2008 Insurance Guide
Do you need your own claims adjuster?

Angry that your insurance company isn't moving as fast with that claim check as you'd like? Or maybe the adjuster's offer is less than you need to cover your losses? Perhaps you need your own adjuster.

Public adjusters assume all of the duties necessary to get your claim processed, including making an inventory of the loss and presenting your case to the insurance company. A good public adjuster has experience in the industry and will understand your contract and the company's responsibilities right down to the fine print. In exchange, a public adjuster receives a percentage of your claim.

"For the most part, people like using (a public) adjuster because they like the idea that someone is working on their behalf versus someone working on behalf of the company," says P.J. Crowley, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute.

But the decision to hire your own adjuster is far from a slam-dunk. Finding a competent public claims adjuster is a lot like finding a medical specialist during a health crisis: It takes some research at a time when, chances are, you need to move fast.

Since you will be paying the adjuster yourself, you don't want to hire one unless it's really necessary.

"If they're good, it really makes a lot of sense," says Chris Farrell, host of the nationally syndicated television show "Right on the Money!" and author of " Right on the Money: Taking Control of Your Personal Finances." "And if they're bad at it, you've really created a nightmare for yourself."

There are some horror stories. "Some public adjusters, to justify their fee, will exaggerate their claim," says James Markham, senior vice president and general counsel for the American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters and the Insurance Institute of America.

And some insurance company adjusters may bristle if you bring in your own expert, he says.

"Some company adjusters are instantly suspicious or even antagonistic whenever they have to deal with a public adjuster," Markham says.

Most often, public claims adjusters are called in for large property claims, says Rick Lambert, chair of the agent and broker section committee for the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter Society.

For smaller claims (less than $25,000) or auto claims, which are typically based on a fairly standard formula, it's probably a waste of money to hire a public adjuster, he says.


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