11:23 AM

Optimism and belief

Adjuster Greg Bahler on assisting Missouri customers after tornado strikes


American Family Insurance large loss adjuster Greg Bahler tells of helping Missouri customers hit hard by a tornado just before their 52nd wedding anniversary.

American Family agents, adjusters and catastrophe team have been out in full force since Friday morning, following Thursday night’s tornadoes in Jefferson City, Eldon and other parts of Missouri.

As of yesterday, customers have reported approximately 250 claims for homes damaged by the tornadoes. Here’s the story of one such affected family, told by adjuster Greg Bahler, who’s helping them rebuild their lives:

The responsibility hits you as soon you know you’re at the right place, where it’s clear that something terribly wrong has happened.

The roof is gone, and so are the windows, creating wide openings for a lifetime of possessions to fly out from the tornado’s force.

But it’s not the devastation that causes me to pause and gather myself before I begin the claim process as an American Family Insurance large loss adjuster. It’s the people waiting for me next to the rubble, Stanley and Delores Farris, who will soon celebrate their 52nd wedding anniversary.

Just 34 hours earlier, that celebration was in doubt as the twister roared through their rural Jefferson City, Missouri, neighborhood. Stanley and Delores waited it out under a blanket as they sat on two wooden chairs they had pulled into an interior hallway.

“It seemed like it lasted forever,” Stanley would say. Delores said the tornado lasted for the three or maybe four Hail Mary prayers that they said together under their blanket.

As a claim adjuster, I’ve helped many customers after tornadoes and fires destroyed or severely damaged their homes. The scenes stir emotions of sorrow and uncertainty. I want to replace them with optimism and belief.

I do that by presenting information simply, encouraging questions and responding to them, and essentially doing all that it takes to ensure each customer understands the decisions and the process. By the time I leave, I want the customer to know there is a game plan, and I want them to feel they have the right adjuster and insurance company to help them.

My visit with Delores and Stan lasts for about two hours. Part of that time spent is doing the unexciting but necessary work of measuring space and taking photos of the damaged home and ruined contents.

The rest of the time is talking with Delores, Stan and their adult children who have been at their side since the tornado. Coordinating the cleanup and rebuild will be a family project, and I explain how American Family will assist:

We will pay Delores and Stan for their additional living expenses, and help them locate and pay for an interim place to live. By end of the day, we will make two initial payments to rebuild the home and replace the personal items that were damaged or blown away. We will stay in touch with them until all the work is done.

As I leave Delores, Stan and their family, they are escaping the day’s heat and humidity under a tent canopy. Like they’ve done many times before the tornado, they reminisce, joke and smile. Stan puts his arm around Delores for a picture. There is optimism and belief.


About American Family Insurance
Madison, Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance group is the nation's 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group and ranks No. 306 on the Fortune 500 list. The company sells American Family-brand products, including auto, homeowners, life, business and farm/ranch insurance, primarily through its exclusive agents in 19 states. American Family affiliates (The General and Homesite) also provide options for consumers who want to manage their insurance matters directly over the internet or by phone. Affiliate Main Street America sells insurance products through independent agents. Web; Facebook; Twitter