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A public adjuster is a licensed insurance adjuster that represents the policyholder (the homeowner, building owner, etc.) in an insurance claim process. A public adjuster is not the same as a company adjuster or an independent adjuster.
So, public adjusters work for the public, while both company and independent adjusters work for insurance companies.
Every insurance policy contains provisions that you need to abide by – like immediately documenting the loss, submitting the claim, providing an estimate to the insurance company, following up with the insurance company, etc. There is a high likelihood that you don’t know or have forgotten about these provisions.
A public adjuster takes care of all of these things for you, including gathering the necessary documentation, presenting the claim properly and in a timely manner, following up with the company, and ultimately guides you through the claims process. On top of those services, a public adjuster will most often get you more money because of their experience.
The difference is simple – a public adjuster is a licensed, trained, and experienced professional that specializes in insurance claims. They are experts in reading policies and negotiating with insurance companies.
You can file an insurance claim yourself, but the outcome will depend on your ability to do the job of a public adjuster. About 99% of the time, by hiring a public adjuster, you will end up with 50% to 500% more.
No, it is not the same to hire a public adjuster vs. a roofer or contractor to help with your claim. The basic difference is in what public adjusters are licensed to do. Only two categories of people are legally allowed to negotiate claims, talk about the policy, deadlines, statutes, and handle all the other facets of an insurance claim process – public adjusters and attorneys.
A contractor or a roofer is limited only to the estimate. A contractor or roofer cannot deal with coverage or additional living expenses, they cannot file disputes, etc. A contractor or roofer cannot help you if you are having trouble even contacting the insurance company and pushing them in the right direction. Hiring a contractor or roofer can be beneficial and is often advisable, but they are limited only to the estimate.
Public adjusters and attorneys have similar legal authorization regarding insurance claims. However, the difference is in their role in the process. You can consider public adjusters the first line of defense. They are there from the beginning, documenting the claim, putting the estimate together, presenting the claim, following up, and generally being with you through the entire process.
If a public adjuster is unable to get an insurance company to pay the claim, then there are times to use an attorney, as many public adjusters will do. Yet, the main practical difference between a public adjuster and an attorney is the length of time it takes to settle a claim – if it gets to litigations, with attorneys the process can last between a year and two; with a public adjuster, the process to settle a claim takes between 1 to 4 months.
The cost of hiring a public adjuster differs from state to state. Some states have limitations while others do not. More importantly, public adjusters are usually not paid a flat fee but work on contingency.
For example, the fee to hire a public adjuster in Florida is up to 20% of the claim. If a natural disaster happens, the fee is limited to 10%. In Texas, the fee is 10% of the entire value of the claim. This also means that public adjusters are financially motivated to get you as much money as possible and expediently complete the claims process.
A claim represented by a public adjuster usually takes between 1 to 3 or 4 months to settle. Insurance companies have a set amount of time to investigate a claim, typically 90 days. The public adjuster’s role is to expedite the process. If a public adjuster cannot settle your claim within that time period, then the assistance of an attorney may be required.
You can find your policy/claim number for your insurance on the Declarations Page, which is usually the first page of your insurance policy. The Declarations Page also contains the policy period, agent’s information, mortgage company information, and coverage limits, along with your deductibles.
The public adjuster needs:
The Date of Loss for a property insurance claim is the date when the event took place, e.g., the date the pipe burst, the windstorm came, the water damage happened, etc. If you don’t know the Date of Loss because you did not know the event was happening (e.g. a pipe burst and you did not notice immediately), the day you found out about the damage is called the Notice of Discovery, which can also be used as the Date of Loss in the absence of the exact date.
Start by looking in your email, because insurance agents usually send a copy by email. If you cannot find it, call your agent and they will send you a copy of your policy.
When an insurance company is cutting a check for your insurance claim, they are legally obligated to put the mortgage company on the check. Thus, public adjusters ask for your mortgage information so that they can provide it to the insurance company so that you don’t have to do that personally later.
The first step is that the PA will inspect the loss in order to determine that you have a viable claim. If your claim was already denied, then the PA will inspect the loss to have proof that your claim was wrongfully denied. The next step is contacting the insurance company and representing you in the process.
You do not need to speak to the insurance company. If the company wishes to speak with you, then it will be scheduled in advance and in the presence of your PA. There could be inspections of your home that you do not need to attend. The public adjuster will be at the inspections as your representative.
The aim is for the public adjuster to minimize any effort you need to make in settling the claim.
If your insurance company went out of business, you can still file a claim with your PA. Insurance companies go into receivership where they are taken over by a guarantee association depending on the state (e.g. the Florida Insurance Guarantee Association or Texas Insurance Guarantee Association). However, the process will be much lengthier until all the old and new claims are processed.
There is a statute of limitations of two years to file a property insurance claim. So, technically, you have two years to file a claim. However, insurance policies specifically state that you must notify the insurance company as soon as possible. The sooner you file a claim, the better your chances of having it settled. Consequently, you have two years to submit an insurance claim, but the faster you do it the better.