Frequently Asked Questions
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What is a Public Insurance Adjuster?
The short answer is:
A Public Insurance Adjuster is an expert on loss adjustment and the recovery process, and is employed by the policyholder not the insurance company. The Public Adjuster assists you, the insured, with his intimate knowledge of insurance policies and negotiation techniques, in preparing, filing and managing the payment of insurance claims regarding property loss. He works on your behalf.
A longer, more detailed, and impartial answer can be had from this Wikipedia entry:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia...
A public adjuster is an insurance claims adjuster who is an advocate for and paid by the policyholder in appraising and negotiating an insurance claim. Public Adjusters exist because of the inherent conflict of interest that exists when one person or entity attempts to represent two sides of a financial transaction. Public Adjusters are the only type of claims adjuster that can legally represent the rights of an insured during an insurance claim process.
In the United States, a Public Adjuster can only work with insurance claims related to personal or business property damage. Car accidents, life insurance and other types of insurances claims cannot be handled by a Public Adjuster. Also, most states require every Public Adjuster to be licensed and bonded in order to represent any policyholder in the respective State. Public Adjuster are required to have taken classes and be tested on the many aspects of handling claims, insurance companies and policyholders.
In the United Kingdom, Public Adjusters are called Insurance Loss Assessors.
There are three classes of insurance adjusters: staff adjusters (employed by an insurance company or self-insured entity), independent adjusters (independent contractors hired by the insurance company) and Public adjusters (employed by the policyholder). "Company" or "Independent" adjusters can only legally represent the rights of an insurance company.
Among other things, it is the Public Adjuster's responsibility to:
- Evaluates the existing policy to determine what coverage that may be applicable to an insurance claim
- Makes recommendations to improve on the insured's existing policy to insure the polcyholder has the best coverage for their situation. Any changes to the policy are made by the policyholder's insurance agent
- Researches, details and substantiates every aspect of a claim, including building damage, contents, and extra living expense claims
- Determines the appropriate values for settling all covered damages
- Negotiates the best possible settlement with the insurance company on behalf of an insured
- Conducts a policy consultation and inspection of the policyholder's property to identify and damage the policyholder may not be aware of at the time
Typically, most Public Adjusters are paid based on a percentage of the total settlement they negotiate. The Public Adjuster's fee may be justified by success in these negotiations. It is not uncommon to see a significant increase in the settlement amount once a Public Adjuster is hired by the policyholder.
Equally important is a Public Adjuster is educated in the same fashion as insurance company adjusters and independent adjusters. Why is this important? Many homeowners are not familiar with what damage to look for after a property damage incident or what their policy covers. Thus the policyholder can come up short when paying to have the damages taken care of and/or have hidden damage go unnoticed and cause the policyholder problems in the future
In short, a Public Adjuster has the knowledge and skills to work with the insurance companies to ensure the policyholder gets the maximum amount of reimbursement for not only the easy-to-see damage but the hidden damages. Do you want to deal with the negotiation hassles with the insurance companies while at the same time knowing they have decades of experience dealing with policyholders and the knowledge to insure the best interests of the insurance company that pays them, are taken care of with each case?. A Public Adjuster insures that the policyholder's best interests are taken care of with each claim. So the PA levels the playing field in the policyholder's best interests
Many policyholders are unaware that Public Adjusters exist as an option to dealing directly with the insurance company representatives. A professional, conscientious Public Adjuster can make a tremendous difference in the amount of a policyholder's settlement as well as reduce or eliminate the stress and hassle of dealing with property insurance claims.
Typically, most Public Adjusters are compensated based on a percentage of the total settlement they negotiate. Through such negotiation, the Public Adjuster's fee is justified in many cases. It is not uncommon to see a 60 to 80% increase in the settlement amount after a policyholder hires a Public Adjuster is hired. In other cases, the Public Adjuster's fee can be less than any increase in settlement, leaving the homeowner worse off than if he or she had dealt directly with the insurance company.
In some cases, a Public Adjuster can re-open a claim and negotiate for more money if a discrepancy is found after the claim has been settled. The fees for a re-opened claim are higher due to all the extra work involved but in the end the Policyholder may end up with more money to take care of their claim then if they did not have a Public Adjuster working on their behalf.
- This inspection and policy review is usually done by most Public Adjusters at no cost to the policyholder
- It is recommended policyholders have this policy consultation and inspection prior to any claims in order to insure they have the best coverage in the event of a claim
- This relationship is also important to establish prior to any claim, so in the unfortunate event that damage is incurred to the policyholder's property, they are just a phone call away from having the Public Adjuster's knowledge, skills and strength on your side right from the beginning of the claim negotiation process
When to contact a Public Adjuster
It is best to head off a situation of underinsurance through a proper analysis of coverage needs ahead of time. Nonetheless, there are still many avenues available to policyholders to maximize their financial recovery and minimize their underinsured losses after a loss occurs. The experience and creativity provided by the assistance of a Public Adjuster are key to developing the best possible strategy for presenting an underinsured claim.
Shortly after notifing the insurance company of a loss, an adjuster representing the policyholder's carrier will visit the policyholder to gather facts about how the loss occurred, the magnitude of the loss, and the possibility of subrogation. The policyholder should take care in answering these questions, especially if the policyholder's knowledge of property insurance in general and the specific nature of their coverages is limited. Incorrect, incomplete or inadequately expressed answers may reduce the amount that can be claimed. In the absence of a public adjuster, a policyholder, unfamiliar with the basis for the exclusions, may blindly accept the adjuster's position and not get paid for a loss that is legitimately covered under the insurance policy.
Policyholder's find it increasingly important to employ their own outside consultants to help document and expedite their claims if they are to obtain a satisfactory claim recovery and restore their business operations as quickly and completely as possible. However, the fees of these outside experts, no matter how well-earned, can be an added burden when they are borne entirely by the policyholder.
Increasingly, insurance companies employ experts to support their side of a claim settlement, so it behooves today's policyholder to take advantage of similar professional resources to help prepare, support and settle their claims. Understanding and utilizing the coverages available for this purpose can help protect the policyholder not only against financial loss, but for the cost of recovering it.
- Lemons, Deidra M. (July 5, 2001). "Free-Lance Adjusters' Fees Can Muddy Waters of Homeowners Insurance Claims", Houston Chronicle,Houston, Texas, via Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News. Retrieved on 2008-05-19.
- Reddy, Sudeep (August 5, 2001). "Public adjusters haggle claims for consumers", The Dallas Morning News, via Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service. Retrieved on 2008-05-19.
- Connelly, Joseph (March 3, 2008). "Homeowner's Insurance & the Claims Process - Radio Interview March 3, 2008", WPBR - The Justice Hour with Lisa Macci. Retrieved on 2008-06-27.
Will I be canceled if I hire a Public Adjuster?
The public adjusting profession is mandated by the Legislatures and regulated by the Departments of Insurance. It would be a serious violation if any Insurance Company would discriminate against you in any way for exercising a right given to you by the State Legislatures.
Shouldn't I wait until the insurance company makes an offer to determine whether I need your services?
If you are substantially underinsured and it is quite obvious that you will obtain the limits of your policy, then, of course, you should wait. In situations like that, that is always our advice to you. However, many people make a serious error by delaying the retainment of professional assistance. The earlier we are involved in a claim, the smoother the adjusting process generally proceeds.
The insurance company often will not take certain positions when we are involved that they may try to take when we are not. In addition, it takes a great amount of work to determine exactly what is fair, and most people simply do not have the necessary expertise to determine whether or not a company's offer is fair and accurate. Sadly we see many people who handle their own claims accept what we know are clearly low offers (sometimes less that 50 cents on the dollar), and yet are still quite happy with the settlement.
We have also found quite often that the longer a person waits, the more stress and duress he or she is under. Every day many people accept substandard offers just to get the bad experience over with. This is not the best position to be in when you try to negotiate your claim. Bad settlements need not happen.
If I employ a Public Adjuster, will it cause problems or delays?
The vast majority of our claims are conducted and concluded in the spirit of professionalism and mutual respect with the insurance company's representative(s). However, if the company does not want to be reasonable, we will under no circumstances capitulate to any unreasonable demands or positions they take. If there are any problems or delays in your claim, they are the same problems which would exist whether or not we are involved.
We, however, because of our experience would know the best way to minimize certain problems or delays, and often, just by our involvement, many problems are avoided before they develop. While some unethical adjusters may discourage you from employing a Public Adjuster (who is licensed and certified by the Department of Insurance), statistics are quite clear that Public Adjusters, almost without exception, assist in obtaining extremely higher settlements for the Insured, not to mention the time and turmoil the Insured is saved. It is beyond dispute that if any adjuster or agent prefers that you do not hire a Public Adjuster, it cannot possibly be your interest they have in mind.
Why can't my agent make sure I get a fair settlement?
You probably bought your insurance from your agent or broker because of his friendship and/or salesmanship. While the agent's expertise is in connection with the marketing of insurance policies, he or she does not have the experience nor the obligation to render adjusting services. In fact, we have seen many times where the insurance company demanded that the agent stay out of the adjustment process. They were told to mind their own business. When everything is said and done, agents cannot do much to help, and they are very wrong if they suggest otherwise.
Many people are shocked when they learn that most agents are paid an annual bonus if their claims are kept below a certain percent, known in the industry as the profit/loss ratio bonus. This naturally creates an undisclosed conflict of interest. With the agent having a personal financial interest in your claim, the more he or she helps you, the more he or she hurts himself or herself. However, agents who are aware of our professionalism and expertise, and who have the interest of the Insured at heart, will never discourage them from employing our services. In fact, they often highly recommend us, as they, themselves, have utilized our services many times after being a victim of a loss. Beware of anyone who advises you not to seek assistance from someone with our successful track record who works exclusively for you and your benefit.
Who uses the services of Public Adjusters?
Public Adjusters are utilized by individuals and all types of businesses and professions, including banks, accountants, attorneys, and even insurance adjusters and agents on their own losses. Once a person has experienced the benefits of our services, they will rarely attempt to settle a claim without our assistance.
Am I assured a higher settlement if I use your services?
Almost always. The more thorough and complete your claim, the higher the settlement. We meticulously inspect the loss site and compile the damage. On severe losses where much of the inventory is burned out of sight or blown away, we use a variety of computer checklists to help us recap with you, on a room-by-room basis, what was in the property at the time of the loss.
By using our highly refined methodology, reconstruction of a total inventory is surprisingly accurate. Studies have clearly demonstrated that most inventories compiled by the Insured are very incomplete.
Why should I employ a Public Adjuster to obtain what is rightfully due me?
Preparing an insurance claim can be a complicated and complex task. Substantiating and documenting your loss is your job, not the job of the insurance company's adjuster. There are just too many details and variables which arise that can be easily overlooked. The decision to use a Public Adjuster has very little to do with whether or not you believe the insurance company will or will not try to be fair.
Public Adjusters will almost always obtain much greater settlements than individuals, not only due to their skill in evaluating, estimating, and appraising, but also because of their experience with the "ins and outs" of the insurance industry. As is true in any profession, the more experience and training one has, the better the final results.
What is the difference between a Public Adjuster and the insurance company's adjuster?
The Public Adjuster is employed by you, and their fiduciary responsibility and duty must be to you. The insurance company's adjuster is employed by the insurance company, and their responsibility and duty must be to their employer. It's not possible for any insurance adjuster, no matter how hard he or she may try, to zealously protect both your interests and the interests of his or her insurance company at the same time. After all, their instructions come from their employer, not from you.
What steps need I take to hire a Public Adjuster?
It's easy! You contact our firm via our contact page and request a free review of your loss.
You will need a copy of your insurance policy on hand. If you do not have it available, you can usually obtain a copy from your insurance agent with a simple phone call. We examine your damage and we analyze your policy. We will then advise you whether or not it is in your best interest to hire a public adjuster or indeed to even file the claim. This is a free service. If we ascertain that we can help you significantly maximize your settlement, then you retain our services by signing a document allowing us to represent you and we take care of the rest!
How is a Public Adjuster compensated?
You pay absolutely nothing out of pocket! A Public Adjuster's compensation is a small percentage of your insurer's claims payments that are made to you. The Public Adjuster's fees are more than covered by the larger settlement he has obtained for you. Remember, if there is no settlement, there is no fee to you at all!
I have already received a payment for my claim from the insurance company and I think it's too low. Is it too late to reopen my file?
A Public Adjuster can re-open your file and start renegotiating with your insurance company toward a higher settlement. However, once you have been paid it does become a bit more difficult. This is why it is wise to hire a public adjuster from the very beginning of the claim.
For instance, Florida generally allows up to five years to file a supplemental claim from the date of loss. If you do not believe you were paid the right amount and would like us to review your claim, just let us know.
Do I really need help with a claim?
There are several reasons why you may want to consider obtaining help with your claim:
An accredited public insurance adjuster not only has your confidence, but also that of company adjusters who recognize that they are dealing with a professional.
- Filing a claim requires a written, itemized statement of your losses. You may not realize what the extent of your damage is, and the insurance company is not obligated to tell you. The burden of proof is on YOUR shoulders. The Public Adjuster will help you identify everything to which you're entitled.
- Filing a claim is a tedious, time-consuming and aggravating process. The Public Adjuster can take this burden off your shoulders and free you to get your business or home affairs back on track. During this emotionally charged time, you just don't have the presence of mind to spend hours and hours over inventory itemization and to argue with your insurance company whether something should "just be repaired" rather than replaced.
- You are at the mercy of the insurance company. Keep in mind, as someone untrained in handling insurance claims, you will be dealing with insurance "professionals" who will not hesitate to use any slip of the tongue against you. They may low-ball you and you won't even know it - until it's too late. The expert Public Adjuster knows exactly what it costs to repair the damage. He will find damage that the untrained eye will otherwise not see. He takes the entire picture into account and fights for you - down to the last penny. He is well versed with what the insurance company wants to hear and what they don't want to hear and he knows how to present your claim for maximum success. Think about it, in a court case, would you allow the opposing side to hire THEIR attorney to represent YOU? I don't think so. Then why would you allow the insurance company to hire THEIR adjuster to represent YOU?
- The typical fire policy contains hundreds of provisions and stipulations - various forms and riders that are constantly changing and many complex details about your requirements in case of loss. Most people do not know or understand these policy provisions - and most do not realize that the burden of proof is on them, the policyholder. Most insurance company representatives actually prefer to work with an experienced accredited public insurance adjuster rather than an inexperienced insured.
If I work directly with the insurance company's adjuster, won't I get the same results?
Most likely, no.
Insurance companies hire and train their adjusters to MINIMIZE your loss. Their adjusters work for the insurance company NOT for the homeowner. How likely is it that a person will get the maximum settlement to which he is entitled by using the insurance companies` own adjusters? Do not be misled.
The insurance company will try to minimize your loss utilizing several misleading tactics. They can try to convince you to repair the damage rather than replace it. They can "overlook" some damage knowing that the burden of proof is on the insured not themselves. They can estimate the repair cost at a much lower rate than it will actually cost. It is simply too easy to underestimate the true cost of the repair by yourself. They can agree to replace only the damaged portion although it won't quite match the rest of the house. You are entitled to repair or replace the damage to a pre-damaged condition - you don't pay those premiums for a patch up job. They can deny coverage because of an inadvertant slip of the tongue. Most people won't argue with their insurance company.
Most people don't even know that they are being misled. That is why you need a public adjuster.
Can I prepare my own claim?
Sure, but it stands to reason that the accredited public insurance adjuster who has years of experience and training can do so with more competence than the policyholder.
More specifically, a public insurance adjuster will assist you in the preparation of inventories, estimates and other factual proofs of loss. He or she will handle all the necessary details for compiling and filing claims, as required by the terms of your insurance policies. Your public insurance adjuster will also confer, on your behalf, with insurance company representatives and handle all matters essential to a proper and satisfactory adjustment.
If property damage insurance adjusting is important to you and your company, please Contact us today!