What Is a Public Insurance Adjuster?

Public Insurance Adjusters Explained

Woman standing near a car on a street, talking to an insurance adjuster after being involved in a car accident.
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A public insurance adjuster works with policyholders to help them get a fair claim settlement from an insurance company after a loss. For a fee, they can help you file a claim for common commercial and residential property damage including from fires, floods, and hurricanes.

Let’s explore exactly how a public adjuster can help you manage the claim process and help you get the most for your loss. Also, learn some tips for hiring a good public adjuster.

Definition and Examples of Public Insurance Adjusters

A public insurance adjuster advocates for your claim with an insurance company. The public adjuster manages the claim from start to finish, including inspecting and analyzing your home’s damage, reviewing your insurance policy, and assembling estimates and data to support the claim. They serve and represent you (policyholder), not the insurance company, similar to a consumer advocate.

Public adjusters typically work with residential or commercial property losses. They may also represent and negotiate an insured for car damages. State regulations usually require public insurance adjusters to take coursework, pass an exam, earn a license, and participate in continuing education.

A public adjuster is not an “independent adjuster.” Independent adjusters work on behalf of the insurance company on claims, not for policyholders.

For example, if a tree falls on your house and causes roof and structural damage, you could enlist the help of a public insurance adjuster for a fee. They will assess the damage and help you prepare and file a claim with your homeowners insurance company.

How Public Insurance Adjusters Work

Public insurance adjusters aim for your claim’s success. “Insurance companies are getting tighter on what they will pay for. They become more adversarial as their policies become tighter and they take away coverage,” Anita Taff, president of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, told The Balance, said in a phone interview.

Some insurers treat claims with “delay, deny, defend” tactics, Taff said. An insurance adjuster can help them navigate the industry, yet many people may not understand a public insurance adjuster’s role or that they can contact one after property damage.

When you report a property insurance claim, your insurance company will likely assign an in-house or independent adjuster to you. However, this adjuster works in the company’s best interest, not yours.

In contrast, a public adjuster works only in your interests, often handling the entire claim process and acting exclusively as your representative.

How Public Insurance Agents Assess Major and Minor Damage

A public insurance agent can guide you on the best course of action with your particular property damage. With a minor incident such as graffiti on your gate, they can advise you whether it’s worth filing a claim.

“We will tell them if a loss isn’t worth reporting and save that claim mark against them on their insurance renewals,” said Taff, who is also owner of Taff Claim Services.

An adjuster may use Facetime or Zoom to allow the adjuster to review the damage, or the adjuster might visit your home. They will then tell you whether they’re able to take on your case, or if it’s worth the cost for you.

With more severe claims such as wind, hail, fire, or water damage, you’ll want to report the incident to your insurance company immediately, then start reaching out to licensed, reputable public insurance adjusters recommended by friends and family. Meet with one or two and investigate their experience, fees, and customer satisfaction history before signing a contract to engage their services.

Finding the Right Insurance Adjuster

Finding the right insurance adjuster entails more than just reviewing their fees, which are a percentage of the financial settlement.

“As with any other profession, do your due diligence, and ask about experience and knowledge,” Taff said. “Meet with the public adjuster, listen to what they know, check references and licenses, talk to other clients, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

A public adjuster can help walk you through your options and explain what’s covered under your policy. Often, good insurance adjusters can provide clients with peace of mind that somebody they trust is advocating for them, Taff said.

The best public insurance adjusters also can help you receive more from your claim than you may have received otherwise.

Do I Need a Public Insurance Adjuster?

A public insurance adjuster may be more important if you have a large and complicated claim or if you can’t seem to negotiate a reasonable settlement with the insurance company.

If you have a small, straightforward insurance claim, using a public insurance adjuster may not be worth the fee.

An insurance company isn’t automatically obligated to accept the public adjuster’s estimate, and you may need further negotiations

Public Insurance Adjuster Fees

Public insurance adjusters are usually paid in commission as a percentage of your claim settlement after it’s finalized.

Typically, a lower commission rate is charged for a higher expected amount, while a higher commission rate is charged when you expect a lower amount. The commission rate can also be affected by the speed, time, knowledge, and legal issues involved.

Some states cap the maximum amount allowed. For example:

  • In North Carolina, adjusters can’t take more than 10% of the settlement in fees after a catastrophic incident.
  • In Florida, public adjusters can’t charge more than 10% involving a declared state of emergency. Otherwise, or after the emergency’s first year, Florida’s claims commission cap is 20%.
  • In Maryland, there is no fee cap and the fees are negotiable.

The adjuster may also recommend additional fee-based services such as from consultants, specialists, or legal professionals.

Key Takeaways

  • Public insurance adjusters work for you, acting as your advocate and representative with the insurance company when you want to file a claim.
  • The fee for a public insurance adjuster is usually a percentage of your claim settlement.
  • A public insurance adjuster can visit your house to assess the damage and tell you whether their services would be helpful, such as when the claim is extensive and complicated.
  • When shopping for a public insurance adjuster, review their licenses and reputations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the risks of using a public insurance adjuster?

Particularly after a large natural disaster, watch out for scammers or people posing as public adjusters. They may charge high service fees but not represent you well. Or they may commit identity theft with your personal information. Read your contracts in full and never pay a public insurance adjuster upfront, because their fee will be based on the settlement amount.

What is the difference between a public insurance adjuster and a self-employed insurance adjuster?

A public insurance officer guides you through the claims process and advocates for your claim with the insurance company. They serve and represent you, not the insurance company. In contrast, an independent insurance adjuster serves the insurance company.

How can I find a good public insurance adjuster?

Always ensure the public adjuster is licensed or registered with your state and look for complaints with the Better Business Bureau or online. You can ask family, friends, or others you trust for references. Insurance adjusters who are members of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters follow a set code of conduct.

What is the average cost for a public insurance adjuster?

An average public insurance adjuster’s fee is usually around 10% of the claim settlement and paid out of the settlement. Fees can vary by adjuster, so make sure you fully understand the terms of your contract.