On May 11, 2014 a serious electrical fire broke-out in the home of a Clearwater Largo, FL family causing significant fire, water, and smoke damage to the building and personal property. During and after the fire was extinguished many contractors and public adjuster chasers offering their services bombarded the homeowners with confusing information and high pressure sales tactics. Sadly, this is becoming a recurring theme when fires occur. We continue to believe that property owners need to realize that it is in their best interest to stay away from the majority of these solicitors until they have done their due diligence and have coordinated plan of action in place. They must also be wary not to sign any contract that assigns the entire insurance claim over to a stranger who now owns the proceeds of their claim. In our industry this language is called Assignment of Benefits.
While this particular owner was pressured immensely, he was smart enough not to sign anything until he had a chance to think about it, consult with family members and their personal attorney. Most importantly, they wanted to call and check references of some of the vendors that had approached them. Smart! Also, in this particular case, the property owner’s son was a contractor. However, his specialty was new construction and not disaster restoration. So they wanted to give it a shot and work with the insurance company to settle the claim. What’s the harm…. right?
Their insurance company (one of the largest writers in the State of Florida) immediately sent out an Independent Adjuster who is contracted to represent them. The adjuster prepared a repair estimate, which totaled $62,188. Once curious item was that in the estimate, the adjuster called for soda blasting of the plaster walls. If you are an insurance professional who has worked even the simplest of claims, you are laughing right now! So the owners son took a stab and wrote his own repair estimate, two pages long on a legal pad and sent it in the to insurance company. Not necessarily the proper way to do things, but he gave it a stab. While the estimate was not written to the carrier’s format specifications, the carrier also knew that their own adjuster failed to accurately document the loss and damage in more ways than one. This created a standoff which dragged on for a few months.
After growing exceedingly frustrated, the homeowner gave in and decided to hire a public adjuster whose references had checked out. Rick Tutwiler, P.C.L.S. of Tutwiler and Associates Public Adjusters immediately took control of the claim and talked the insurance company into sending out another adjuster to inspect the damage. Inspections took place and Mr. Tutwiler was able to negotiate an additional $134,248 within a few weeks. While he was not done, it was an obvious step in the right direction.
After reaching an impasse with the second adjuster due to interference by the claims manager, the insured informed Mr. Tutwiler that they wanted to exercise their right to resolve the claim via the Appraisal Process so they could resolve the matter instead of having to hire an attorney and taking a chance on litigation. After all, the insurance company made some pricey mistakes and was not treating the owners fairly. That was wrong.
Before the appraisal hearing was set, Mr. Tutwiler got a call from the insurance company’s attorney wanting to settle the claim. An offer was made and after a little negation, a settlement was reached much to the satisfaction of all involved.
Insurance companies nowadays are taking a beating. From attorneys to rogue public adjusters beating up on them makes for a very adversarial situation. Everyone is litigious. If the companies would allow their adjusters to adjust the claim without fear of being sued, the policyholder would be better served.