Choosing the Right Public Adjuster Can Make a Difference in Your Claim Settlement
We recently handled a property claim involving a serious electrical fire in the home of a Clearwater Largo, FL family that caused significant fire, water, and smoke damage to the building and personal property. After being hired, the homeowner told us of a situation that is sadly becoming a recurring theme when fires occur. What we are referring to are the restoration contractors and public adjuster chasers who offer their services by bombarding the homeowners with confusing information and high pressure sales tactics.
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 a 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.
This particular owner 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! In this particular case, the property owner’s son was a contractor. However, his specialty was new construction and not disaster restoration. Initially they decided to try and settle the claim on their own. 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. One curious item that the adjuster called for in the estimate, was 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 owner’s son took a stab and wrote his own repair estimate, (two pages long on a legal pad) and sent it in 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, our guess is that the carrier also knew that their own adjuster had 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 our firm after checking references. I took control of the claim and asked the insurance company to send out another adjuster to inspect the damage. We met with the new adjuster and were able to negotiate an additional $134,248 within a few weeks. This was certainly a step in the right direction.
After reaching an impasse on other related claim issues due to interference by the inside claims manager, the insured informed us that they wanted to exercise their right to resolve the claim via the Appraisal Process. Basically they wanted to resolve the matter instead of having to hire an attorney and take 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, I got a call from the insurance company’s attorney wanting to settle the claim. An offer was made and after a little negotiation, a settlement was reached much to the satisfaction of all involved. Insurance companies nowadays are taking a beating and it’s no wonder why they seem to treat every policyholder like a fraudster. High pressure contractors and public adjusters beating up on them makes for a very adversarial situation. Everyone is litigious. If the companies would simply allow their adjusters to adjust the claim without fear of being sued, the policyholder would be better served. Let us know what you think.
If you have questions regarding any property insurance claim related issues please call 800.321.4488 or contact us to submit a question to one of our public adjuster or insurance claim experts.