insurance

Hiring a public adjuster

What to expect from an adjuster

A public adjuster should assess your losses and help you "get every penny you deserve," from your insurance company, says David Lowitz, director of marketing and business development at East Coast Public Adjusters in Coral Gables, Fla.

But don't expect miracles.

"Understand the insurance company is not going to agree to everything you want just because you hired an adjuster," Skidis says.

Homeowners should be aware that hiring a public adjuster after you've already started processing and negotiating your claim can slow the process.

"If we are in upfront, it's not that big of a deal," Skidis says. But usually, homeowners don't contact the adjuster until they start to have problems with the adjuster who had been assigned to them by the insurance company. In those cases, hiring an adjuster might add another 30 to 60 days to the process because the public adjuster has to revisit and renegotiate much of what's been done with the previous adjuster, he says.

Does it pay off to hire an adjuster?

Sometime the wait pays off. But there are no guarantees homeowners will get more money by hiring an adjuster than they would on their own.

A study conducted in Florida, which analyzed claims at one insurance company in 2008 and 2009, shows policyholders who hired public adjusters generally received higher settlements than those who didn't hire public adjusters. According to the study, the typical settlement to those who had the help of a public adjuster was about $22,266, compared to $18,659.

But public adjusters come at a cost, usually about 10 percent of the amount you get from the insurance company.

Can you negotiate the adjuster's payment?

The rate is negotiable, says Lowitz, "but we pretty much stick to 10 (percent) to 20 percent of the claim," he says.

The bigger the claim, the more leverage you have to negotiate.

"Sometimes it depends on the size of the loss," Barrack says. "If it's a small loss, the adjuster might be spending a considerable amount of time on it (but the settlement amount will be low), so the percentage will generally be higher for smaller losses."

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