What Is a Public Insurance Adjuster?
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 27, 2017
Insurance is one of those things you’re usually glad you have, but hope you’ll never need. Most of us would prefer to avoid the storm that tears off part of the roof or the fire that destroys half of your home. But if such an unfortunate event does occur, you’ll want to make sure the insurance company pays a fair and adequate settlement to cover the damage. For this reason, many people hire public insurance adjusters to help them with their insurance claims. Read on to learn about public insurance adjusters and how they can help you deal with property damage and the insurance claim process.
What Does a Public Insurance Adjuster Do?
In general, insurance adjusters assess the damage to your property and help determine what the insurance company should pay to cover that damage. There are three types of insurance adjusters:
- Company or Staff Insurance Adjusters: Work in-house for the insurance company
- Independent Insurance Adjusters: Hired by the insurance company to consult on a particular case
- Public Insurance Adjusters: Hired by policyholders to provide an assessment and help with the insurance claim independently from the insurance company
Each type of insurance adjuster inspects the property and provides a detailed appraisal of the damage and how much it would cost to repair or replace the affected parts of the property. In some states, adjusters can handle other types of issues, like health insurance claims, but most deal only with real or personal property damage.
Why Hire a Public Insurance Adjuster?
If the insurance company already provides an adjuster to evaluate the damage, why hire your own? First of all, while there are many honest insurance agents and adjusters, their primary obligation is to their employer – the insurance company. A public insurance adjuster, on the other hand, represents you, the policyholder.
Secondly, the insurance claim process can be complicated, laborious, and time-consuming. A public insurance adjuster will not only assess the damage, but can also use their expertise to file your claim and negotiate with your insurance company and contractors. Public insurance adjusters can also be especially useful in more complicated cases, like when multiple areas of your property are damaged, or when the potential claim value is particularly high. With so much at stake, many people would prefer to have an experienced professional looking out for their interests and walking them through the process.
How and When to Hire a Public Insurance Adjuster
If you’re able to find a public insurance adjuster through the personal recommendation of a trusted friend or acquaintance, that can provide peace of mind during an otherwise stressful process. However, you can also start by searching the directory of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. In either case, it’s a good idea to ask a potential adjuster for a few references and inquire about their years of experience and whether or not they’ve negotiated with your insurance company in the past.
In terms of timing, some people recommend you contact a public insurance adjuster as soon as the damage has occurred. That way, you’ll have help and representation from the get-go, and can ensure your claim is filed correctly the first time. And many adjusters will offer to provide an initial visit to the damaged property for free. Others say you don’t really need to hire an adjuster unless you’re having difficulty with your insurance company. In those cases, an adjuster can help reopen a claim or file a supplemental claim to ensure you’re adequately paid for covered damage according to the terms of your policy.
Laws Regulating Public Insurance Adjusters
The insurance industry is a highly-regulated field, so it should come as no surprise that there are rules and regulations governing the conduct of public insurance adjusters as well. Each state has its own insurance laws, but in terms of insurance adjusters, common statutes and regulations include rules regarding the following:
- Licensing: Most states require public insurance adjusters to be licensed. This often involves an application, licensing exam, fingerprinting, and a background check. States like New York and California will refuse to license felons and those who have committed insurance-related misdemeanors.
- Fees: The fee that adjusters charge is usually a percentage of the final amount paid by the insurance company to the policyholder. Some states cap these and other types of fees, and many require all rates, fees, and commissions to be disclosed up front. For example, Florida caps fees at 20 percent (10 percent for declared emergencies).
- Professional Conduct: States also regulate the manner in which public adjusters conduct their business. For example, some regulations state that an adjuster may not contact an insured during the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Others prohibit the adjuster from imposing late fees or collection costs on the insured or from receiving compensation from those involved in the repair work.
If you’re unsure about a particular public insurance adjuster’s credentials, or you’re worried about misconduct on the part of your adjuster, you can contact your state’s insurance commissioner or homeowner’s organization for information or to file a complaint. An individual who is guilty of misconduct may have his or her license revoked or suspended, could face civil fines, or may even be charged with a criminal violation.
Know Your Rights Under the Insurance Laws of Your State
As mentioned, insurance law includes a huge array of statutes, codes, rules, and regulations. If you’re already dealing with the headache of property damage and an insurance claim, you don’t have time to sift through the laws relevant to your specific situation. Whether you’re dealing with an uncooperative insurance company or a public insurance adjuster who may be committing fraud or other misconduct, let an experienced, legal professional advise you on your rights. Contact a local insurance attorney to help protect your interests and guide you through the applicable aspects of insurance law.
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