If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t memorized the details of your home insurance policy. But these details are important in case your property ever suffers major damage in a fire, hurricane, earthquake or another disaster.public claims adjuster

Even if you spent time reading your policy from front to back, you may find it chock full of legalese. However, in cases of home or property damage (with the exception of cars), you can turn to public insurance adjusters to decipher your policy and help you get a fair settlement with your insurance company. Public adjusters work for both individuals and businesses, but most cater to the individual policyholder.

To hire a public adjuster, ask friends for trusted referrals or search for a public adjuster in the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA) directory.

You should always check that the public adjuster you hire is licensed to provide their services in order to avoid any scams.

Key Takeaways

  • A public adjuster can evaluate serious damage to your home after a disaster.
  • Public claims adjusters can minimize the hassle of negotiating with your insurance company.
  • Public adjusters typically charge around 15% of the total value of your claim settlement.

What does a public insurance adjuster do?

An adjuster can arrange for a survey of the damage, estimate its cost and help you file a complex claim. They will keep track of the countless phone calls with your insurer and attend meetings. They may also help you find new living arrangements if your home is uninhabitable.

According to the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA), most states require public adjusters to be tested and licensed. In addition, public adjusters must follow state guidelines that outline their job duties and the claims process. Adjusters aren’t allowed to handle bodily injury claims, car insurance claims or third-party claims (such as a trust or an estate).

You probably don’t need to hire an adjuster if your home suffers a small mishap, such as minor smoke damage from a stove-top fire. But you may want to hire an adjuster if your home experiences serious damage, such as earthquake or flood damage from a burst pipe.

Pros and cons of hiring a public adjuster

Public claims adjusters minimize the hassle of collecting documents and evidence, while also negotiating with your insurance company. An adjuster will file the necessary paperwork with your insurer, arrange for inspections of your damaged property and haggle with your insurance company if it refuses to pay your full claim.

Public adjusters also help their clients communicate effectively with their home insurance companies in order to expedite claim payments.

However, there are some things to look out for when hiring a public adjuster.

While most adjusters will be fair and honest, every profession has a few individuals who do not live up to their industry standards, which is why it is important to work with a reputable adjuster that is licensed and can legally provide their services. A public adjuster’s fee is based on a certain percentage of your settlement’s total value, so some adjusters may be tempted to exaggerate the value of your claim in order to secure a larger chunk of money for themselves.

How much it costs to hire a public insurance adjuster 

Public adjusters typically charge between 5% and 20% of the total value of your claim settlement and their fees are not covered by your insurance policy.

“The thing to remember is that a public adjuster can’t get you more than you are legally entitled to and they will charge you that fee,” says Jeanne Salvatore, former spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute (III).

For example, if your insurance company reimburses you for $10,000, the public adjuster could receive $1,500 if they charge a 15% rate.

How to hire a public insurance adjuster

NAPIA can help you find a public insurance adjuster where you live, but according to Salvatore, it is also a good idea to ask your friends for referrals. 

It is important to make sure any public adjuster you hire can legally work in their trade. Salvatore also recommends checking their qualifications with your state insurance department. Avoid any individuals who go door to door after a major disaster to offer their services, unless you double-check their qualifications.

Once you hire a public insurance adjuster, you’ll have to sign a contract with them. It will define what percentage you will pay to the adjuster out of your total settlement. If you have second thoughts, you may terminate the agreement within a certain period, generally 72 hours after signing. If the adjuster doesn’t perform the job correctly, you can file a civil lawsuit against them.

The best time to hire an adjuster is at the beginning of a big claim. That will allow the adjuster the best chance to expedite your claim. However, if you didn’t hire a public claims adjuster and then find yourself in the midst of a claim nightmare, you can still bring in a public adjuster in the middle of a claim.

Michelle Megna contributed to this article.

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