Hiring a Public Adjuster (or Your own Private Adjuster)

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Hiring a Public Adjuster

Not all insurance claim adjusters are created equal, and there’s one type that many people may not be aware are available. Your insurance company will dispatch a designated independent adjuster to assess the damage and evaluate what your settlement should be, but independent adjusters work for your insurance company and not you, the policyholder. In contrast, public adjusters can be hired separately (not covered by your insurance), and they will work for you to ensure your damages are covered.

Though their titles seem contradictory and confusing, it may be easier to understand that a public adjuster is synonymous with a private one, and is a supplement that you must seeks out on your own. Independent adjusters get their name because they are typically contract representatives that can work for multiple insurance companies, but are considered staff adjusters. A public or private adjuster works on your behalf, often in opposition with the independent adjusters.

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As with contractors, you will want to shop around and choose the one best suited to deal with your case. Before you hire any public adjuster, here are some questions for you to consider.  

  1. Is the public adjuster licensed? Independent adjusters have a license to practice for a company, whereas public adjusters will have one to serve the policyholder. Verify that the public adjuster is licensed to practice, specifically in your state.
     
  2. What is the public adjuster’s experience? Public adjusters are there to advocate for you. A good one should have skills and expertise in insurance claims and settlements. The language in insurance policies can be convoluted and confusing, and you will want a public adjuster to help clarify any gray area that you may not understand, and protect your rights and benefits. Many public adjusters are former independent adjusters, and will know the inner workings and methods of insurance companies. Be sure to ask about prior experience, especially with similar cases as yours. You may even request references to recent clients if you want to follow up.
     
  3. What is the cost of a public adjuster? Most public adjusters are contingency-based; instead of taking a retainer or requesting regular payments, most will request fees that can range from 5-15% (10% is the average) of the final settlement. If you only want the public adjuster to help with portions of your claim, clarify and negotiate the terms prior to start. For example, if you hire a public adjuster to aid with disputes regarding specific repair, you will only want to pay him/her for work related to the issue. Many insurance companies may issue separate checks for repair and additional living expenses (in cases involving hotel and car rentals), and you won’t want to pay your public adjuster for the latter.

    Additionally in some states, a public adjuster may be required to work with an attorney. You may want to ask if the fee includes the attorney (and any associated agents or contractors of the firm), and not a separate contract/payment.
     
  4. Is this the public adjuster that will be assigned to your claim? Many public adjusters are part of a firm, and your initial meeting may be with an agent of the firm, but not necessarily your designated adjuster. You will have to work closely with your public adjuster, so open communication will be vital.

Times when a public adjuster may not be necessary:

  • If the claim is valued less than $20,000, it may not be prudent to seek supplemental aid, especially if a contingency fee is in place.

  • If there are no glaring disputes with the insurance company regarding your claim.