I Suffered A Loss From Hurricane Sandy, Should I Hire A Public Adjuster?

If you suffered damage or loss from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, you are now probably faced with trying to recoup everything. It can be overwhelming to educate yourself on the claims filing process, especially if you are also trying to recover from any major injuries at the same time. “Generally speaking, its a good idea to use a public insurance adjuster, especially if the claim may be $10,000 or more, ” says David Barrack, the Executive Director for the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA). “It’s really a judgement call for the policyholder, but we do try to help them get everything that’s due.”

The Bucks County Office of Consumer Protection advises homeowners who sustained damage after Hurricane Sandy to be wary when hiring a public adjuster. According to a couple who live in the Lower Bucks County area, their home sustained severe damage from the storm. They have had numerous problems that they have been facing since the incident occurred. This is a great example of when you should think about hiring a public adjuster who can help you navigate the process and reduce the amount of stress you would have to deal with by handling the claim yourself. Their knowledge of the ins and outs of working with insurance carriers can save you time and possibly even get you more money as a result. Hiring a public insurance adjuster in this case would probably payoff for you. Barrack explains that public insurance adjusters generally charge about 10 percent of the final settlement, so you’d pay about $2,000 if your claim settlement is $20,000. If they’re able to recoup more than you would by filing a claim by yourself, a public insurance adjuster’s service pays for itself.

Hurricane Sandy Image

Lynne McChristian from the Florida Office of the Insurance Information Institute, says public insurance adjusters may be a good option, but only if you’re not satisfied with the settlement offered through your insurer’s adjuster. She points out that you’re already charged for the insurer’s claim adjustment through your premium. “Give your insurance company the chance to show you how much they are going to give you, especially since you’ve already shouldered the cost,” McChristian says. “If there are concerns with the amount or other issues, then think about going to a public insurance adjuster.

The current trend is that the insurance company’s have started issuing checks for Hurricane Sandy flood damage, however, the insurance settlement checks are vastly low as the industry predicted. Those that hired a public insurance adjuster from the start have noticed their checks are significantly larger because they had representation. Even if you received a check that was lower than the amount you felt you deserved, you can still contact a public insurance adjuster to represent you to reopen the claim help you negotiate for more money. J. Robert Hunter, Director of Insurance for the Consumer Federation of America and former federal insurance administrator and Texas insurance commissioner said in this statement, “After the storm, we are concerned that families will have to dig deeper into their pockets because insurers have been steadily shifting liability to consumers by increasing hurricane wind coverage deductibles and imposing other policy limitations.” According to CFA, many consumers experienced claims problems in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Irene so homeowners dealing with losses caused by Hurricane Sandy should be vigilant with their insurance companies to ensure that they receive a full and fair settlement. As consumers prepare to contact their insurance companies in the wake of the storm, the CFA offers the following tips:

1) You or your public adjuster should report a claim as promptly as possible as insurance companies generally handle them first come, first serve.

2) Once a claim is reported, be sure to get the claim number and write it down. Insurance company claims departments can locate a file easiest by the claim number.

3) When the insurance company sends out an adjuster to survey your damage, ask if they’re an employee of the insurance company or an independent adjuster hired by them. If an independent adjuster, try to secure the name of the actual company adjuster that the adjuster is sending your information to or if they’re authorized to make claim decisions and payments on behalf of the insurance company.

4) Start a notebook documenting all contact with the insurance company. List the date, time and a brief description of each exchange. If there is a discrepancy later, this information will prove to be vital to your case. If an adjuster says they’ll come and end up not showing up make a note of it. Any pertinent details can be important to keep track of.

5) Inventory your possessions and make a list. Include photos of your possessions prior to the damage if available and take photos of them after the damage. Photos can be from holiday celebrations, etc. if you didn’t take them specifically for insurance purposes.

6) Obtain a repair estimate from a trusted local contractor to use as a guide in talking with the adjuster. Keep receipts from emergency repairs and any costs incurred in temporary housing which also may be reimbursable under the “Additional Living Expense” section of your insurance policy. If insured, you might be entitled to money up front for living expenses such as hotel costs. If your home is deemed unlivable, insurers are usually good about these initial payments according to CFA. Most claims problems come later when bigger payments are sought.

As you can see, there are alot of details to cover in submitting a claim of this magnitude. You still have to consider how to handle the claim if it is denied or too low. This is why many people decide to hire a public adjuster who is knowledgable about the process. They can help you avoid pitfalls before they happen and make sure your claim is settled to your satisfaction the first time around.