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Public Adjusters-What You Should Know
All of these years as an agent I was told to “steer clear” of public adjusters. But now I was curious about this whole world of public adjusting. I started studying, took the exam and began learning about an entirely different view of the insurance world and decided it would be fun to share this newfound knowledge.
First let’s start with the definition of a Public Adjuster.
A public adjuster is a professional claims handler/claims adjuster who advocates for the insured/policyholder in assisting and negotiating that insured’s insurance claim.
What does a Public Adjuster do for the policyholder?
Public insurance adjusters are experts in the details and language of insurance policies, as well as filing and adjusting claims. The majority of the time they have past experience in construction or other related fields. They use sophisticated software to perform an independent evaluation of the client’s loss.
What is the role of a public adjuster?
The public adjuster’s main responsibilities are to:
Evaluate existing insurance policies and assist in determining what coverage may be applicable to a claim. They also research, detail, and substantiate damage to buildings and contents and any additional expenses. They can help the consumer file the claim and helps them through the claims process.
What is the difference between Public vs Company and Independent Adjusters?
Public adjusters are one of the three main categories of insurance adjusters, and each are employed differently.
Public adjusters are hired by the policyholder or insured. They represent ONLY the policyholder.
Company insurance adjusters are employed by carriers and sent to evaluate claims filed by their company’s policyholders.
Independent adjusters also work for insurance companies but act more as consultants. Independent insurance adjusters are usually hired on an as-needed basis because of a surge in demand or for specific expertise.
How are Public Adjusters compensated?
Public adjusters are compensated with a percentage of the payable loss that they are able to secure for their clients. The percentage can vary depending on the complexity of the claim. Often, they are retained in claims involving business interruption (BI), which involve special expertise in the areas of accounting and insurance coverage analysis. They don’t get paid unless they are successful in assisting the insured.
Typically, a public adjuster will charge a percentage of whatever a policyholder’s insurance carrier ultimately pays for a claim. For example, policyholder hires an adjuster with a 10% fee and their insurance company ultimately pays $100,000 for their claim. The policyholder would then owe the public adjuster $10,000. These fees are regulated by the states and vary across the country.
Why do people hire a Public Adjuster?
Individuals and businesses hire public insurance adjusters when they need assistance filing a claim or feel a claim amount offered by an insurance company is incorrect. Claims for flood, fire, smoke, wind and hurricane damage, and numerous other perils can be filed and negotiated by public adjusters.
Why and when might you tell an insured to contact a Public Adjuster?
We have all had those customers that feel they are not being treated fairly by the claims adjuster. Happens every day! By the customer hiring a public adjuster you and the customer can gain an advocate that will help the customer understand the situation better. There is no need to take the presence of a public adjuster personally, good ones are actually a valuable resource. Just because the customer hires a public adjuster does not mean that you are out of the loop. You, as the agent, will still provide them with exceptional service and continue a supporting role during the process.
Which takes us to my last point.
Should the circumstance arise that you see the need to recommend the customer contact a public adjuster here are a few key pieces of advice that you can share with them:
- Make sure the PA is licensed. They should not be practicing without a license, and it is against the law.
- Have them ask for a referral from an acquaintance. If they don’t know anyone in this situation then ask the PA for references.
- Have them take into consideration the severity and the complication of the loss. If it is a minor amount of money many public adjusters cannot afford to take on the claim. Tell the customer to ask the PA what their level of experience and area of expertise entails.
- A public adjuster should never ask for money upfront.
- They should also NEVER make guarantees.
Like any industry there are ethical and highly competent public adjusters and then there are those that are not, so knowing a great Public Adjuster can only help you and your customer. They can be a wonderful resource of information that you may not be obtaining from the carrier. As agents are more limited with interaction and being provided assistance from the companies and carriers they represent it might behoove agents to understand more about public adjusters. Become more proficient in your understanding of how they can help smooth the way for your agency, staff and insureds during a claim.
Let’s face it-CHAT is not going to get you where you need to be in making a difference with your policyholders. Public Adjusters are live human beings that want to help the insured and the agent in any way possible.
Lezlee Liljenberg served as an Allstate agent for 17 years and recently sold her practice. She shares her knowledge because of her love for the industry and the agents that serve it. She is enjoying her new endeavor of building her practice as an insurance consultant and expert witness involving court cases throughout the country. Including the opportunity of being a Public Adjuster which has elevated her operations to an entirely new and exciting altitude. You can reach out to her via email email@example.com.