What is a public adjuster and when should I hire one?
A public adjuster is an insurance professional licensed by the State of Florida to represent the insured, and only the insured, during the claims process. These professionals basically investigate your claim and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to try and secure the maximum amount you are entitled to. They work on a contingency basis, which means it is in their best interest to recover everything that you are owed under your insurance policy. By statute, a public adjuster cannot charge more than 20% of your recovery. During a state of emergency – such as during Hurricane Irma – a public adjuster is not allowed to charge more than 10% of your recovery during the first year after the declaration. Public adjusters, like all adjusters, adhere to a strict code of ethics designed to protect the public from unscrupulous tactics.
Many people elect to hire public adjusters rather than handle their own claims. Understandably, some people do not know or appreciate the claims process so they elect to hire a public adjuster to help navigate through the complex maze of insurance claims. Others simply do not have the time to do it (insurance claims often take several months to resolve) so they hire a professional to handle their claim for them. After suffering from severe losses resulting from a traumatic or stressful event, such as a hurricane, some people do not have the mental fortitude to deal with insurances companies and the claims process, so hiring a public adjuster is an attractive option.
Whether a public adjuster is right for your claim will depend on your particular situation. As a general matter, the greater your claim is, the more willing you should be to at least consult with a public adjuster. Your public adjuster will be able to tell you if it is worth pursuing the claim, and most public adjusters will not even take your claim if it is not worth their time. It is never too early to consult with a public adjuster. Your insurance company will be consulting with their adjuster, so the earlier you consult the better off you will be.
On average, people that hire public adjusters recover greater amounts than those who do not. In 2005, Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA) found that, on average, people that were represented by a public adjuster recovered over $15,000 more than those who were not. Furthermore, OPPAGA’s study found that persons that were represented by a public adjuster generally experienced longer periods of time before receiving a settlement check. Although at first glance this statistic may seem as an impediment, a good public adjuster will conduct a thorough investigation of your claim which takes time. Furthermore, if your public adjuster is doing a good job, the negotiation process may itself take longer than it would if you were doing it alone. With so much on the line, rushing to accept a settlement offer from your insurance company may not be in your best interest.
Ensure Proper Licensing & Check Background
When hiring a public adjuster you should ALWAYS check the credentials. Unfortunately, all too often people fall prey to scammers and persons misrepresenting their capacity as a public adjuster. You can run a search on your state government’s website to locate all current licenses held by your public adjuster. You should also review your adjustors experience handling claims, their recoveries, education, training, and references. A good public adjuster should have no problem providing these things to you and may even be willing to offer you a list of their previous clients for your reference. Just like your public adjuster should exercise competence and diligence in your claim, so should you exercise diligence in acquiring the right public adjuster for your needs. Run Google searches, reviews, ask around. You’d be surprised how much information you can find on the internet. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if your public adjuster has any complaints filed against them. It will be worth it in the end to be diligent upfront.
Consider Hiring a Member of a Professional Organization
Many public adjusters are members of state or national organizations, such as the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA) or the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA). Organizations like these require their members to undergo continuing education classes, and some impose even stricter ethical requirements than those imposed by the law. These public adjusters may be required to attend conferences which keep them up to date on changes in the insurance industry. Membership in these organizations provides good indicia that your public adjuster takes their job seriously.
Hiring a Public Adjuster
You want to do your research and find the right public adjuster for your situation. Don’t select someone just because they promise low rates and a quick turn-around. Just because they’re cheap, or claim to resolve claims quickly, doesn’t mean they’ll get you all of the money that you are owed. Ask for rates and their contracts ahead of time so you can review them. Find someone who you can relate to; communicate your concerns and express your needs. If you elect to hire a public adjuster with membership in an organization like FAPIA or NAPIA, you can search the organizations website to assure they really are members.
You can reach Miami Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].
Fl. Stat. 626.854