After a major hurricane hits Florida, thousands of people are faced with having to clean up and repair the damage caused by the storm. This also means filing claims with insurance companies and hoping that they’ll pay enough to cover the costs of the repairs.
Hiring a public insurance adjuster can help to make the insurance claims process go more smoothly and help to ease the stress homeowners are facing in the aftermath of a hurricane.
What Is a Public Insurance Adjuster?
A public insurance adjuster is a third-party representative who works on behalf of the insured. Homeowners, for example, can hire a public insurance adjuster to handle their insurance claims. The public insurance adjuster would then work on behalf of the homeowner and all of their services would be paid for by the homeowner as well. The payment, however, is contingent upon winning a claim as it is a percentage of whatever the adjustor can get from the insurance company for you.
How Is a Public Insurance Adjuster Different from an Independent Insurance Adjuster?
A public insurance adjuster and an independent insurance adjuster are similar in that they both are third-party representatives who aren’t employed directly either by the homeowner or by the insurance company. Instead, they’re hired by either party to outsource part or all of the claims filing process.
A public insurance adjuster works on behalf of the homeowner or other insured party while an independent insurance adjuster works on behalf of the insurance company.
What Is an Independent Insurance Adjuster?
When you file a claim with your insurance company, an insurance adjuster has to come out and do an assessment of the damage to determine how much the insurance company is liable for. After an event like a hurricane, an insurance company might not have enough of its own insurance adjusters on staff to process all of the claims coming in. They would thus hire independent insurance adjusters to handle some of these claims.
Can a Public Insurance Adjuster Also Be an Independent Insurance Adjuster?
One person could be licensed as both a public insurance adjuster and an independent insurance adjuster. However, they cannot act as both on the same claim.
How Does a Public Insurance Adjuster Help Homeowners?
A public insurance adjuster can help homeowners to file a claim properly with insurance companies and who can help policy holders to settle their insurance claims. They may be more knowledgeable about the insurance claims process and can help homeowners to get more money from their insurance companies by advocating on their behalf.
How Much Money Can a Public Insurance Adjuster Get for You?
A public insurance adjuster cannot get you more money than what is specified in your insurance policy. However, they can help you to get more of what’s allowed in your policy than the insurance company is initially willing to pay out.
How Much Does a Public Insurance Adjuster Cost?
Typically, a public insurance adjuster can charge a fee of up to 20% of your settlement from your insurance company. Because it’s percentage-based, the public insurance adjuster’s pay depends on how much they’re able to help you get from your insurance company.
Do Fees Change During a Disaster?
The percentage may change during a disaster like a hurricane. In Florida, the standard fee a public insurance adjuster can charge is 20%, but this is lowered to 10% after a state of emergency is declared. That lower rate continues for that particular claim for up to a year following the filing of that claim.
How Do I Find a Public Claims Adjuster?
If you’re going to hire a public insurance adjuster, you’ll want to make sure you’re hiring one that is trustworthy and who is fully qualified to help you.
Find a Public Claims Adjuster
One way to find a public claims adjuster is to ask your friends and family if they’ve got any recommendations. If they don’t know anyone, another option is to search online. You can search for businesses and professionals in almost any industry at the Better Business Bureau. You can also look at the National Association of Public Service Adjusters website, which allows you to search for a public adjuster by state.
Check for Licensing and Qualifications
Before you hire anyone, make sure to check for their qualifications. You’ll need to make sure that they’re licensed to practice in Florida. Additionally, you can check with the Better Business Bureau to look at the adjuster’s track record.
Know What to Avoid
If a public insurance adjuster is pressuring you to sign a contract before you’ve fully read and understood it, you should look elsewhere. Similarly, it’s a good idea to avoid an adjuster who goes door-to-door following a storm. Typically, reputable adjusters are too busy processing and handling claims to seek out new clients by knocking on doors.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that your public insurance adjuster doesn’t have a pre-existing relationship with your insurance company if they’re licensed as both a public and an independent insurance adjuster.
Questions to Ask a Public Insurance Adjuster Before Hiring
- Are you licensed in the state of Florida?
- Will you personally handle my claim?
- How many other claims in my area are you handling?
- How long have you been practicing as a public insurance adjuster?
- Can you provide references from previous clients?
- Can I still communicate with the insurance company’s claims adjuster if I hire you?
- How much would I owe you if I decided to end the contract early?
- What is your fee?
- Will you work with a specific attorney or law firm?
How to File a Claim with Your Insurance Company
Some public insurance adjusters can help you with the entire process of filing the claim in addition to handling claims that have already been filed. Whether you’d prefer to file your claim yourself and bring in a public insurance adjuster afterward to handle the claim or have the public insurance adjusters help with the filing process, you’ll need to do the following things:
Gather Your Insurance Information
You’ll need the following information:
- The name of the insurance policy holder
- The address of the home listed on the insurance policy
- The contact phone number for the policyholder
- The contact email address for the policyholder
- The name of the insurance company
- The name of your insurance company representative, if you have one
- The insurance policy number
Document the Damage
The more details you can gather, including photographic evidence, of the damage that occurred, the better. Thoroughly inspect your property before calling your insurance company and make sure that you document everything. After a hurricane, that will be a lot and could take some time, but it’s important to be able to prove the full extent of the damage to get as much from your insurance policy as possible.
Report Damage Repaired
If you had to start repairing some of the damage because it was dangerous, make a note of that. Take pictures of both before and after so that it’s noted for your claim, but if there’s an emergency situation, make sure to do what’s necessary to handle it. If you have to call the police, an ambulance, or the fire department, also make a note of that and keep a copy of your report.
What Does My Insurance Policy Cover?
A public insurance adjuster can help you to recover more money than you might be able to on your own, but they can’t get you money for anything beyond what’s actually in your policy. You can, however, ask your adjuster to help you understand your policy and make sure you know exactly what’s covered.
What Is Hurricane Insurance?
Depending on your insurance company, hurricane damage may be covered by your homeowners’ insurance policy and doesn’t necessarily need a separate policy. However, there may still be a separate deductible for hurricane damage on top of your regular deductible.
What Is Flood Insurance?
A homeowners insurance policy or a hurricane insurance policy may cover damage from wind or rain, but may not include coverage for damage due to floods. If you live in an area of Florida that is at high risk of flooding during a hurricane, you may need to have a separate flood insurance policy. However, many people unfortunately don’t maintain one because flood insurance can be costly.
What Resources Are There to Help After the Hurricane?
If you don’t have flood insurance or your insurance policy doesn’t cover floods, you’re not completely out of luck. Fortunately, there are resources offered by the government to help with disaster relief.
FEMA stands for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and it’s the government organization that handles disaster recovery. Hurricanes generally fall within the purview of FEMA and they have resources to help individuals as well as wider recovery efforts.
FEMA offers flood insurance policies with the National Flood Insurance Program. If you already have a policy with NFIP, you can file a claim there. If you don’t, it may be a good idea to look into opening a policy for the future.
You can apply for disaster assistance with FEMA at DisasterAssistance.gov. If you need assistance after Hurricane Ian, you can apply here: https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4673. This site provides state, local, and national resources that you can access for help and information about how to apply for assistance.
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