The Role of the Public Adjuster Well-Adjusted

With ownership of property comes great responsibility—and a certain amount of risk. One of the most important aspects of property ownership is ensuring that in the event of loss, damage or accident, your investment is protected. In essence, protecting your investment is protecting yourself.

In an age where hurricane, deadly fires, and terrorism are part of everyday conversation, knowing your insurance policy and understanding how it works can make the difference between rebuilding your life after a crisis and bankruptcy. One of the resources available to policyholders is the public adjuster—someone with inside knowledge and years of experience in the insurance field who may be able to help weed through the sometimes monumental-seeming task of regrouping, rebuilding, and reinventing after a crisis.

Making the Call

Amid the stress of a fire, flood, or other emergency's aftermath, the task of making the call to the insurance company can be just another added stress a policyholder faces. The barrage of questions, the specifics—even the language of the policy may prove too much for someone who has just faced a great loss in their life. Lack of understanding and/or not having the presence of mind to recall every detail or every item lost, stolen or destroyed can have a huge impact on whether a policyholder receives a fair and accurate settlement from their insurance company.

That's where a public insurance adjuster may come in handy. While this is a role less familiar to most policyholders than that of the insurance agent or broker, adjusters have been around nearly as long as the insurance companies themselves. Public adjusters are there to step up in the time of crisis and to act as liaisons between the insurance company and the insured, to advocate for the insured and their claim, and to act as a docent to help the policyholder understand the language in their policy.

Insurance adjusters initially came into vogue about 100 years ago—not only to translate policy language, but to literally translate insurance policies into various languages. Immigrants to the New York metropolitan area who did not speak English well enough to handle their own claims would turn to members of their community to assist in facilitating reimbursements and settling claims. The market for this kind of assistance for all kinds of people quickly became apparent, and the title of public insurance adjuster became more common.

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7 Comments

  • As an independent adjuster for over 20 years, I have never found a speedy or expedient settlement of a claim by a public adjuster (PA). They have always slowed the process down. The PA charges a substantial fee (typically 10%) for their services that is supposed to be paid by the insured. As such, if the loss is truly $100,000, the PA's fee will cost the insured $10,000. That can represent a significant repair deficit. Maybe a full bathroom and a bedroom that can not be replace. The only way to remedy this is to add $10,000 to the loss. Actually inflate the loss by $10,000. Now the insured can pay the PA and "become whole." Who then really pays the $10,000 if the insurance company accepts the inflated estimate. You do! In higher premium payments. The urban legend that Insurance Company's minimize losses is not true. A loss is a loss. In property losses (where I work) a repair cost just what it costs. The extra $10,000.00 to the PA is not "a loss." (Physical injury loss are a separate issue and the subject of another whole discussion.) The Insurance Company is legally obligated (by insurance contract) to bring the insured "back whole" not "partially back" or "almost back." If the insured can support an increase above what the adjuster believes is the loss, the Company will pay it. They will pay it to save the premium dollars they are getting...monthly or quarterly.
  • to the above comment: yeah, right. You must write for one of the few good companies that actually pay claims. I see about 25 claims a week as a manager for a restoration company that are improperly paid, according to Texas Law. If there are so many properly paid claims then why are there so many class action lawsuits filed against the big boys? What is the need for the appraisal clause? Bad faith laws? complaint agencies with the departments of insurance? And as far as the higher premiums myth, we get premiums increases every year, you pay for the storm in advance when they project your premium amount for the year. So when they ask for an increase its not because there was a storm event, its because they had to pay money and they don't like that. They want it all back. The departments of insurance have taken a stand in states like Mo, Co, Fl and Tx that has made them a lapdog for the IC's and not an advocate for the citizens. BTW, I too am a cat adjuster with 5 years experience in Wind, hail and hurricanes, and flood. I have been chastised for paying what was fair and told to adjust my claim and make them supplement for it. PA's are becoming the normal practice in my state, TX to get a claim paid fairly. Not my opinion, its a FACT.
  • Keith. I think that claims are paid according to the Insurance Policy, not Texas law. What do you mean? Do you mean Flood Claims? That's Federal law. It's covered by the policy. or it isn't. It costs an insurance co. about 50k to take a case to trial. If they owe the Insured 1k more at the end. it just cost them 51k. They don't want to go to court. Like Anonymous said above, they want the premium dollars, and their reputation intact. State Farm offered to replace my burned out house for 223k. I could start building in a week. A Public Adjuster got to me and now we are estimating to repair and renovate the burned out shell. It took them 5 months to get to an agreed estimate with State Farm. See, it costs more to repair a destroyed home, than to build a new one, so the PAs go for it. Is this a properly paid claim? No, it is fraud, and that is a FACT. So I owed the PA 17k for the structure. I couldn't replace all my contents after paying them. A day never goes by when I don't curse the name of the public adjuster. In fact, I filed a complaint against them with the Md. Insurance Admin for Bad Faith, Fraud, and Misrepresentation. I don't think they are just a bad apple...I think the PA industry is a scam, by definition, for the most part. An exception may be the cat events, as you know, when you can use someone holding a place in line for you to get the appraisal, throw a tarp, and secure the remains. I just want to be a voice in favor of the big boys, because I think they are doing their jobs. Skip the PAs, They inflate claims, slow everything down, and raise rates.
  • A former insurance adjuster on Wednesday, October 01, 2014 5:23 PM
    I have to laugh at the above comments made by Keith and Valerie. I was a large loss property insurance adjuster for 2 different major insurance companies for 23 years. By the start of my 23rd year, I was burned out and disillusioned by all of the ways the insurance companies train their adjusters to undervalue insurance claims. The insurance companies brainwash their employees into thinking they know how best to settle a claim for a policyholder. It's like the fox guarding the hen house. An insurance adjuster adjusts the claim for the insurance company and not the policyholder. The vast majority of insurance adjusters do not know how to write a proper scope of repairs because they are brainwashed by the Insurance company's internal estimating guidelines. Which is always to clean & coverup instead repair and replace. Most of the adjusters are trained to do the bare minimum for their scopes at the lowest possible cost. So the ordinary policyholder has no clue about their coverages and what they are actually entitled to per their policy. But here comes the adjuster and advises them of only what is needed to get a settlement that benefits the insurance company and not the policyholder. Public Adjusters do not create damages nor do they create coverages. They level the playing field for the general public. We make sure the policyholder gets every penny they are entitled to under the policy. It is a rarity that the insurance company does that. I say to people would you perform surgery without a Dr? Would you go to court without an attorney? Why would you deal with an insurance company without a public adjuster? Insurance adjusters hate public adjusters because public adjusters hold the overworked and underpaid adjusters feet to the fire. We actually make them do their job. This causes them to spend more time on one file then they have time for. The really good adjusters love public adjusters because they recognize that we actually make their job easier for them and provide them the proper documentation for their claim file. To those who think we inflate claims, you must be wealthy to be able to walk away and leave money that is due to you, on the table. Quit letting the insurance company brainwash you about how bad PA's are & think for yourself.
  • Thanks for sharing! I actually had no idea that public adjusters were first used to help out policyholders who needed a translator to understand their policies. It's really cool that this assistance allowed the market of this job to expand into what it is today. After all, it can sometimes feel like insurance companies are speaking another language to us!
  • Thanks for letting me know that a public adjuster only ever works for the claimant and not the insurance company. My home was recently damaged in a flood. I'll have to get a public adjuster to help me figure everything out.
  • This article is handy should we need to file an insurance claim in cases of emergencies. You mentioned in this article how a public adjuster will prove to be helpful in times of crisis by acting as a liaison to the insurance company and advocating for our claim. In doing so, we'll have peace of mind that a public adjuster can help make the process of filing an insurance claim expedient and stress-free.