Do I Need a Public Insurance Adjuster?

Woman standing near a car on a street, talking to an insurance adjuster after being involved in a car accident.
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Most people start an insurance claim by contacting their insurance agent and giving them all the information needed. In many cases, their next step should be to call a private insurance adjuster. Unlike working with the adjuster assigned by the insurance provider, the private adjuster works for you, the policyholder.

Since the determination of the value of the loss hinges on the claims adjuster, it may be good to have someone experienced in your corner. Most people do not know about the existence of public adjusters and would not know to employ one after a loss.

Filing an Insurance Claim

When you experience damage to your home or car, or there's been a theft of your property, you may find yourself in a position where you need to make an insurance claim. Any time there is an insurance claim to be made, there is a good chance you are going to be working with an insurance adjuster who will be assigned to assess the damage and figure out what needs to be paid.

Although filing an insurance claim can be burdensome and can possibly raise your insurance rates for the future, when it comes to car accidents or disaster situations, most insurance policyholders will choose to file a claim and pay the deductible, rather than take on the entire financial burden of the loss themselves.

Three Types of Claims Adjusters

The insurance claims adjuster is the professional with whom you will probably deal the most during the insurance claims process. There are three main types of insurance claims adjusters.

First, and most common to most policyholders, is a company adjuster—also known as a staff adjuster. They are an employee of the insurance company. This type of insurance claims adjuster is the one most people would be dealing with for their insurance claims.

An independent adjuster is an independent contractor that the insurance company pays to handle the claim for the insurance company. Sometimes when an insurance company has a lot of ongoing claims—like after a natural disaster—they don't have enough in-house adjusters to cover demand. The provider will hire reputable and licensed independent adjusters from outside of the affected area to take care of claims for their policyholders.

The third type of adjuster, the public insurance adjuster, works for the policyholder. The public insurance adjuster is an independent and licensed insurance adjuster, hired by the policyholder, and working on their behalf during the claims process.

Public adjusters are required to be licensed in most states. However, some states do not require this process. Check with your State Insurance Commissioners Office and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to find the specifics for your state.

Using a Public Insurance Adjuster

Most people do not use a public insurance adjuster because the insurance company provides an adjuster to them as part of the insurance policy benefits. Also, they may not know such services are available to them. If you hire a public adjuster, involve them in the claims process as early as possible. The company will still send an adjuster from their end, but it helps if your public adjuster handles speaking with them during the initial fact-finding process.

Public insurance adjusters cost you money because they charge fees. Each adjuster will have a schedule of base fees and added fees for their services. However, most will charge a percentage of the total settlement amount.

Conversely, insurance provider-assigned adjusters are either paid by the company—as an employee—or will charge their fees to the provider—if they are hired, independent agents.

Reasons to Hire Public Adjusters

There are several reasons why some policyholders choose to hire their own public insurance adjuster. In events where there could be large or total loss claims the public adjuster may help the policyholder receive a larger sum to rebuild or repair the property.

When a person feels the company's assigned insurance adjuster does not have their best interest at heart, or there are disputes in the claim assessment that have not been resolved by the insurer, hiring a public insurance adjuster is an option to get a second opinion and try to obtain a favorable claim settlement.

Sometimes the policyholder feels that the company's adjuster is not communicating well with them. They may be in disagreement with the decision of the company adjuster—for example, they feel the adjuster did not review the claim properly, or that damages were left off.

Some policies—especially commercial policies—can be complex. The use of a public insurance adjuster helps the policyholder to understand these complex documents. They will investigate the costs of repair or replacement of structures or contents as well as calculate any loss of business expense.

Also, someone may hire a public insurance adjuster just because they are too busy to have to deal with the claims process. The adjuster will complete and document the claim and negotiate the settlement.

Working With Your Insurance Provider

Although having your own public insurance adjuster sounds like a great way to go, it is not always necessary. Insurance is regulated, and if you aren't sure of what is covered or not, you should always try to communicate with your insurance representative first to get clarification and help.

Insurance companies work hard at adjusting claims, and it is in their best interest to settle claims fairly. The reasons things are covered or denied should be clearly outlined in the policy wording and insurance contract, based on the limits within the policy.

In today's competitive market you can often get help by speaking to your representative. If you are having problems, ask to speak to a supervisor at the insurance company. This may help get things resolved.

If you are still concerned with how your claim is being handled, you can contact your State Insurance Commissioners Office or the ombudsman of your insurance company for help.

Learning what to expect in an insurance claim and keeping open communication will help you understand the claims process with your insurance company and help you get the most money out of your claim. This may help you avoid having to spend any extra money paying a private adjuster.

It is best to first try to see how the claims process goes with the insurance company and their company adjuster. There are many very experienced and fair insurance adjusters working for insurance companies who will do just as good a job handling the policyholder's insurance claim as a paid public insurance adjuster would.