Many Florida homeowners experience natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, fires, and similar incidents that cause damage to their home. The amount one receives when filing an insurance claim will depend to some extent on the determination of adjusters. Many policyholder are informed that the insurance company is sending an “independent adjuster” to inspect the property. However, these adjusters are not nearly as “independent” as this nomenclature might suggest. Adjusters dispatched by a carrier to examine a property are financially beholden to the carrier. The so-called independent adjuster might receive a substantial amount of his or her work from the insurance company.
Policyholders are frequently surprised to learn that the lack of objectivity built into these unbiased evaluations is rooted in the definition of the term “independent adjuster”: “An independent adjuster means a person licensed as an all-lines adjuster who is self-appointed or appointed and employed by an independent adjusting firm or other independent adjuster, and who undertakes on behalf of an insurer to ascertain and determine the amount of any claim, loss, or damage payable under an insurance contract or undertaken to effect settlement of such claim, loss or damage.” Florida Statutes Section 626.85. (Emphasis Added).
Because the process of adjusting a claim under this definition is “undertaken on behalf of an insurer,” policyholders should regard the inspections and conclusions of these adjusters as inherently suspect. An independent adjuster might be “separate” from your insurance company because he or she is an independent contractor or employee of a distinct adjusting firm. However, this does not mean the insurer is not operating under the influence of an indisputable conflict of interest. The insurance company will base its estimate of the value of the property loss and settlement of the claim on the adjuster’s report, so an insured needs to have the home inspected by someone that represents the insured’s interest.
If a policyholder wants to obtain an estimate for repairs favorable to his or her interest, the prudent course is to speak to a “public adjuster.” Public adjusters work with policyholders pursuing the full value of a claim. Just as the definition of an “independent adjuster” highlights why this type of individual would favor insurance companies, the definition of “public adjuster” reveals a bias toward the insured.
Under Florida statutes, a public adjuster is defined as follows: “A public adjuster is any person, except a duly licensed attorney at law as exempted under s. 626.860, who, for money, commission, or any other thing of value, prepares, completes, or files an insurance claim form for an insured or third party claimant, who, for money, commission or any other thing of value, acts on behalf of, or aids an insured or third-party claimant in negotiating for or effecting the settlement of a claim or claims for loss or damage covered by an insurance contract . . . .” [Emphasis Added]. The statute makes clear the adjuster works on behalf of the insured.
Our law firm often works with policyholders who have previously worked with public adjusters but now need an attorney to pursue litigation. Our Miami insurance claims law firm invites you to contact us if you are having difficulties with your insurance company. Miami insurance claims lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo handles claims disputes involving property damage under insurance policies in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.