“Call Paul Winnick. Don’t do anything else before that. Just call Paul Winnick at Swerling Milton Winnick.”
That’s the advice Charlie Welch received when a commercial/residential building he owned in Springfield, MA burned to the ground. It’s a good thing Charlie took that advice. As it turned out, the complexity of Charlie’s insurance claim went way beyond a typical building fire, and it took more than two years to resolve.
Charlie relied on SMW, and in the end, he was able to sell the burned-out building, get proceeds from his insurance claim, and purchase a new building in the Boston market – where the average building price is more than 10X the Springfield market – for what he received. Although the fire was horrible, Charlie ended up with a much more valuable asset – a new building in a more robust market – and with very little out of pocket expense.
The process of Charlie’s claim was unique. Charlie had an interesting dilemma – for tax and other financial planning purposes, he really had to complete the insurance claims process by the end of the 2021 calendar year. So, SMW was up against the clock. By leveraging his well-established professional relationships – cultivated with insurance company experts and attorneys across the industry over his 44 years as a public adjuster – Paul convinced the insurance company to get a check to Charlie at the closing of the Boston building purchase. This made Charlie’s life considerably easier and the end result much sweeter and more profitable for him.
“Charlie did get frustrated – understandably, given the claim – but we couldn’t have done this without him,” Paul Winnick said. “When clients have the confidence that you will ultimately do the job, they remain patient. Charlie gave us the time, and displayed the confidence. So, we were allowed to have the time and energy to do that – without losing our composure. There was a sizable amount of money involved here. We had to get the replacement properties, and do the work with the insurance carrier. This was an extremely complicated case.”
To hear Charlie’s perspective on this complicated – but ultimately rewarding – case, read on:
SMW: Can you describe the loss – what happened?
Charlie: I was at home, 20 minutes from Springfield. One of my colleagues called and said: “Your building is on fire!” I raced over there. It was very bad – the entire top of the building was on fire. The fire department blew holes in all the brickwork. Everybody got out safely, thank goodness. I knew most of the tenants since I had owned the building for 15 years, so it was such a big relief that all were safe. I’ve never had this happen – it’s my first property claim in 20 years in the business.
One of my colleagues, an old friend, was my first call. He told me not to talk to anyone – just to call Paul Winnick. I had no idea what was involved, what was at stake. Paul was there the next day to look at it, explain the whole process. I committed right there.
That was the beginning, and where my relationship with SMW started.
SMW: What was the emotional impact of the loss?
Charlie: My first thought was – is everybody out? That’s the most important thing. Once I saw the tenants were all safely out and were physically OK, I wasn’t that concerned because I knew I had insurance on the building. I had no idea that I could do anything but fix the building. I wasn’t worried about that part of it.
SMW: How did you find SMW?
Charlie: My old friend, who is a business advisor, directed me to Paul at SMW. Establishing that connection was seamless. I knew nothing about the insurance claims process. I put myself in Paul’s hands. I was totally guided through the process by the SMW team. I had no idea why my business advisor was so adamant about talking to SMW until I met them. When I first sat down with (in-house CPA & public adjuster) Mindi Labella, I started to realize what this claim could mean financially. Then I got real interested. I had been paying for this insurance for a long time, and didn’t realize what the value of that coverage could be.
SMW: What did SMW do that you couldn’t do yourselves?
Charlie: All of it! If left to my own devices, I would have called my insurance agent – and that might have benefitted the insurance carrier more than me. SMW got it figured out right away. I learned what the potential of this was to me. I realized this is important and can be a positive thing for me. That’s when SMW’s amazing confidence, professionalism and patience really made a difference. Paul talks about patience. I am surprised how patient the SMW team was with me. Very clearly, from the beginning, I could see the experience and confidence they possess. They understood where to guide me. Paul knew everybody. The SMW team just knew how this thing works and understood how to achieve the potential and how high that could be. And they were a pleasure to work with. Paul, Mindi, and Ross (Landers, building adjuster) – they all got involved on the front end and were all delightful to work with. I knew nothing, so they had to educate me. When I called for updates, I always got a response with relevant information – all through the whole process.
Looking back, what really impresses me is their tenacity. Sticking to it, devoting whatever time was necessary to get me the best possible outcome. They were not willing to settle for less. SMW was willing to invest that kind of work and time – it was phenomenal. I work with many service providers – and I can tell you that very few have that kind of commitment. And in terms of the outcome, I wake up every day and wonder if I’m dreaming. They’re just fantastic.
SMW: What would you tell someone going through the same situation?
Charlie: I’d say: ‘SMW should be your first call! Don’t talk to anybody else!’ That’s all I’d say. This is the guy to call – Paul Winnick at SMW. Once you call him, you won’t have to do anything. Just put yourself in his hands. I really couldn’t have done anything better.