After much laboring over the idea of seeking an expert to assist in filing a claim on your recent loss, you’ve decided to look into hiring a public adjuster. This can be a good idea if your claim amount adds up to $10,000 or more. Listing and describing everything you lost and how much it will cost to repair or replace each item takes more effort than most people realize. This is called “documenting a claim” which must be done to start the claims process. And once you’re finished this phase, you then must negotiate with your insurance company or you are likely to get paid less than you are owed. These are just a few of the reasons it’s a good idea to hire a public adjuster who knows the ins and outs of the insurance industry.
So how do you find a reputable public adjuster, one you can trust to work with you throughout the process to completion? A good place to start is by researching the ones you’ve chosen to interview to first see if they are licensed in the state that your claim will be filed in. Then consider asking these 4 questions that will help you assess the expertise of each to make the right choice for you.
1) Ask each of the adjusters how many claims they are currently handling. If they have a large volume of claims, they may be good but you more than likely will see a delay in your claim being processed. Ask them average turnaround time for similar claims so you have an idea of what to expect.
2) Ask for them to describe their skills and why they think they would be the best choice for you. How many years have they been licensed and in what states and how many claims they have handled since practicing in the field.
3) Ask for personal references from the public adjuster for clients over the past 3 years. This will not only give you a gage on how they serviced some of their past clients, it will also give you an idea of how many different firms they’ve worked with (to see if they’ve jumped around to different firms). The more stable the more likely they are to have the best reputation. Of course, if they work independently, this won’t apply but to work as an independent public adjuster you usually have that experience to qualify you to work on your own. Ask the references if they actually worked on their claim and if so, how would they describe their experience. Was the public adjuster able to quantify the added value they brought to the process compared to if they had just worked directly with the insurance company? Also, see if the public adjuster was able to assist with the additional living expense and fair rental value part of their claim.
4) Try to go with a public adjuster in your area so you can meet face to face if necessary. In the event you live in a rural area and need to go with a public adjuster outside the area, make sure to ask how they plan to service your claim. Be sure they make it clear to you what you can expect with them throughout the process.
Make a list of all the pros and cons of each public adjuster that you interviewed. This will help you visualize side by side which of them is the best fit for you. Take personality into consideration because if the process is drawn out you don’t want any added stress to disrupt your recovery. You should feel confident that they are committed to doing the best job for you and comfortable with the way they communicate. Take your time in deciding and make sure all your questions are answered thoroughly so you can feel like you made the right decision in selecting a public adjuster. They will be part of your insurance recovery process for as long as it takes to settle the claim and recover all the financial benefits you are entitled to under the terms and conditions of your policy and the laws in your state. The process could take over a year depending on your specific circumstances.
When you start discussing price, know that most public adjusters work on contingency fees that can range anywhere from 5% to 50% of your claim depending on the state and the public adjuster so it pays to do your research. The average is usually between 10% to 15%. Some states actually cap the fee but states like California are wide open for public adjusters to work for any fee they think they’re services are worth. Although a public adjuster might charge a significantly higher fee, it may be because they have the best track record for the highest settlements so don’t write them off until you’ve at least researched their reputation. Often these fees are negotiable.
If there is a dispute with your public adjuster and it can’t be resolved, don’t hesitate to contact the trade association in your state or the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA) to seek their help in resolving the dispute. If that hasn’t worked you can still file a complaint with your state insurance regulator. In most cases where victims of damage or loss have hired a reputable adjuster, clients have been very satisfied with their results but it’s always good to take precautions and do your research before choosing.