Five Reasons to Hire a Public Adjuster for Your Hurricane Harvey Property Insurance Claim
With widespread property damage expected from Hurricane Harvey, many property owners will be seeking out assistance and advice for their property insurance damage claim. One of the most common questions we receive as these calls come into the office revolves around the benefits of hiring a public insurance adjuster. It still amazes us that so many policyholders have not heard of our profession or understand what public adjusters do. So while we try to educate and not blow our own horn, I’ll try to answer that question in hopes of giving readers a basic understanding of the benefits of hiring public adjusters and the role they play in the insurance claims process.
Put simply, Public Adjusters are state licensed and trained experts on property insurance loss adjustment. They are retained and employed exclusively by policyholders who have sustained an insured loss to assist in preparing, filing, managing and negotiating insurance claim settlements. Most importantly, public insurance adjusters act as advocates for the policyholder with their insurance company, managing every detail of the claim and working closely with the policyholder to provide the most equitable and prompt settlement possible. A competent public insurance adjuster should be expected to review the insured’s policy for coverage, inspect the loss site immediately, analyze and document property and personal content damages, assemble claim support data and determine current replacement costs.
The alternative is to manage your own claim, trust your insurance company to send out a competent adjuster that will take the time to properly evaluate your loss and offer you a fair settlement that is adequate to return your property to its pre-damaged condition. In severe storms like Hurricane Harvey, we find that insurance company resources can be stressed and it can sometimes take several days or even weeks to get an adjuster to evaluate a property. Policyholders who are under stress to get their damage repaired sometimes settle for less than adequate compensation.
Worse yet, we see some contractors, water restoration firms and many unlicensed individuals telling policyholders they don’t need a public adjuster and will take care of the insurance claim which is considered practicing public adjusting without a license and strictly against the law in some states. Some of these individuals even have provisions in their contracts called “Assignment of Benefits” (AOB) that assign all proceeds and rights over to the contractor. Cost get inflated, workmanship suffers, the insurance company refuses to pay and lawsuits follow. If there is only one thing you remember from reading this article, it should be to keep control of your insurance claim. Don’t sign your rights away!
Sadly, we have even been told by policyholders that some insurance company adjusters have tried to discourage them from securing assistance from a public adjuster. Be that as it may, in the end it’s the home and business owner’s decision.
So why should you hire a public adjuster and what benefits might the policyholder get from hiring a public adjuster you might ask? Here are a few key benefits:
1. Fighting Your Claim: You need someone knowledgeable in “insurance speak” and the technicalities of policy language that can negotiate with the insurance company to get the best settlement on your claim and to make sure the process is done expertly and error free. There have been many instances where a policyholder was either told or thought they were not covered for a loss where we found coverage.
2. Experience and Skills: Handling a math problem is a cinch, but understanding your cryptic insurance policy requires more experience than you may have and skills that you don’t have time to acquire. In my opinion, insurance claim handling is as much art as it is a science. Many adjusters, whether it be an insurance company adjuster, independent adjuster hired by the insurance company or a public adjuster all have their own techniques in estimating losses. In the aftermath of a storm like Hurricane Harvey, many adjusters will be brought in from other States to help handle the thousands of insurance claims. This can be problematic especially if the adjuster is not knowledgeable as to the specific laws and regulations of the State of Texas and how it governs the payment of property insurance claims. So find out where your adjuster is from and ask questions!
3. Avoiding Mistakes: Placing value on the loss, identifying and accounting for possessions and valuables are facets of the claim that can be tedious but are absolutely necessary. Allowing restoration companies to remove or discard property before it is documented is another problem. Making one mistake when filing your insurance claim could result in not receiving an adequate settlement for your damage.
4. Getting Paid Quickly: Policyholders are generally happy if they get paid quickly. However hindsight is always 20/20. Don’t let your insurance company force you into a settlement that is lower than what you’re entitled to for the promise of getting you your settlement money faster. Public adjusters see this tactic everyday and can help negotiate an upfront payment while moving the claim process along more quickly so you have money in your hands faster.
5. Network of Contacts: An experienced public adjusting firm will have the right contacts in their database to be able to get the damage cleaned-up and fixed quickly. Whether it’s plumbers, contractors, roofers, mold or remediation firms. When you need to trust someone the most, use the resources of an experienced public adjuster to handle the intricacies of your insurance claim settlement and get you moving forward again.
If you’d like to read more details about hiring a public adjuster and their role in the insurance claims process, please see the articles we’ve posted on the benefits of hiring a public adjuster.
We see the public adjuster as a vital link in the insurance claims process by acting as an advocate for the policyholder, managing their expectations and getting claims settled fairly. In this litigious society, many homeowners think their only recourse is to hire an attorney to fight the insurance company. While this is certainly an option, we find that we settle approximately 93% of our claims without the assistance of an attorney and when one is needed, we provide several names of experienced property insurance lawyers the property owner can interview. The bottom line is that there are plenty of options for homeowners to protect themselves during the insurance claim process. Don’t short change yourself.
If you have questions regarding any property insurance storm damage related issues caused by Hurricane Harvey please submit a question to one of our insurance claim experts or feel free to call us. As always, the professional public insurance adjusters at Tutwiler and Associates are here to help with any questions you may have.