We all know the kind of horror we feel whenever a disaster happens, and we find our property utterly damaged. It’s horrible because of the money it will cost you and the amount of time you will need to file insurance claims, hire construction workers, and wait for them to get the job done. Even if you believe that your insurance company is the best one out there, you will quickly find that filing a claim is often slow and challenging. The claim process involves paperwork, legal work, tons of math, negotiation, and, last but not least, knowing all the insider insurance rules. Additionally, you will have to do everything from describing what happened and what was damaged or destroyed to meeting with potential contractors, inspectors, and adjusters and researching their reputation and prior work. All of that is costly, time-consuming, and emotionally draining, especially after you’ve recently suffered a fairly traumatic event.
Of course, when you know that you must go through that entire process from start to finish, you also want to be sure that the insurance company will pay you the right amount of money for the damage your property has suffered. Unfortunately, insurance companies often have all sorts of ways to not pay you in full, or miss tons of the damages that may not be blatant, ultimately leaving you to finance more of the repairs than you hope. If you don’t want that to happen, the best thing you can do is hire a public adjuster. They can help you evaluate the scope of the repairs you need to do and the full extent of the damage to your property. Additionally, a skilled public adjuster will complete an insurance policy review to help you determine how much money the insurance company is required to pay based on your policy and the value of the repairs needed. Along with that, a good adjuster will help take care of the legal side of the issue and assist you with finding good legal advice to help you understand all your rights and what you can do in cases where the insurance company is trying to take advantage of you.
As you can tell, the role of the public adjusters in such situations is vital. And hiring a good one is what may make the difference between getting fair pay on your insurance claim or getting the bare minimum. To help in this process, we created this article that covers all the questions you need to ask a public adjuster before hiring them and other tips to ensure you’re making the best choice possible.
Let’s get started.
The Must-Ask Questions Before Hiring a Public Adjuster
Of course, we don’t want to give you 100 questions you need to ask – it’s not practical, you won’t remember all of them, and, likely, half of them won’t give you any valuable information. That’s why we’ve narrowed the must-ask questions down to only 10. These are the key ones to ask to get an overall idea of the kind of person you’re talking to and whether they can be trusted with a case such as yours.
1. Do you have the necessary licenses to practice as a public adjuster in the state?
You must first ensure that your public adjuster is licensed to do their job. Require them to show you their license, it can be either their individual license or they can work under their company’s license. In the best possible scenario, the public adjuster you’re talking to will have a license, be experienced in the field, and have a good relationship with the governing body and past clients. It’s also a good sign if they’re affiliated with a reputable company that you can check out online.
2. Will they be the ones handling your claim?
In some cases, the person you’re initially talking to ends up not being the one that’s taking care of your claim. You want to avoid ending up in that situation, so you should always ask this question at your first meeting. Some firms use sales reps to sell you the “public adjuster” service, and then they assign you a person for your case whom you’ve never met before and whom you may not feel comfortable with. By asking immediately, you will avoid such situations from occurring.
3. Ask them to describe their experience so far.
Ideally, you will want to work with an experienced professional – someone who has already been through this process more than once and knows what they’re facing in terms of challenges. You can figure that out by asking your public adjuster to share their experience with you, including how long they have been in this role, the most demanding cases they’ve handled, etc.
4. How many cases are they currently working on?
As you know, handling insurance claims is extremely time-consuming. If your public adjuster has taken on too many clients, it’s possible they won’t have the time to pay particular attention to your case and might end up not doing the best possible job. That’s why it’s a best practice to ask them how many active claims they’re working on and how much time they have to dedicate to your claim.
5. Ask for references that you can talk to
Always ask your public adjuster to provide a list of references who can vouch for their work. It’s good if those cases were recent, and it’s best if you can actually contact those people and ask for their opinion. If someone is willing to share that kind of feedback, then it’s highly likely they’re truly good at their job.
6. Don’t shy away from asking about their fee.
You will have to pay for the services of a public adjuster, and you must know the cost from the start. Typically, public adjusters work on a contingency fee, ranging from 5% to 20% of the money the insurer pays on your claim. You don’t pay them until you get paid. The good thing is that you can negotiate these fees in all states; in some, they’re capped already. For instance, during a natural disaster in Florida, the maximum fee a licensed public adjuster can charge working on a residential claim is already capped at 10% for the first year. However, it’s important you understand that quite often you get what you pay for. Be wary of any public adjuster who low balls their commission just to sign you as a client. Try to put timelines on the public adjuster to produce the claim package and other work product to ensure your claim is a priority. Remember, the Public Adjuster is working for you, not the insurance company. Your biggest concern should be is the public adjuster you hire able to recover the funds needed to make you whole. It is in their best interest, just as it is yours, that the claim be paid in full and the maximum amount to cover all your repairs and damage is paid out to you. The terms of your contract must be clear – if you expect them to handle the entire claim, you should make that clear in the deal you’re making. If you want them to only work on parts of it, then that also needs to be negotiated from the start.
7. Ask about their style of work.
Some public adjusters love to take full responsibility for the claim on your behalf and don’t allow their clients to talk to the insurance company. That’s why you should ask about how they work from the start, especially if you want to be involved with your claim.
8. Will their name or their company’s name be present in all checks you get from the insurer?
Similar to understanding the fees, it’s also vital to know the method and timing of payments to your public adjuster. Negotiating which services you will be paying for and how that will happen is important. Some public adjusters take a percentage of each check the insurance company issues, while others prefer a lump sum once the full claim is settled and paid. You may be able to negotiate for either kind, and it’s good to know your options.
9. How much will a settlement cost if you decide to end the contract prematurely?
Even the most rigorous interview process won’t guarantee that the person you chose will do a good job. That’s why it’s good to know what it will cost to end the contract before a settlement has been finalized. That way, you will know how much additional money you will need to pay if you want to hire another public adjuster.
10. Will they partner with a law firm or an attorney for your claim?
Legal issues are complex, and when dealing with one, it’s always good to know that your public adjuster is getting advice from an attorney specializing in such cases or that they have access to one if any issues arise.
Other Factors to Consider
Even after you’ve asked all these questions, there are a few things you should consider before entering into a contract. These include:
- Is the public adjuster a good fit for you? – You have to remember that you will be working with that person for a long time, sometimes months, and if they’re not someone you enjoy talking to, it’s likely not a good idea to hire them.
- What are their references? – If the contact information they give you is for their cousin and their wife’s best friend, it’s a red flag. Try your best to ensure their references are legitimate and have used them as a public adjuster in the past.
- Don’t rush into making a decision – When dealing with a disaster, you want to fix the issues and move on as soon as possible, but this is an important decision that might cost you a lot of money. So don’t let yourself be rushed into making a quick choice.
- If any issues between you and your public adjusters arise, try to resolve them by talking to their company or contacting the Public Adjusters trade association in your state or the one operating nationwide.
All insurance claims carry the risk that you won’t get an adequate recovery payment and that you will need to “fight” to get one. When hiring a public adjuster, you want to ensure they’re an experienced professional who can help you evaluate the situation and get the compensation you deserve. By following the advice from this article, you will be able to find the right public adjuster for your case, and you will be more confident that you’ve made the right choice.