did his inspections, wrote the estimates, agreed on the appropriate amount of damages, and issued checks to the homeowners. Seeing the genuine feeling of relief and gratitude that this brought to the homeowners in this terrible time left an indelible impression on Kermith and he knew that someday he himself would become an insurance adjuster.
But first, after leaving school, Kermith Sonnier worked in the construction industry, initially as a carpenter but eventually becoming a general contractor himself. During his time as a carpenter and general contractor, he built countless single-family homes, apartment buildings, small commercial buildings, barns, and even churches, as well as remodeling older buildings, including many that were damaged in catastrophes such as hurricanes, tornados, and floods.
In 1979, Hurricane Frederick hit Mobile Alabama and Mr. Sonnier received a call from Crawford and Company, inviting him to train as an insurance adjuster for that catastrophe. Crawford is the largest independent insurance adjusting company in the United States with over 650 branch offices nationwide and supplies independent adjusters to some of the major insurance companies to work in catastrophe situations. After working Hurricane Frederick claims for six months and attending Crawford’s claim school, Mr. Sonnier was assigned to Crawford’s core list of adjusters, and proceeded to work on numerous hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, floods, earthquakes, mudslides, hailstorms, ice storms, and fires throughout the United States. These include:
In addition, during his time with Crawford, Mr. Sonnier developed an expertise in loss management and environmental loss consulting and provided such services to several Fortune 500 companies, as well as the U.S. Coastguard and other federal agencies who have conducted some of the nation’s largest environmental cleanups. The following is a partial list:
In early 1994, Mr. Sonnier left Crawford & Company and went to work for Pilot & Associates, Inc., another independent insurance adjusting company. He was immediately assigned to work as an adjuster for Farmers Insurance Company on claims arising out of the January 17, 1994 Northridge Earthquake in California. Over the next four and a half years, Mr. Sonnier adjusted more than 250 of Farmers’ largest commercial claims, mostly consisting of large condominium complexes ranging in size up to 1,200 + units.
However, when Mr. Sonnier challenged what he considered to be unfair insurance claims practices perpetrated by Farmers’ claims management executives and refused to reduce his claims estimates arbitrarily, his claim files were withdrawn by Farmers and he was sent home. In a subsequent lawsuit, a Los Angeles jury awarded Mr. Sonnier substantial damages against Farmers. During the trial, certain Farmers’ executives testified that Mr. Sonnier was the best pure estimator they had ever seen.
Following that experience, Mr. Sonnier worked as an insurance estimating and adjusting consultant and expert witness in the successful representation of Northridge earthquake victims suing insurance companies which had failed to properly adjust clients’ claims and pay what was due under the policies. As a direct result of Mr. Sonnier’s skill and expertise as an estimator and adjuster, homeowners were able to recover in excess of $300 million from Farmers on condominium complexes that Farmers had contended had suffered no damage or only suffered minor cosmetic damage.
At the same time, Mr. Sonnier became a licensed Public Adjuster representing only policy holders against insurance companies. During recent years, he has represented policy holders in respect of both residential and major commercial buildings, condominium and apartment complexes in numerous catastrophes including:
Mr. Sonnier is a consummate professional and an extremely qualified adjuster who has extensive and varied experience in construction work itself and in catastrophe adjusting. Indeed, it is his prior hands-on construction experience which enables him to look for and recognize the possibility of hidden damage from the outset. Mr. Sonnier has put together a team of people who are, like him, experienced scopers, estimators and adjusters with intimate knowledge of the major computerized estimating software programs used by the major insurance companies and adjusting firms. Mr. Sonnier’s team have a unique propensity for ensuring that the damage estimates that are submitted to the insurance companies are exhaustive and complete down to the smallest detail. Mr. Sonnier then gives every estimate a final detailed review to ensure that nothing has been missed before it is submitted.
Another major quality that separates Mr. Sonnier from other adjusters is his ability to back up what he says and support the line-by-line items in his company’s estimates. When challenged by insurance company claims adjusters, many other public adjusters merely acquiesce to the reduction, indeed, the slashing of the total estimate amount submitted. Mr. Sonnier, however, is able to argue strongly for each item and provide industry published data to support them and will only compromise his position if there is good reason, and always only with the policy holder’s consent.
Mr. Sonnier is a dogged and determined adversary who never forgets in his dealings with insurance companies on his clients’ behalf, that it is not merely line items on an estimate, or a matter of dollars and cents he is dealing with, but it is people’s lives and livelihoods which are at stake.