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The Value of Working with a Public Adjuster - When Negotiating Property Claims

For carriers as well as consumers, a Licensed Public Adjuster can be an invaluable resource when evaluating property losses from storms and other unforeseen incidents.  Yes, there are Company Adjusters who, as insurance company employees, dedicate themselves solely to the rapid settlement of property claims.  And no doubt, many Americans can recount the memorable slogans and jingles that have effectively underscored this message while shaping insurance company brands.  Given that context, I would like to review three such slogans for the purposes of this article.

"Like a Good Neighbor State Farm is there" ... "You are in Good Hands with Allstate" ... "Nationwide is On Your Side!" ...  All are catchy jingles designed to reassure the public these companies will do everything possible to process claims in a timely manner should a home, auto or business loss occur.

Even with the best of intentions, however, what we read and hear in marketing campaigns does not necessarily translate into superior service.  For the record, I have no doubt the three companies mentioned have excellent customer service records with their policyholders. This article is not meant in any way to disparage the services of insurance companies.  On the contrary, this is an attempt to inform the industry that a Licensed Public Adjuster can be of immense value when working efficiently and effectively with the Company Adjuster to negotiate claims and settlements to cover property loss.

The conundrum faced by insurance industry executives demands that they provide the best insurance coverage at the best premium with the hope a claim is never brought against the policy.  The premium that's paid for home, auto and business coverage is called "insurance."  As policyholders, we all expect to have our assets covered in the event of a property loss.  Naively, we often expect coverage to be 100%, but that is invariably mitigated by limits on insurance coverage and deductibles, not to mention what is and is not covered.

When an individual purchases a home, one of the first requirements asked of the homeowner by the lending institution is, “Do you have a hazard insurance policy?”  Such insurance policies offer peace of mind to both lender and homeowner.

Public Adjusters only handle first party property claims for policyholders. This article addresses the three types of property and casualty claims adjusters:

1. Company Insurance Adjusters are Insurance Company employees who work on behalf of their respective employers and policyholders to resolve claims in a most efficient manner.
2. Independent Adjusters are outside consultants brought in to represent the interests of the Insurance Company when asked to evaluate specific property losses.
3. Public Adjusters are the only licensed professionals in the "adjuster industry" who work exclusively for policyholders in negotiating first party claims. 
 
The policyholder will have many issues to address with their insurance company, including what is and is not a covered loss.  Policyholders will need to immediately review precise coverage with their insurance company adjuster to determine all aspects of their policy. This is the first step in the claims process once the policyholder is safe from harm and has surveyed their property damage(s).

In virtually all cases, there will be limits and deductibles.  In addition, there are more serious concerns which will need to be analyzed to make certain each property loss is adequately assessed so that prized possessions can be restored to pre-occurrence condition.

Most Insurance Company Adjusters do a very reputable job in helping policyholders during the initial phase of one's property loss.  However, there are many known cases where homeowners were less than satisfied with the outcome of their claim settlement. (Ref. "Delay, Deny, Defend" authored by Distinguished Law Professor, Jay Feinman, Rutgers School of Law), which asserts that policyholders would do well in contacting a Public Adjuster firm to review the damage to their property.

Just recently, The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) announced that more than $5.1 million dollars was returned to policyholders in Tennessee in 2016. This restitution was the result of TDCI Insurance Investigators mediating between insurance companies and policyholders to get denied claims overturned and paid.  Says TDCI Assistant Commissioner, Michael Humphreys, "We encourage Tennesseans to reach out to us with questions or concerns regarding insurance products and services.”  (Full article appeared in Winchester Herald Chronicle 01/17/17.)

Could the costly mediation between insurers and regulators in Tennessee have been avoided if policyholders had retained the professional services of Public Adjusters to help in preparing the necessary documents when initially submitting claim information? 

Public Adjusters are there to assist homeowners through the very difficult process of filing and negotiating a claim settlement.

The "Value of a Public Adjuster" is a phrase developed many years back with one goal in mind ... To help homeowners/property owners and insurance industry insiders realize there is help available right in their own community when they experience a property loss. Public Adjusters are local experts who can help get homes and prized possessions back to full RCV, Replacement Cost Value. 

Insurance Company Adjusters do work successfully with Public Adjusters in negotiating claims.  That said, if more insurance companies worked with public adjusters, could policyholders be better served?  That is a question that needs to be asked before a policyholder attempts to handle his/her own claim. 

Public Adjusters are licensed in 45 states, and are allowed to work in Alabama, Wisconsin, and South Dakota, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  Only Arkansas and Alaska restrict the practice of public adjusting. 

The Department of Insurance in respective states oversees the license of a Public Adjuster, regulating all aspects of the rules and regulations necessary to work as a Public Adjuster.  As stated previously in this article, the Department also oversees Insurance Companies while serving as advocates for policyholders.

Ideally, a policyholder would never experience a property loss and an Insurance Company would never have to cover a claim. Realistically, however, when an occurrence happens, wouldn’t it be great to have a Company Insurance Adjuster and a Public Adjuster working together from the onset to assist policyholders and avoid what so many consumers in Tennessee had to endure?