Who you gonna call? A public claims adjuster!

By Compuquotes Team on October 25th, 2010

Homeowners Insurance

If you have a small kitchen fire in your home that causes smoke damage, your homeowners insurance company will send out a claims adjuster to estimate the cost of repair and you'll eventually get a check for the damages. It's a pretty straightforward process.

But if you suffer a major fire that causes extensive damage, ruining expensive equipment and interrupting your income, your property insurance claim could get a little more complicated. Under these circumstances, you might want to hire your own public claims adjuster.

What is a public claims adjuster?

While most property insurance claims adjusters work for homeowners insurance companies, a public claims adjuster works for you, the homeowner, helping you assess your property insurance losses and prepare the often complex paperwork required by your insurance company. Your adjuster will help you inventory your losses and document the damage whether from flood, fire or vandalism, and will take on the job of settling your property insurance claims with the insurance company while you focus on the job of getting your life up and running again.

According to the Ohio Department of Insurance, public claims adjusters can help you file property insurance claims with serious losses related to such events as:

  • Floods
  • Fires
  • Wind or storm damage
  • Vandalism or theft
  • Business interruption

For this, you will pay, of course. Hiring a public claims adjuster to protect your interests is typically not covered by your homeowners insurance company -- insurers have their own adjusters they like to use -- and will cost you anywhere from 5 to 15 percent of your total insurance settlement. Sometimes the amount they can charge is established by your state insurance department.

For some people, that's a small price to pay for help on a complicated case. For other people, it just adds another layer of communication that makes a difficult situation even more confusing. Most homeowners insurance claims can be handled without an insurance adjuster, according to insurance officials in Ohio, and home or business owners who disagree with the damage estimates made by their insurance company's adjuster can always file additional claims themselves.

What to look for in a claims adjuster

Public claims adjusters need to be licensed by their states, and most states require they post a surety bond. You want someone who will aggressively protect your interests and get the best possible settlement for you, but you also want someone who knows how to work with insurance companies. Keep in mind that many independent insurance adjusters perform freelance work for insurance companies.

If you hire an adjuster, you should expect them to get down on their hands and knees if need be to examine possible damage to buildings or equipment. If you see them climbing a ladder to inspect roof damage or donning coveralls before disappearing into your building's crawl space, that's a sign you are hiring a thorough adjuster.

Questions to ask

  • Is my claims adjuster licensed? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, licensing requirements for adjusters vary from state to state, so check with your state insurance department to make sure the adjuster you want to hire has met all testing and licensing requirements.
  • Will he or she go to bat for me? When hiring adjusters, insurance companies look for people who are thorough, persistent and assertive - so you should also look for adjusters with those qualities.
  • Is he or she using the right technology? The Federal Emergency Management Agency notes that independent adjusters should be using a software estimation program that uses continuously updated national data to estimate material and labor costs, so if your potential adjuster glosses over it or looks confused when you ask about that, you may want to interview someone else for your job.

How to find a public adjuster

You can check the Yellow Pages for licensed public adjusters, but it's always a good idea to get a list from your state insurance department. Some states list licensed adjusters on their websites but others will require that you call in to get some names.

If you're a victim of a widespread disaster, such as a wildfire or flood, be wary of public adjusters going door to door looking for clients. The Insurance Information Institute recommends that you take the business cards of these adjusters and check out their background and license before hiring them. Never give a deposit until you've checked their credentials.

If your home is damaged

It's a good idea to assess and document the damage yourself before your public adjuster arrives. You may be aware of something that wouldn't be apparent even to a professional, so make a list of missing roof tiles and cracks in the wall that weren't there before.

You should also make basic temporary repairs so that your property doesn't suffer additional damage. Don't throw away damaged items until the adjuster has seen them.

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