Tara Illg

What I carry with me

What is an umbrella policy?

My farm roots

A lasting impression

Hail Damage: What do I do now?

What's going to work? Teamwork!

I’m a Senior Field Claims Adjuster at Grinnell Mutual. I have designations for Associate in Claims (AIC), Associate in Personal Insurance (API), and Associate in Insurance Services (AIS).

I am involved with our parish serving currently as the president of our local Rosary Society. As president, I am involved in many church activities from the coordinating funeral dinners to community outreach programs.

I am very passionate about being positive. I try to see the best in every situation and every person that I meet. You can always find something good if you look hard enough.

Connect with me on LinkedIn.

What I carry with me

You never know where the day may take you. Last week I left my office intending to meet with an insured to switch a title for payment, gather medical forms and his statement, and return to my office. This would have taken around three hours round-trip. While in route to the insured’s home I received a new assignment to inspect a feedlot. Since I was already in the area I decided I’d do that, too.

At the time, the weather was clear and sunny so I called the feedlot owner and arranged to meet with him after my first appointment. But as I neared the feedlot it began to rain. When I arrived, the feed lot was very wet. Thankfully, my rubber boots were in the back of my vehicle. A quick switch into my boots allowed me to climb over the gates and enter the feedlot with ease and without the worry of ruining my shoes.

Always prepared

If you were to get in my car on any given day you would find coats, boots, a change of clothes, a measuring wheel, a safety vest, a measuring tape, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and a backpack with many other supplies. Often you’ll find a ladder in case I have to view a loss from an elevated spot. I also carry a binder with forms that I frequently need. And, I always carry two extra bottles of water and a power bar in my vehicle in case of emergency.

In addition, when I leave my office to go out on an inspection or to meet with a customer, I gather supplies from my office, including my computer, digital voice recorder, camera, and file folders containing information for the tasks I know I am going out on. And of course, I pack snacks! My favorite snacks include cheese sticks and almonds.

Being prepared for any situation helps me to make the best use of my time and enables me to provide the quick, tailored customer service our customers expect.

What is an umbrella policy?

An umbrella insurance policy is like the umbrella you use for protection from the rain. It’s designed to protect your assets from unforeseen circumstances like a major claim or lawsuit. If a claim exceeds your primary auto or homeowners liability insurance, your assets may be in jeopardy. An umbrella policy and may cover additional covered damages in excess of the limits in your auto or homeowners liability policy.

How the umbrella helps you manage risk

One way an umbrella policy can protect you and your property would be in the unfortunate event of an auto accident that you are held responsible for in which the other party suffered death or major injury. With the rising costs of medical services, medical bills over $250,000 are not uncommon when a person suffers a major injury.

You can also design your umbrella policy with uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage would help protect you if you are injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver. The umbrella coverage would be in excess of the uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage listed on your auto policy. It would help ensure that you are protected in the event you suffer a serious injury because of an accident that was not your fault where the other driver was uninsured or underinsured.

An umbrella in action

Let’s say you, your spouse, and two children were struck by an underinsured motorist and all occupants of your vehicle suffered serious injuries.

In all, your medical bills are more than $600,000. Using Iowa as an example, the underinsured motorist was carrying the minimum mandatory limit of bodily injury insurance of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident. Your auto policy contains underinsured motorist coverage of $300,000.

Without an umbrella policy, your maximum reimbursement would be $340,000, leaving you to pay more than $260,000 in medical bills out of pocket. But, if you carry an umbrella policy that includes underinsured motorist coverage, you could file a claim for consideration, which may cover some or all of that extra $260,000 under the umbrella coverage.

Accidents happen and at Grinnell Mutual we have the products and services to help protect you today and tomorrow. Ask your local agent about an umbrella policy today.

My farm roots

I grew up on a small farm in rural Northern Iowa. My family raised hogs without any large confinement buildings. No small task! We also had chickens, a cow, and large garden.

I always knew I wanted to live on a farm when I started my own family, and I do! My husband, children, and I live and farm on his family’s third-generation family farm near where I grew up. We farm two quarters of land with my mother- and father-in-law and it’s taught me much more about the crop side of farming.

The first time I was assigned the daunting task of running the catch cart "on the run" I was petrified. Prior to being assigned the task I did not even realize that farmers drove alongside the combine with a tractor and wagon to catch grain without stopping. Thankfully, I have a very patient husband who was a great teacher.

Farm roots sow seeds of understanding at work

I never could have imagined that growing up on a farm would so heavily influence my career in insurance. As a field claims adjuster, I handle losses varying from single accident non-drivable vehicles, multiple vehicle accidents, and injury claims, to farm liability claims. Farm claims are my favorite to handle because they are some of the most interesting and challenging.

A farm insurance policy is also very different from a typical auto insurance policy. Modern farming has so many intricacies and many exposures on the farm are not present anywhere else. Understanding livestock operations and keeping up with the latest farm equipment and how it’s used can help when investigating a claim.

Build better relationships

Working the fields with my husband and his family helps me understand the inputs and the process of achieving a bountiful harvest, which helps me relate to our customers. The knowledge I acquired through farming has helped equip me to handle the farm losses that I am assigned.

Working side-by-side with my family has taught me the value of hard work, innovation, team work, and sacrifice. It has also kept me up to speed with the equipment and techniques currently used by farmers in our area. I appreciate my farming roots and enjoy working with our farm customers in their times of need.

A lasting impression

As a Field Claims Adjuster, I often visit with our customers in their homes or places of business. Usually, the customer is injured in some way or may have lost a loved one due to a recent accident. Grinnell Mutual gives its field adjusters the ability to provide empathetic, compassionate, and personal service to these customers in their times of greatest need and loss. Each time I receive a new claim I am given the opportunity to leave a lasting impression on the people that I am charged with helping and I find that they, too, leave a lasting impression upon me.

Trusted relationships invaluable in claims process

One of the most memorable claims I have ever been assigned occurred in rural northern Iowa. The accident involved four separate vehicles, two of which were motorcycles. One driver failed to notice a stop sign and struck another vehicle at highway speeds, pushing that vehicle into two motorcycles that were stopped at the intersection. I met with the riders in their home. The motorcyclists had made a claim, and it was our insured who failed to obey the stop sign, causing the accident.

A claim like this can sometimes be difficult to investigate. In this case, however, the claimants had open minds and allowed me into their home to complete my interviews, investigation, and to discuss the claims process. Both claimants were injured and their motorcycles were total losses. I spent nearly three hours with them. Over homemade brownies at their kitchen table we discussed the valuation process on the motorcycles as well as the process for their injury claims. When I left, they both embraced me. They had just shared a horrifying experience with me and I had taken the time to listen and respond to their concerns.

Claims, settlements, and cookies

This was not the last time I would come into contact with this couple — I still needed to settle their injury claims. A few months passed and their injuries improved to the point they were ready to talk about settlement. I took some time and fully evaluated their injury claims and discussed the valuation of their claims with my supervisor. I then met with the claimants again, in their home, to discuss the valuation. We took the time to review their claims and to discuss my valuation — again over wonderful baked goods. After some negotiation, we arrived at an agreement. They signed release documents and we issued payment.

What I do makes a difference

I will never forget this couple. They needed someone to listen, someone to help, and ultimately someone who cared and wanted to help them through a very difficult time. Dealing with a such large claim, I needed them to be willing to work with me in to complete my investigation and settlements. I received so much more than that. This couple left me with a lasting impression.

That impression is this: What I do every day does make a difference. The way I handle myself and the way we conduct business as a company makes a difference to the people we come into contact with every day. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of this couple and the kindness they showed me just because I was willing to listen and handle their claim with the care it deserved.

Hail Damage: What do I do now?

If you have ever had hail damage to your vehicle you know it is not pretty. Hail can cause many dents on your vehicle and in some cases can damage the glass as well. Hail storms can be very isolated but when a hail storm hits a large town, many vehicles can be impacted.

If you receive hail damage

Report the claim right away to your local agent. In most situations, the process will work like this:

You will receive a call from a claims adjuster who will walk you through your coverage and the process.

Then your telephone adjuster will work with you to either meet with a local field adjuster or visit a local repair shop. The field adjuster will schedule a time to view your vehicle, go over the damages, and — if needed — prepare an estimate. The local shop will prepare an estimate and send photos in for review.

If there were lots of policyholders affected in your area by the same storm, your insurer may assign a catastrophe team to set up in your area for you and other policyholders to get on-the-spot estimates and payments.  

Repairing your vehicle

Your insurer may have a list of acceptable repair shops or may tell you that they'll work with any shop to repair your vehicle. After you receive approval for your estimate, you will visit the chosen repair shop and the shop will review the estimate you received and compare the estimate to the damages present on your vehicle.

Sometimes a shop finds additional damages while repairs are being completed or they cannot complete the work as outlined in the estimate. When this happens, they will contact your insurer for a supplemental review of the work needed. If approved, they will send a request to us for direct payment.

Saving you money with paintless dent removal

Repair shops often use paintless dent removal (PDR) to repair hail damage. This method removes minor dents from the body of a vehicle when the paint is intact. PDR can also be used for “push to paint” where a repair shop prepares the body panel for paint to help decrease the need for the use of body filler. When dents simply can’t be repaired using PDR, body panels may then need conventional repair.

PDR is more cost effective and efficient than conventional repairs and can be used on both aluminum and steel body panels. It allows you to keep your factory paint intact, and does not use chemicals so is environmentally friendly. 

Any claim can be the pits, but your insurer should help you with the process and get  your hail claim smoothed out quickly.

What's going to work? Teamwork!

I can hear the Wonder Pets singing, “What’s going to work?”

“Teamwork!”

“Cause when we work together we’ve got the right stuff! Go Wonder Pets!”

My oldest child watched “Wonder Pets” as a toddler. That theme song just really sticks with you — look it up on YouTube and you will not soon forget it! Their song is really true of anything we do in this world. With teamwork, everything works out better. It is very true of what I do each day as a field claims adjuster, and true of what all of our staff does. I depend on our home office staff, my manager, agents, customers, and vendors to get the job done and they depend on me.

Working together to fulfill our promises

The claims process seems complex but if you break it down into phases, it’s really just many people working together to fulfill our promise. A claim is typically submitted to a policyholder’s agent or directly to Grinnell Mutual by the policyholder. The initial loss notice is used to generate a claims assignment to the adjuster where our set-up department strives to place each claim with the adjuster best suited to the circumstances.

The adjuster reviews the first notice of loss and completes a review of the policy. The adjuster then makes contact with all parties to the loss and begins the investigation. In the investigation phase, we work closely with the policyholder, claimants, vendors, and internal staff to achieve the best outcome possible. We all have to be team players in order to gather all of the needed information and move the claims process forward. Without the customer’s help, I would be in the dark about how a loss occurred. Without my help, the customer would be without a settlement. We all must work together.

Teamwork to improve the process

We have piloted new technology in order to improve how we settle losses. I have personally been involved with this project and have been working closely with one of our internal property specialists to settle claims on the spot using a new application. This project has required us to work with one another and to be flexible to changing circumstances. In addition customers have had to be patient with us as we use a new workflow.

Through positivity and teamwork, we have successfully settled numerous claims the same day of inspection. Before, it would have taken days to settle the claim. This is teamwork in action.

As a claims department we strive to be innovative in order to provide the best service to every customer. Grinnell Mutual is supportive of new ideas and is willing to review employee ideas for future implementation. Teamwork among the leaders of our company, leaders of our departments, and all the way to our front-line staff, Grinnell Mutual is working together to provide trust in tomorrow.