A Business-First Approach To The Practice Of Law

The Pros And Cons Of A Public Adjuster

Insurance is a basic and important aspect of life, covering potential damage on everything from cars to homes and commercial properties. When a covered property is damaged and an insurance policyholder files an insurance claim, the insurance company will send an agent or claims adjuster to assess the damage. The adjuster will analyze the insurance policy, decide what is and is not covered by the policy and then decide a settlement amount.

What many people don’t know is that the policyholder has a say in this process and can have an ally in a public adjuster.

What A Public Adjuster Does

A public adjuster represents the policyholder in negotiations with the insurance company. Because the “burden of proof” is on the policyholder, a public adjuster who knows which damages are covered and where to look for them is often an invaluable asset when it comes to negotiations with the insurance company.

Public adjusters are unique in representing the policyholder in an insurance claim. Though it might seem like other claim adjusters represent the best interest of the policyholder, these other adjusters and insurance agents actually represent the insurance company. All adjusters involved in your claim (besides the public adjuster) have the ultimate goal of maximizing profits for the insurance company. They do this by minimizing their loss ratio or making the lowest possible payments when settling claims. Only a public adjuster can legally represent a policyholder in negotiations with an insurance company over a claim to maximize the policyholder’s settlement.

Public Adjuster Qualifications In Florida

In Florida, public adjusters must be licensed. There are a number of requirements needed to be met in order to earn a license. These requirements are similar to or more stringent than other states. They include:

  • A one-year apprenticeship
  • Required passing of a written exam
  • Full background check
  • Surety bond posting
  • Florida licensed public adjusters must have at least 24 hours of training every two years

Even with these fairly stringent requirements, the number of public adjusters in Florida has more than quadrupled since 2003, in part because of bad hurricane seasons that caused widespread damage and increased insurance claims, thus increasing demand for public adjusters.

Florida Public Adjuster Fees

Florida law also sets a cap on the fees that public adjusters can earn. A public adjuster can only be compensated at up to 10% of the final settlement or 20% if it is a reopened or supplemental claim due to the additional work required for these cases. Though it is not a requirement for public adjusters to have a background in construction or contracting, those with this background have the experience that allows them to assess the damage, especially the more dangerous damage that is not immediately visible or that is easily overlooked by the untrained eye.

Public Adjusters And Lawyers Work Together

Public adjusters working in tandem with lawyers often have the best outcomes. While lawyers can review insurance policies to evaluate what is and is not covered, public adjusters with experience evaluating property damage have a fuller understanding of what can be covered by the policy.

An insurance policy often contains a number of nuances that the insurance company uses to not cover certain damages, but other nuances can also be used by an experienced public adjuster to cover damage that is not explicitly mentioned in the policy.

For example, some policies do not cover termite damage but do cover structural damage. A public adjuster with experience looking for all potential damage would be sure to look for structural damage and then would be able to find it if there was any such damage. A skilled public adjuster would also be able to prove and defend the claim for structural damage against an insurance company’s adjuster or agent. Thus, public adjusters can often find additional damage that should rightfully be included in a settlement.

How Working With A Public Adjuster Affects Settlements

As a result, settlements that involve public adjusters are higher on average than settlements without public adjusters. For example, for damages and claims that were caused by the 2005 hurricane season, policyholders that were represented by a public adjuster received settlements that were 747% higher than those who did not employ a public adjuster. Even with up to 20% of each claim going to the public adjuster, claimants who used a public adjuster received more on average than policyholders who were not represented by a public adjuster.

Claims involving public adjusters also take longer on average than other claims because claims adjusters from the insurance company and the public adjuster must negotiate the terms of the settlement. Because public adjusters often have more insight into the insurance policy and the damage done than a policyholder or lawyer, negotiations are often longer and more complex.

Though the claim may take longer to settle, an insurance adjuster would likely save a law firm a lot of time. The bulk of the work surrounding claims, from appraising damage, preparing estimates and other claim documents, reviewing insurance policies, and negotiating with insurance adjusters from the insurance company, is done by a public adjuster who likely has the experience to expedite the process. An adjuster is often part of a team who has considerable legal breadth and knowledge, which is brought to bear on warranted cases.

A lawyer would become involved only to take the case to court because a public adjuster cannot sue an insurance company. This is a good reason for a public adjuster to work with a law firm. In addition to the law firm benefiting from the expertise of a public adjuster, the adjuster would benefit from the ability to bring an insurance company to court. This combines the most beneficial attributes of public adjusters and lawyers and leads to the highest likelihood of larger settlements and bad faith cases decided in the policyholder’s favor, which is a higher penalty than a normal insurance settlement.

Why People Don’t Use Public Adjusters More Often

Despite the advantages of being represented by a public adjuster, many people do not know that they can and should have such an ally to deal with their insurance company. Because settlements are higher with a public adjuster, insurance agents will dissuade individuals from hiring an adjuster to represent their needs. As a result, many people will not seek a public adjuster for their insurance claims. This means that law firms that employ public adjusters may need to do some outreach to ensure that individuals know the resource that is available to them.

Public adjusters with a background that includes contracting and damage assessment can be an enormous resource for individual policyholders and law firms. With knowledge of structures and insurance claims, a public adjuster will often secure a higher settlement from an insurance company, and when teamed with a lawyer a public adjuster can make a solid case if the company is acting in bad faith.

Find Out More About How A Public Adjuster Can Benefit Your Case

At Saavedra-Goodwin, we understand the value to the client of utilizing a public adjuster in some insurance claims cases. We are happy to discuss with you why your case might benefit from the inclusion of a public adjuster. Call (954) 928-9568 and speak with a member of our team. Or, send us a confidential email, and we will be in touch.