Here's why working with a public adjuster can be good for an independent insurance agency and for its customers:
1. After a disaster, insureds have hundreds or even thousands of questions and worries. In a large-scale disaster, many of your local customers will be coming to you for answers. You may find yourself answering the phone every few minutes to address more questions and to resolve their fears. As an agent you will find it necessary to read the policy and then get back to the insured with their answers. You may find yourself at odds with the insurer if you add your own opinion or interpretation of the policy language and it differs from the insurer's. This is an area where a public adjuster can add value since they will be the ones working directly with the insured and the insurer to address all coverage issues.
2. Customers who have suffered a loss are very emotional and upset. You will likely be the first person they call about their loss. Your customer will be in need of some immediate assistance and resources. Some of the things they will need are emergency services and temporary housing. Customers will also ask you to report their claim for them and will inquire as to the entire process. It is likely they will ask for a copy of their policy with a full explanation of their coverages. This is an important process that can be handled by a public insurance adjuster.
3. For the insured who experiences a disaster, working with numerous company adjusters, independent adjusters and contractors can be cumbersome, time-consuming and sometimes may even be infuriating. However, you as an independent agent want to stay neutral - you don't want your customers yelling at you for decisions the insurer may be making and you certainly do not want your insurance company clients upset with you either. This can be a very challenging position to find yourself in. This is another reason why it makes sense to engage a public insurance adjuster – they are outside of the decision making process and will be an advocate for the insured.
4. Our experience in adjusting large losses and large scale disasters has shown there are a large number of insureds that are under-insured. This is usually the result of the insured shopping for the lowest rates and ending up with inadequate coverage limits. If your insured finds themselves under-insured, the natural thing for them to do is to point their finger at their agent and accuse them of not properly insuring them. Sometimes, a very skilled and astute public adjuster can find additional coverage within the policy to minimize the impact. When selling a policy I recommend the agent spend additional time with the insured to fully explain the coverages that may quickly reach or exceed limits in case of a large loss – such as personal property with the sub-limits; additional structures; landscaping; and building code upgrade to name a few. A good public adjuster will look for all coverages within the policy with a goal of minimizing the effect of an under-insured situation.
5. During the entire claim process it is common for the insurer and insured to have differing opinions on a variety of issues. A professional public insurance adjuster will relieve the burden from the agent by answering and explaining coverages, processes, values and options available to them. In addition, the public adjuster will be able to obtain a value of the loss that is independent from the insurer's. The goal of the public insurance adjuster is to pursue all coverage the insured is entitled to under the policy. Our experience has shown this is not always the same goal the insurer has. A professional public insurance adjuster can be a strong advocate for the insured and will work with the agent, insured and the insurer to resolve the claim expeditiously for its full value.
6. Remember that a professional public insurance adjuster is the only adjuster that can represent the insured. The company adjuster and independent adjuster are only authorized to work for the insurer. If the customer does not engage a public insurance adjuster, then they will find themselves without their own representation – or will rely upon their agent to perform that work and you will quickly discover you have a second full-time job. It is an arduous and tenacious task to juggle all elements of a claim and one that should really be performed by someone that does this on a full-time basis.
If you help your customer pick a claims professional who understands the insurance claims business, adheres to a professional code of ethics and has an excellent reputation, you will have done a great service for them.
Guidelines for How to Pick the Right Public Adjuster:
When our Metro Adjuster first went out to view this commercial wind & rain loss with the insurance company, he knew that he would have a battle on his hands. When he received the insurance companies first offer he was not surprised to find out that it was only $629.64. After all it was only some damaged ceiling tiles and paneling as the insurance company adjuster was quick to point out.
Being a trained professional Metro Adjuster, he knew differently. He knew that the insurance company owed more for this loss and he was willing to fight for it! Numerous telephone calls and letters later, he reached an insurance company settlement of $14,792.96! This settlement represents an increase of almost 24 times the insurance company’s initial offer or 2,300% more. We would say that Metro more than earned its fee on this one! Great job!!
Many homeowners are concerned that filing a claim will raise there insurance rates. This is definitely not the case. After all, the reason we pay homeowners insurance is to protect us against loss of our most valuable investment, our home. Therefore, the insurance company does not raise your rates for using the very service you are paying for. Raising your rates for filing a claim would be equivalent to paying your car payment, and the monthly amount going up because you drove it.
One company laughed at the thought of premiums going up because a homeowner filed a single claim.
When it comes to auto insurance, filing a claim can have serious repercussions because your insurance company might jack up your premium the next time you renew. But what happens when you file that first homeowners claim? Will your premiums skyrocket or stay the same?
According to insurance companies, nothing happens. One company's representative even laughed at the thought of premiums going up because a homeowner filed a single claim. Spokespersons for many of the 10 largest homeowners companies went out of their way to stress this: "A single claim, almost regardless of its size or type, won't raise premiums."
And what insurance companies are saying seems to hold true in practice. Bob Hunter, the Consumer Federation of America's insurance expert, confirms, "One claim won't trigger a price increase."
One state department of insurance spokesperson says, "It's almost unheard of for a single claim to raise premiums, especially if it is an act of God." Act of God refers to an event caused entirely by the forces of nature.
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Sometimes, your insurance company’s adjuster is slow to act on your claim. Sometimes, he’s wrong. Maybe you need to find a good adjuster to help you. Here’s how to find one.
Angry that your insurance company isn't moving as fast with that claim check as you'd like? Or maybe the adjuster's offer is less than you need to cover your losses? Perhaps you need your own adjuster.
Public adjusters assume all of the duties necessary to have your claim processed, including making an inventory of the loss and presenting your case to the insurance company. A good public adjuster has experience in the industry and will understand your contract and the company's responsibilities right down to the fine print. In exchange, a public adjuster receives a percentage of your claim.
Finding an adjuster takes some research
"For the most part, people like using (a public) adjuster because they like the idea that someone is working on their behalf vs. someone working on behalf of the company," says P.J. Crowley, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute.
But the decision to hire your own adjuster is far from a slam dunk. Finding a competent public claims adjuster is a lot like finding a medical specialist during a health crisis: It takes some research at a time when chances are you need to move fast.
Because you will be paying the adjuster yourself, you don't want to hire one unless it's really necessary.
"If they're good, it really makes a lot of sense," says Chris Farrell, host of the nationally syndicated television show "Right on the Money!" and author of “Right on the Money: Taking Control of Your Personal Finances. ”And if they're bad at it, you've really created a nightmare for yourself."
There are some horror stories. "Some public adjusters, to justify their fee, will exaggerate their claim," says James Markham, senior vice president and general counsel for the American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters and the Insurance Institute of America.
And some insurance company adjusters may bristle if you bring in your own expert, he says.
"Some company adjusters are instantly suspicious or even antagonistic whenever they have to deal with a public adjuster," Markham says.
Ask questions, do your homework
Most often, public claims adjusters are called in for large property claims, says Rick Lambert, chair of the agent and broker section committee for the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter Society. For smaller claims (less than $25,000) or auto claims, which are typically based on a fairly standard formula, it's probably a waste of money to hire a public adjuster, he says.
If you have a large property claim and are considering a public adjuster, ask yourself two questions: First, is your company acting quickly to replace your losses? Second, have those efforts been effective and fair?
"Is the company out there within 12 hours, or has it been a week since the fire and no one's come?" says Lambert, also vice president of Early, Cassidy & Schilling Inc., an independent insurance agency in Rockville, Md. "Most good companies are going to come out there pretty quick."
Most well-known companies also are going to play fair when it comes to claims, he says. But, Lambert admits, in today's economy when companies are hurting, "Some are going to play hardball."
There are also a few other instances when it could be practical to hire a public adjuster:
You've sustained a partial loss. Half the house burned down. Now you've got to document which of your possessions survived the fire, which burned and which are damaged beyond repair.
You don't have the time to follow up on your claim. Whether you're a two-income couple with kids or a busy professional who travels frequently, filing a claim and following it through will take time, especially if you don't have a record of your possessions and their value.
You had loved ones injured or killed in the incident. If you're spending your days at the hospital or mourning a family member, you may not even want to think about the claims process.
The loss is business-related. Rather than assign an employee to handle the claim, some companies will outsource the job.
Even though you'll want to move fast, you still have to do your homework before you hire a public adjuster.
"It's delegating," says Farrell. "You're hiring their knowledge and expertise. It looks good on paper, but it's easy to get ripped off."
And while it should go without saying that you don't hire the public adjuster who knocks on what's left of your door after a fire or tornado, plenty of desperate folks have done just that and really regretted it.
Courtesy of Public Adjuster Information
A house fire at any time can put you and your family’s lives in great danger. Yet, fire experts say you can dramatically reduce the risk of injury or death by just following these five simple safety tips:
1. Make sure your house number is visible from the street so emergency vehicles can find you. Consider using oversized reflective or illuminated numbers at the curb, preferably next to your mailbox.
2. Install smoke detectors in places where they will activate in time for you to save yourself and family. This is usually within a foot of the ceiling. Make sure you test them monthly by pressing the ―test‖ button, and replace batteries at least once a year. Don’t rely on the alarm to make an intermittent ―beep‖ to change batteries.
3. Create a fire escape plan with an emergency route for each family member’s bedroom. If bedrooms are on the second floor, purchase a simple chain ladder for escape from windows. Arrange for a safe family meeting place outside the home in the event fire strikes. This way you can account for each family member instantly.
4. Place an adequately sized fire extinguisher near the kitchen area of your home. Also, place one at the opposite end of the home. Most homes use undersized extinguishers. Even if a small fire breaks out, you will want all the suppression you can get.
5. Remove all weeds, tree branches, leaves, and litter away from the perimeter of your home. Put a screen on your fireplace and keep it closed at all times. It’s best to sleep with your bedroom door closed to give yourself more time to escape in case of a fire. And teach your children what to do if their clothes catch fire: Stop, Drop, and Roll!
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I am a License and Bonded Public Adjuster in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. My mission is to walk you down the path to the American Dream of homeownership and much more...