When you experience a major loss, the insurance claims process can be overwhelming. From preliminary work and paperwork to math, insurance rules, and negotiation, it can take a lot of time and effort to list, describe, and value everything that has been damaged or destroyed. Meeting with adjusters, inspectors, and contractors, and reviewing reports and estimates can be emotionally draining. On top of that, negotiating a fair claim settlement can be very difficult.
United Policyholders (UP) offers tips and tools to help you process your claim on your own. However, insurance is big business and you may find that learning the jargon, doing the math, and making sure your claim is thoroughly investigated and fairly paid is too much for you to handle on your own. Depending on your situation – work commitments, health issues, car-sharing obligations, an uncooperative insurance company – you may decide to hire a professional to help you with your claim. In most of the United States, you can hire an authorized public adjuster for a “contingent” (percentage) fee who will handle your claim and negotiate a settlement on your behalf. A public adjuster is a claims assistance professional that you can hire to represent you in the documentation and negotiation of your insurance claim.
They work only for policyholders, not for insurers. When looking for a public adjuster, it's important to find an experienced one with good references who will accept you as a customer for a fair price. The larger your claim, the easier it will be to find someone who meets those requirements. Many of the most experienced public adjusters prefer to handle large commercial and dollar lawsuits because they generate higher fees. Be very careful when reviewing references before hiring a public adjuster for a smaller dollar loss. Smaller losses can take just as long as larger losses, so make sure that the person you hire doesn't enroll you and then spend their time on bigger losses and leave you in suspense.
As with all professionals, it's important to carefully check references and hire someone you trust and feel comfortable working with. You can use the United Policyholders' “Find Help” directory to locate professionals in your area. Your insurance company may assign one or more different adjusters to your claim over time. Everyone can have a different approach and level of experience. One may have very little experience and be difficult to communicate with; another may be very friendly and have a lot of experience. Many people inform United policyholders that their first appraiser offered them a settlement sum, then left the company or was reassigned; when a new adjuster arrived, that new adjuster canceled the offer or forced them to start from scratch with the claim.
This problem is referred to as “rotary adjusters”. United Policyholders has helped pass laws requiring insurers to submit claims status reports to protect consumers from frustration, delays, and confusion due to appraiser turnover. When filing a claim, you may do well on your own or you may do better if you hire help. It's an individual decision that you must make based on your own circumstances. A licensed public adjuster can be your representative and advocate in the process of getting your claim “adjusted (processed) and “resolved” (paid).
As with any professional, some public adjusters are better than others. The last thing you need when you've suffered a major loss are additional problems; so review them carefully before hiring. Resist high-pressure sales pitches and don't hire prematurely. Documenting and managing a catastrophic property loss is time consuming and burdensome for even the most sophisticated policyholders. It's hard for you – the insured – to know if you're getting everything you owe under your insurance policy. In fact, your policy can provide you with extended coverage beyond the dollar limits established in the policy – much more than what the insurer offers. An experienced claims advocate on your side can be a strong voice for you in the process and provide you with much more information and negotiating power in your final insurance agreement than if you were on your own.
Rather than relying on the insurance company to decide how much you should be entitled to rebuild your home, hiring a good public appraiser can help you receive the best possible settlement. It is essential to check references and agree on fees and conditions before entering into a contract with a public appraiser. Once the contract is executed, you are required to pay for the services provided during the term of the contract. Visit UP's claims help library, read your policy and its endorsements (extras), and be sure to review the policy with any public adjuster you're considering hiring before hiring them. Some public adjustment firms send one adjuster to make an estimate and another to track and thoroughly analyze a claim. A public appraiser usually deals with the entirety of a claim on behalf of their customers; however some policyholders may still want some level of participation. It's also possible for an insurance company to refuse to negotiate with a public appraiser or refuse to pay for their services. When it comes time to file an insurance claim after suffering major losses due to natural disasters or other events beyond our control, many people find themselves overwhelmed by all of the paperwork involved in getting their claim processed correctly.
Hiring an experienced public insurance adjuster can help alleviate some of this stress by providing an advocate who will represent their interests in negotiations with their insurer. When searching for an adjuster it's important to find one who has good references from past clients as well as one who will accept payment at a fair rate based on the size of your claim. It's also important not to hire prematurely as some adjusters may enroll clients but then spend their time working on larger losses instead of focusing on yours. It's also important to remember that while an experienced claims advocate can provide more information than if one were handling their own claim alone, there are still certain risks involved in hiring an adjuster such as having an insurer refuse negotiations or payment for services rendered. Before signing any contracts it's essential that one reviews all references carefully as well as agrees upon fees and conditions beforehand so that there are no surprises down the line when it comes time for payment. In conclusion, when filing an insurance claim after suffering major losses it's important to remember that while doing so alone can be overwhelming there are professionals available who specialize in helping policyholders get their claims processed correctly so they receive all they are entitled too under their policy.