By Rod Davis, CEO BBB serving Southeast Florida and the Caribbean
Insuring your home in Florida is not cheap, and there is a good reason for our high rates. According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2019 the state of Florida reported over $36 million in home loss claims, just behind California and Texas. With every storm that passes we put up shutters, secure outdoor items, and take precautions to keep our homes safe and limit damage. Unfortunately, even with the best precautions, losses are still possible from hurricanes, storms, fire, and theft.
When damage occurs, what should you do? Sure, we would all like to say we know what our insurance covers, how to submit a claim, and receive the maximum amount to cover our losses, but most people will admit this is not the case. For most simple claims with minimal losses, the filing process and amount of the claim make it possible for most people to manage those issues directly.
When an insured individual suffers a major loss or has a claim denied, the assistance of a public adjuster may be an option to consider. A public adjuster is a professional and a licensed (in Florida) claims negotiator who can represent your interest in appraising and negotiating your insurance claim. www.PublicAdjuster.com provides the following guidance for when a public adjuster might be needed:
You don’t have the time to deal with the demands of the insurance company. People already have full lives. They work and have family commitments and may not want to deal with the stress of trying to get a claim processed and paid.
You don’t understand your policy. Insurance contracts can sometimes be confusing documents leaving individuals unsure of their coverage. Turning to your insurance agent for clarifications can sometimes help, but if you cannot understand your policy, consider asking a public adjuster for help. Most reputable public adjusters will review your loss with no obligation.
You don’t have the expertise. Filing an insurance claim (especially with extensive and complicated damages) can be daunting. Get help if you are confused and avoid mistakes that might affect your settlement.
Your damage is extensive. Severe property damage creates a variety of complicated claims issues. Claims that you are due under your policy and certain types of damages can often be missed. Certain expenses may also be placed in the wrong claims categories. Identifying hidden structural damage, valuing your loss properly, and accounting for possessions and valuables can impact the value of your claim.
The insurance carrier is offering a quick payoff. Insurance company research shows that the quicker a policyholder gets paid-off the happier they are. Unfortunately, what appears to be great customer service can sometimes be an attempt to get rid of a claim and get you to settle for less money due to the stress and desire to “get it over with.” Our only advice here is to take your time and make sure you are protected. You should not be rushed or forced to sign anything until you understand the true impact a claim can have.
The insurance carrier appears to be delaying your claim. This often happens when major catastrophes create claims log-jams. In many cases we have seen insurance companies fly in adjusters from out of state who do not understand state law. In all states, insurance carriers are required to respond to you and process your claim in a specified time period. If you are getting the run-around, get help.
The insurance carriers settlement offer appears to be inadequate based on your coverage. Unfortunately, insurance company adjusters and carriers do not always act in the best interest of their policyholders. They are in business to turn a profit and may value damages to your property differently than you. Or, they may determine that you are not covered for some of the damage. Sometimes offers will not even approach the value of restoring the damaged property. This is where an expert who uses the same estimating software as the insurance carrier and understands insurance policy language can help.
Your insurance claims adjuster is discouraging you from hiring a public insurance adjuster. Insurance claims representatives that are afraid to deal with a licensed professional may be a red flag. You should be the only one determining if hiring your own public adjuster makes sense and is worth the cost.
What does it cost to hire a public adjuster? Public adjusters charge a percentage of the settlement for their service to you. The public adjuster is not paid until you are paid. There are no upfront fees for their services. Percentages vary from adjuster to adjuster, so it is best to shop for the best adjuster for you. The maximum percentage that a public adjuster in Florida can charge for a claim is 20% of the claim paid after you sign the contract with them. In the event of a declared emergency by the Governor’s office, that fee is reduced to 10% for any claim made in the first year after the date of loss. After the first year, the maximum amount that can be charged reverts back to 20%.
As with all hires, if you are placing your trust in a professional to assist you, review their record and find a public adjuster that has proven experience with your issues and objective confirmation of their expertise. You may want to start on www.BBB.org/SEFL and find a BBB accredited public adjuster. Check them out on other sites like Google and Yelp, ask for references, and, again, review their specific experience and outcomes working with situations similar to your own. Only sign the contract after you are confident and comfortable that you have a real partner with the experience and track record to help you fully resolve your claim.