Why Hiring a Public Adjuster Makes Sense

When Hurricane Wilma damaged an apartment complex in Lauderdale Lakes in 2005, the insurer initially paid $200,000. But after engaging a public adjuster to review the actual losses and handle the claims process, the insurer eventually paid out $4.285 million.

In Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Naples and throughout Florida, the story is the same: hiring a licensed public adjuster results in a substantially larger claim payment. In fact, a 2009 survey by the State of Florida found that there was a 747 percent increase when an adjuster was hired at the start of the claims process.

Why is there such a large difference? The answer is simple: a public adjuster represents business owners, condominium associations and homeowners – not the insurer. It’s like hiring a tax lawyer or accountant who can advise you on the best course of action and act as your professional advocate, rather than asking the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to do you a favor and audit your return!

However, studies indicate that fewer than 3 percent of all commercial property insurance claims – including property and casualty, business interruption, and errors and omissions – are handled by a licensed public adjuster. That’s because most Florida property owners and managers are confused about the role of these professionals.

First of all, a public adjuster understands the complicated terminology and the “fine print” in a policy that affects every aspect of your claim. Take a moment and ask yourself the following questions:
When was the last time you read your policy?
Do you know what the declaration page says in your policy?
Do you understand the concept of a layered policy?
Do you know the differences between a business owner’s policy and a homeowners policy?
If you suffer a loss, do you know how to send in an accurate report?
Do you know how to submit a proof of loss?
Do you know the important deadlines contained in your policy?

Most owners are as unfamiliar with the intricacies of a typical insurance policy as they are with the Internal Revenue Code. But in either case, making a mistake can have serious financial consequences. Too often we hear, “I want to see what the insurance company will give us and then I’ll call you back.” Why? Did you tell your lawyer last time you got sued, “I’ll see what the judge says and then I’ll call you.” Did you call your accountant last April and say “I’ll see what the IRS wants from me, and then I’ll call you.” No, you turned to them because as professionals, they provide a service you trust.

It’s important to understand that a public adjuster is a professional who can help you at a time when you are most vulnerable – in the hours and days after a loss to your business or property. And since public adjusters are compensated on a contingency basis, there is no upfront cost for their services.

Once you engage a public adjuster, you can expect to receive expert advice about what you are entitled to under Florida law and your policy. The public adjuster can also help you with the business planning process by advising on the likely size of a settlement and when that money is likely to arrive.

A public adjuster can also bring in a contractor, engineer or other building professional at no cost to you. These experts can determine the accurate damage to your property ensuring a fair compensation.
After all, you need to know the true cost of rebuilding after a hurricane, tornado, fire or other catastrophic loss. Even with a smaller claim, such as damage from a leak, flood or mold, hiring a public adjuster can result in a fair and adequate settlement that allows your business to continue. Bringing in a public adjuster won’t affect your premiums either – it’s simply hiring a professional.

While public adjusters do not provide legal advice, they work closely with attorneys and understand the importance of gathering facts and evidence to support an owner’s claim in the courts, if necessary.

Ultimately, a public adjuster’s goal is to achieve a final settlement that is accurate and fair for the client. It may take several months to accomplish that goal, but compared with the insurer’s initial offer, the end result is likely to be substantially higher.

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