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Florida tornado victims offered practical advice to achieve a fair insurance claim settlement

Florida public adjuster Tutwiler and Associates says property owners can avoid claim mistakes, huge uncovered clean-up bills and claim denials given the current insurance claim environment. 

January 20, 2016 / TAMPA, Fla. / 

With the recent Florida tornadoes leaving many homeowners and businesses in the Sarasota and Cape Coral area with significant property damage, understanding some insurance claim adjusting basics can play an important role in achieving a fair settlement. “Because policyholders don’t understand the claims process, we see them make mistakes that end up costing money or even have certain parts of their claim denied,” says veteran public adjuster Dick Tutwiler, founder and CEO of Tutwiler and Associates Public Adjusters   

Mr.Tutwiler offers property owners some advice and considerations for managing the claims process.

  • First and foremost, get everything in writing. Keep good notes on who said what and when. Ask for phone numbers and email addresses so you confirm what was said about who is going to do what and when. “Document everything to avoid conflicts or misunderstandings that may cause part of your claim to be denied or compromised,” commented Mr. Tutwiler.
  • Choose your vendors carefully. Remember, you have the right to choose your own vendor. Some insurers hire preferred vendors to minimize costs. Good for them but not necessarily good for you if you are expecting the repairs to be done right. Consider getting at least one other detailed independent estimate of the repairs. “Evaluate them and obtain repair estimates from other licensed vendors as necessary to make sure your damage is fixed properly,” says Tutwiler.
  • Ask for a copy of the adjuster's “damage estimate” report and review it for accuracy or mistakes. When there is extensive damage to a wide area, damage tends to get overlooked as insurers rush to get damages assessed quickly. Inexperienced adjusters and contractors may eyeball things like roof damage and recommend partial repairs based on simple visual inspection. This may cause terrible problems in the future as hail and flying debris can damage the membrane of roofs and set people up for severe water damage in the future. “Some adjusters simply don’t spend enough time assessing policyholder’s damage. When the adjuster comes calling, please make sure inspectors physically get onto your roof and inspect for damage. While your roof may not look damaged, a closer inspection might reveal that it needs replacing rather than patching,” comments Tutwiler.
  • Before you sign any contract for clean-up work, make sure your insurance company has approved it. Also, do not sign a contract with what is called an “assignment of benefits” clause. “This basically, hands over the rights to your entire claim to the restoration company, says Tutwiler. 
  • Try to have your contractor present during the meeting to inspect the damage, discuss the scope of repairs and answer questions that the adjuster might have. If the adjuster advises you to start the repairs, get it in writing. If your contractor wants to repair damaged items not discussed during the meeting, call the insurance company and get their permission in writing first. If needed, schedule another joint meeting to re-inspect the loss and damage.
  • Once the insurance company confirms your damage, do not be afraid to ask your insurance company for an advanced payment to help you with immediate expenses.
  • Never sign a “Sworn Statement Proof of Loss” unless you completely agree with the insurance company and their assigned adjuster as to their scope and method of repair. Also, make sure the line item prices are accurate. “Once you sign a Proof of Loss, you may not be able to go back to the insurance company for more money should other damage arise or repair price increase due to the supply and demand for labor and materials in the local market. If a partial proof of loss is demanded for an advance payment, make sure you note on the form that it is a partial proof and not a full and final settlement,” says Mr. Tutwiler
  • If your property has been damaged to the extent that it is uninhabitable your insurance policy may provide a coverage called “Additional Living Expense” or “A.L.E.” Under this coverage, you and your family may be entitled to rent another home of the same size, like kind and quality as well as be reimbursed for any extra expenses you may incur such as food and temporary lodging. Keep in mind that this coverage is based on what you “incur” meaning you have to spend the money first before your insurance company will reimburse you. “This is why it is a good idea to keep receipts for all transactions or keep all of your transactions on one credit card so you can easily print your statement out to make the claim,” commented Tutwiler.

Finally, remember that contractors cannot “handle” your insurance claim. By law a contractor can only supply a repair estimate to the insurance company. “If you want to have an adjuster that works for you manage the claim and make sure the settlement covers all damages, consider contacting a public insurance adjuster to represent your best interests,” states Tutwiler.

Tutwiler and Associates
Phone: (800) 321-4488
For more information, please visit

About Tutwiler and Associates: Tutwiler and Associates is a firm of public adjusters licensed in 10 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands specializing in commercial and residential property loss adjusting. With well in excess of $113 million in client success stories over a 27-year history, the Florida public adjusters work exclusively on behalf of policyholders to help them achieve the maximum settlement amounts they can fairly and honestly recover based on their loss and their policy provisions. Professional help from the adjusters at Tutwiler and Associates can help clients obtain a fair recovery under their policy. The Gulf Coast based public adjuster firm is committed to public service and strives to educate its clients about commercial and residential windstorm and hurricane losses, flood damage, fire, smoke and water damage, collapse, hidden decay and mold losses, sinkholes, loss of stock, and business interruption.