You get insurance for your property because you want to want to make sure that it’s protected if some sort of unexpected emergency occurs. A fire that roars through your home. Pipes that burst. Damage caused by an infestation of mold. And, of course, every Floridian’s worst nightmare, a hurricane that tears through everything in your life and leaves your without anywhere to go.
When things like this happen, we expect that our insurance policy will take care of us and make sure that we get the money we need to rebuild and move on with our lives. After all, that’s the point of an insurance policy, right? Unfortunately, sometimes that’s just not the case. Insurers want to protect their bottom line at least as much as they want to protect you, and too often policyholders get lowball offers on their claims.
How can insurers do this? Because they use claims adjusters whose job it is to inspect your damage and come up with the cheapest possible fix for the problem. Many people think that claims adjusters are on their side, but this just isn’t the case – they work for insurers.
If you want to make sure that someone is working for you on a claim, you need to hire a public adjuster.
A public adjuster is someone who has been trained to inspect damage and licensed by the state of Florida so that they can work for policyholders in the event of a claim. What does someone have to do to get this license? A lot.
Often, people who go into this line of work started out as contractors or have worked in construction. This gives them the background and experience that enables them to walk into a property and realistically assess any damage that has been done – even if it is something that might not be apparent to an individual without their training and experience.
Unlike claims adjusters, public adjusters do not work for an insurance company – they’re free agents, and when someone with a claim hires them to determine a monetary amount for the damage done to their property, their duty is solely to that person – to you.
According to studies conducted by the state, public adjusters more than pay for themselves. The investigation discovered that people who hired a public adjuster to assess their property damage and work on their claim got – on average – about 17% more than those who just went through their insurer and used the company’s adjuster. In some cases the difference was much greater, though, with payment for claims related to the 2005 hurricanes through Citizens Property Insurance Corporation increasing by an astounding 747% for those who used a public adjuster.
Obviously, that second number is a very unusual situation, and in fact an investigatory panel was charged with looking into the practices of CPIC after thousands of policyholders complained. But that’s exactly why it’s so important to use a public adjuster. When you have someone on your side who knows how insurance claims are supposed to work, they can not only get you a bigger payout, but prevent your insurer from engaging in illegal or otherwise disreputable practices to keep your claim low.
When you hire an adjuster to come in and work with you on a claim, they get what’s called a contingency fee. It’s exactly like working with an attorney who only gets paid if you win your case – when the money from your claim comes in, the public adjuster gets a percentage of it.
In Florida, adjusters’ fees can be no higher than 10% of your claim if it is related to a declared emergency, and only 20% for any other claim, including supplemental claims and those that have been reopened.
Once the claim has been opened and you have hired your adjuster, he or she works with your insurance company to assess the damage and hammer out an amount for the claim. Whenever you have any contact with your insurance company, your adjuster is allowed to be there as your spokesperson, and they can also communicate directly with the insurer to reach an agreement on your claim. Basically, they’ll handle all of the heavy lifting and call your insurance company out for any behavior or offer they believe doesn’t meet acceptable standards based on their knowledge and experience.
As mentioned above, in order to become a public adjuster, you need to acquire a specific license from the state. This involves undergoing rigorous training and testing so that you can be sure that every licensed adjuster knows how to spot damage and determine the cost involved in fixing it. These are necessary skills for public adjusters, and it’s why so many of them come from backgrounds in construction and contracting work. If you’ve spent years putting buildings together and remodeling homes and offices, it tends to help when you’re estimating how much it will take to repair damage.
But there’s something that none of this teaches: an understanding of insurance law and insurance policies. The best public adjusters may be able to fight hard for you and tell you to within a few dollars how much you need to get from your insurance company in order to fix the problem with your property, but that doesn’t mean they’re good with the “legalese” common to dealing with insurance companies.
That’s why Lawlor, White & Murphey decided to offer public adjuster services to our clients in South Florida. By working in tandem with a licensed adjuster, we’re able to break down complicated policies into plain English. This way the adjuster will know what kind of damage is and isn’t explicitly covered in the policy and be able to use this knowledge to make sure their report phrases things in such a way to make it more likely that you will win your claim. For example, a policy that doesn’t cover “flooding” may still cover “water damage” and using the correct language may strengthen your claim. This helps adjusters to note additional damage that should be covered under your policy – sometimes things that you might not have even noticed.
Don’t lose out on the money you need to rebuild and remodel after disaster strikes. Contact our firm today Toll-Free at 855-347-5475, in South Florida at 954-525-2345, and we can set up a free consultation to discuss your claim.