By MICHAEL W. FREEMAN
FOUR CORNERS | When three hurricanes struck Central Florida in the summer of 2004, causing widespread damage to homes and businesses, there were plenty of stories from angry owners of homes and businesses about lingering battles with their insurance companies over unsettled claims.
There were complaints that insurance claims adjusters, sent out by the insurance agencies to investigate damage claims, too often were simply trying to help the insurance companies avoid paying the claims - or to try to pay out as little as possible.
Adriana Velez, who works in the insurance industry as a claims adjuster, has heard those complaints numerous times. She said the solution for homeowners is simple: hire someone like her to work for them as a public adjuster.
Velez operates Insurance Claims Central Florida LLC, an Orlando-based firm that handles residential and commercial claims. The difference, she said, is that she works as a public adjuster - an insurance claims advocate working for the policyholder, not the insurance company. Her side, she says, "helps level the playing field" in fights over claims.
Public adjusters, she said, are licensed by the state and have the same training as claims adjusters working for the insurance companies. Public adjusters, she said, use their experience to protect policyholders, to negotiate settlements and to push for higher amounts than what the insurance companies may initially offer.
It's a new field, she said, but a growing one.
"This area is very virgin," Velez said. "Not many people know about this."
Velez recently spoke during a meeting of the Four Corners Business Council, a group of business owners who work in fields related to real estate, who meet once per month at USA Vacation Homes at Four Corners' Polo Park subdivision. Velez was invited to the meeting by one of the regular members, Kevin Delaney, owner of Delaney Insurance Group on U.S. 27 in Four Corners.
"What typically happens during a claims process is independent adjusters work on behalf of the insurance companies," Delaney said. "The insurance companies spend a lot of money on these agents, but typically they don't invest a lot in overhead. So they hire independent contractors. The independent adjuster works for the client."
Public adjusters offer a way to balance the scale, Delaney said.
"When you have a public adjuster, that person is committed to your needs," he said. "It's a voice for the insured."
Velez said public adjusters can be used for damage claims related to fires, hurricanes, leaking roofs, sinkholes, cracked tiles, tornadoes, water damage, smoke damage, vandalism, theft, flooding - virtually any and all physical-damage claims on residential and commercial properties.
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...