What is a public adjuster?
Whenever an accident occurs, the insurance company will issue a homeowner an adjuster whose job it is to represent the company and try to adjust the level of compensation in favor of the insurance company. Though they are bound by the laws of the insurance policy that the homeowner has taken out, they have considerable leeway in matters of judgment, which often renders a decision that is less than what the victim would have received otherwise.
A public adjuster, by contrast, works on behalf of the customer and operates independently from the insurance company. Since a victim may only deal with the insurance companies a few times in their life (depending on the person), they are usually unfamiliar with the process of filing a claim and getting the most that they can to repair their lives. An insurance company, on the other hand, deals with settlements hundreds of times a day, which means they are much more familiar with the process and how to tip the scales in their favor.
Public adjusters have specialized training and expertise that a victim will need in the immediate aftermath of an accident. They are experienced in handling fire, flood, hurricane, tornado or any other kind of disaster that might occur, and are committed to getting homeowners the most amount of money that they are entitled. Even though adjusters are not able to get more than what the policy stipulates, they know how to level the playing field between a homeowner and their insurance company.
Compensation includes 15% of the eventual settlement price, which generally still results in more money for the victim once the adjuster has reviewed and negotiated the settlement, not only includes payment for their services in obtaining a higher settlement but also for filing and pursuing the claim with the company as well - a process that many people are unfamiliar with.
When an adjuster arrives on the scene, they will first conduct a comprehensive view of the policy to identify the different coverage's they might be able to claim, then will help the victim comply with the various requirements they find. After that, they'll do a thorough review of the incident itself, noting the damage and valuation that is lost as a result. They'll present this information to the victim and then serve as an advocate for them in their discussions with the insurance company. Communication is critical throughout this whole process, and a homeowner should expect to hear from their private adjuster every step of the way.
How long do I have to file a claim after a hurricane or storm?
Once the storm has passed, the first order of business for many homeowners is assessing the damage and deciding what needs to be done to fix it. While this usually involves filing paperwork with their insurance company, there are many reasons why someone may choose to wait, such as the question of how it will affect their insurance rates. Alternatively, some people may be confused about who even to investigate to see if they can fix it themselves.
No matter what route an individual homeowner takes, there is a strict deadline when it comes to filing a property claim with an insurance company. Though the statutes can vary from state to state, in many cases it ends up being close to a year, but in some cases can even extend up to six years; this can also change depending on the type of storm that came through, so it's better to investigate the policy thoroughly rather than merely assuming someone has time.
Additionally, there may be different deadlines depending on each stage of the process. Most insurance companies require a homeowner to notify them of an issue as soon as possible, but that definition is intentionally vague to suit a wide array of situations. Still, if the homeowner waits so long that the insurance company has little opportunity to make a proper assessment, it may be too long.
There usually is a deadline for when someone can submit documentation as well, such as a list of everything that was lost and estimates for the value of lost or damaged items. For this reason, it's essential for every homeowner to know the various deadlines that are included in their policy.
It's a subtle balance between insurance companies and individuals, which is one reason why public adjusters can be such a great help. While the victim understandably wants to wait to fix their house until they have a quote from the insurance company as to what they will pay out, they also have a responsibility to mitigate the losses as much as possible and prevent further damage. Failure to do so could result in losses not being covered or the entire settlement being discharged.
While it's not particularly common, homeowners have also been able to reopen old claims cases if they noticed a problem that occurred during the storm but was overlooked during the initial review. If the company failed to communicate correctly, the case might also be reopened to provide proper examination and payouts. Finally, if the homeowner felt like their case was unfairly handled, they may also be successful in getting a claim opened back up, but that can be a lengthy and potentially expensive process.
What is the process of a public adjusting claim?
Since an accident happens so rarely, there is considerable confusion about what a public adjuster does to maximize the amount of money a policyholder will get from the insurance company. Typically the role boils down to a simple negotiation; both the public adjuster and the company understand the terms of the policy, so deciding on the exact amount to pay out is the job of both of the adjusters, whether private or public.
To do this, the public adjuster usually follows a specific set of steps designed to give the homeowner the maximum amount of money from the company they can.
1. Meet With the Victim.
The initial meet is one of the more public steps that a public adjuster will take, but it's paramount to the success of the process. They will meet with the property owner to discuss a strategy that they will use to recover from the disaster as well as review the policy information as thoroughly as possible. They will present a compensation package (usually a straight commission of the settlement), and help the property owner with any paperwork that they may need. If necessary, the public adjuster may also ask the property owner to sign paperwork allowing them to negotiate on the owner's behalf.
2. Conduct a Policy Investigation
After a thorough review of the policy provisions and stipulations covered by insurance, the adjuster will then determine the limits and exclusions of the terms to figure out how much is possible to get back; this can vary from state to state and differ even greater between policies. The adjuster will also examine local and state laws in addition to decisions handed down from the state insurance office and any other court cases that may determine how policies and practices work in actuality.
3. Obtain Documentation
The adjuster will then gather as much information from the homeowner as possible, such as building estimates (if necessary), inventory documentation, as well as pictures or files representing the actual loss that occurred. If the property is a commercial entity, the adjuster will also analyze business-interruption coverage as well, which may include revenue projections and forecasts of what that business will lose during the time that it is not operational. The job of the adjuster is to determine - whether residential or commercial properties - how much of the owner's everyday life has been interrupted by the storm.
4. Present to the Insurance Company
After the policy has been examined and the applicable information has been collected, the adjuster will then meet with the property owner to go over their findings and present the case as they see it. After approval, they will then submit the claim to the insurance company for their initial assessment.
The insurance company will most likely request clarification from the adjuster on a few items, which will necessitate a longer timeline. Once the information has been collected and submitted, the negotiations will begin without the property owner being present, but they should be informed of all developments. Once a claim has been settled, the information is presented back to the owner and money is delivered.
How do I deal with a long, drawn-out home insurance claim?
The loss of a home can be a life-changing event. Not only is someone wholly displaced for the time being, but they're also subjected to hours of paperwork and questions as they methodically go back through their life and try to pinpoint what all they possessed.
At the heart of that process is the agent and adjuster, whether private or public. Their job is to help the homeowner through the process as quickly as possible so that they can return to their normal life, but if the people that are involved seem to be dragging their feet, it might be time to step up the pressure a bit. Here is a list of things they can do if their home insurance claim seems to be taking longer than it should.
1. Talk to the Agent.
The first step in this process is to reach out to the agent involved with the case and ask them why the claim is taking longer than they feel like it should (the normal time can vary since some claims involve a total house loss or just the loss of a few shingles). They should visit the agent in person, if necessary, to discuss the problems they see and ask them for their help in the process. Most agents want happy customers and are here to help, so ask them if they would be willing to call the claims people for an answer or to get things moving.
2. Talk to the Adjuster.
An adjuster is the one that is acting as the front line in assessing all property claims, and however fast they are moving will dictate how quickly a claim is processed. Be blunt; homeowners should ask them directly what part of the process is taking so long and what they can do to help possibly. They should provide them with whatever resources are necessary, and then ask them what is left to be done on their end. Once this is taken care of, homeowners should ask for a rough timeline of when they can expect the work to be finished.
3. Talk to a Supervisor.
Once a homeowner has talked to their agent and adjuster, they should request to speak to their immediate supervisors and inform them of the target dates that were quoted to them. Tell them what concerns they may have about the process and give them any information that they have as to how the process is going so far.
4. Talk to the Government.
Nearly every state has an insurance department that holds insurance companies accountable for how they handle their claims and may file a complaint if they feel the company has not acted in good faith. Keep in mind that what a homeowner may think is a long, drawn-out process may not really be that long in actuality, so trust the government's decision in this regard.
5. If Necessary, Take Legal Action.
Admittedly, this should be a homeowner's last resort, but if they feel like the company is not acting in good faith with their claim, they should talk to a lawyer who specializes in insurance law. If they find out the company has been lazy or negligent, they might be entitled to more compensation and a settlement as a result.