Hayden Haskins | author
ICHQ | Site Author
If you’re working your way through the claims process after reporting property damage to your homeowner’s insurance company, sooner or later you’ll be working with an insurance adjuster.
The insurance company will send out someone they’ll probably call an “independent” adjuster, but don’t be fooled by the choice of words: this person works for the insurance company, not you. They may not be directly employed by the insurer, but they’re working on the insurer’s behalf. That means the adjuster is incentivized to undervalue insurance claims and save money for the insurer, rather than make sure the settlement amount offered is fair.
So how do you protect yourself? One possibility is to hire a public adjuster. But getting a good one is easier said than done.
RELATED POST: Independent Adjusters & the Myth of Impartiality
What Is a Public Adjuster?
Unlike independent adjusters, who work for the insurance company, public adjusters work for the claimant. They are licensed professionals who are empowered to assess damaged property, gather evidence, and help property owners file insurance claims. And because they work for you, the should—at least in theory—have your best interests at heart.
Hiring a public adjuster will, of course, cost you money. But if you believe the insurance company is significantly lowballing you, a public adjuster may be able to provide you with the assessment and evidence you need to significantly increase the value of your claim settlement.
That being said, a public adjuster isn’t necessarily your only option in this scenario.
Do You Really Need to Hire a Public Insurance Adjuster?
Ultimately, this comes down to your specific circumstances, personal preferences, and who else you’ve hired to work on your insurance claim.
A lot of the services that public insurance adjusters provide can also be handled by an experienced and qualified property casualty attorney. In addition to helping you review your insurance policy and assess the damage to your property, an attorney can negotiate directly with the insurance company on your behalf. A public insurance adjuster cannot legally do this in Louisiana. And, if the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement or is acting in bad faith, a lawyer can handle your litigation.
There are, however, instances when a public insurance adjuster has expertise in assessing a specific area or category of property damage that makes hiring one worth the cost.
Generally speaking, we recommend first booking a free consultation with a property damage attorney. If you hire Insurance Claim HQ, we’ll guide you through the decision. If we believe that hiring a public adjuster (or any other specialist, such as an engineer) is warranted, we’ll have that discussion with you.
RELATED POST: Engineers: Supporting the Structure of your Property Casualty Claim
What to Consider When Hiring a Public Claims Adjuster
So, let’s assume that you’ve considered your options and decided that hiring a public adjuster to help with your property insurance claim. How do you decide which one to hire?
In my experience, here are the main things you should be thinking about.
Cost and Fee Structure
In Louisiana, as of 2022, it is currently not lawful for a public adjuster to charge you a percentage of your recovery. They can only charge a flat fee or reasonable hourly rate. That may change as early as Jan. 1, 2023, if legislation that’s currently being considered in the state legislature (SB186) is adopted, but for now, it’s the law.
So, the first piece of advice is that if you run into a public adjuster in Louisiana, and they want a percentage of your claim, don’t just walk away. Run away. I have seen public adjusters out there that charge a percentage of the recovery and lie about how they do this. Be very wary of these people.
This is something you really need to watch out for. They will make it sound appealing. But what you should ask yourself is, “if this public adjuster is willing to break the law to get my business what else is this public adjuster willing to do?”
Of course, if Louisiana changes the law here, it will be a totally different ballgame. Under the proposed changes, a public adjuster’s fee can be up to 10% of your recovery, contingent on recovery. Whether or not this payment structure makes sense for you, or whether you’d prefer to stick with a flat or hourly rate instead, will depend on your circumstances.
The second thing you need to look at is the qualifications of the public adjuster. How do you do this? Personally, I ask for client referrals.
You could also ask around to attorneys or call other public adjusters and see what they know about these people. At the end of the day, it’s more important to have a public adjuster that knows what he or she is doing than to have a public adjuster that is a smooth talker.
Some public adjusters are very good salespeople. That does not mean that they know how to write an estimate. That does not mean that they will be able to adequately advocate for you. If they have a bad reputation, that may follow your claim and hurt your recovery.
I would also ask about experience. I’m always amazed how many clients are scared to do this. You might want to ask questions like:
- Have you ever handled a claim like mine?
- Have you ever handled a claim against my insurance company?
- What experience do you have that makes you the best person to be a public adjuster on my insurance claim?
There’s no other way to do this other than to ask. You can try to search public records, but the reality is most public adjusters don’t appear in too many public records. This is because if a claim is filed, ultimately, it goes to an attorney.
You should also check and make sure that that public adjuster hasn’t been in any trouble. I treat this one a little looser. I’m not saying that you should be okay with the public adjuster that has been in trouble. I’m warning you that there are plenty of public adjusters out there that I personally would not trust my family to go to, but still nevertheless seem to have a clean disciplinary record.
You might want to ask what types of organizations the public adjuster works with. Is this a lone wolf that no one else in the industry trusts? Or is this someone that the rest of the industry looks to, trusts, and works with?
Reputation and Professional Mentorship
The final thing you might want to look at is whether this public adjuster has assumed any kind of mentor role within the community. I can think of one very qualified public adjuster here in Louisiana that teaches other public adjusters. He teaches classes. He works with new public adjusters on becoming better.
One day, I asked another public adjuster that I like which other public adjusters he trusts, and he gave me the same name. I think that speaks volumes to both of their integrity and industry knowledge. It indicates how good someone is really going to be for your claim if at the end of the day this is a public adjuster that other people look to.
Of course, every rule has its exceptions, but, nevertheless, wouldn’t you feel more comfortable with someone that others go to? I’m always happy when a client comes to me that had previously had a public adjuster and it’s a name I recognize for good reasons instead of bad ones.
So, again you might want to call an attorney and say, “Hey, who is it that you talked to?” “Who is it that you trust?” “Who do you bring on claims?”
Final Thoughts on Hiring a Public Insurance Adjuster
Again, a public adjuster isn’t right for every claim. But it’s likely that some of you reading this post will decide to hire a public adjuster anyway, before (or even instead of) hiring an attorney.
If that’s the case, I think at a minimum if you decide you’re going to put your claim in the hands of a public insurance adjuster—and not an experienced attorney—you should make sure that the public adjuster knows what they’re doing.
I must warn you. Don’t just trust the smooth talker. Don’t trust the person that plays to your emotions.
I’m even aware of one public adjuster that is what they call a “faith-based” public adjuster in the industry. He literally tells his clients that he believes God sent him to help. That sounds appealing if you are deeply religious. But again, I would ask: why is he using that approach to find clients? Is it that he’s playing to someone’s emotions and deep sense of religion or is it that the public adjuster is actually the best qualified public adjuster to handle the claim?
You wouldn’t hire an employee without testing his qualifications. Why would a public adjuster be any different?
RELATED POST: Knowing Your Worth: Tips for Negotiating Insurance Settlement Property Damage Claims With the Insurance Company
Need Help With the Claim Process? Contact Insurance Claim HQ Today
Whether you’re just beginning the claims process, or you’ve already spoken with the insurance company’s adjuster and aren’t confident you’re getting a fair claim settlement, we can help. To find the answers and diligent advocacy you need, call (844) 587-8395 or email Insurance Claim HQ today to schedule a consultation with our New Orleans law firm.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.