Your home is likely one of the most significant investments you will make in your lifetime, so it can be nerve-wracking to experience a loss and have to file a claim with your homeowners insurance company. A public adjuster can take some guesswork out of the process, but this convenience comes with an out-of-pocket cost. Bankrate breaks down what a public adjuster is so that you can determine if it would be beneficial to hire this third-party professional.

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What is a public adjuster?

When you file a claim, your homeowners insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to you. The adjuster’s job is to evaluate your property damage and determine a fair payout amount based on the levels of coverage you carry on your policy.

Rather than using the insurance company’s adjuster, some policyholders choose to hire a public adjuster instead. Like a claims adjuster, a public adjuster will assess the damage to your property, help determine the scope of repairs and estimate the replacement value for those repairs. The big difference is that instead of working on behalf of the insurance company like an insurance claims adjuster does, a public claims adjuster works for you.

After your homeowners insurance company issues the settlement, the adjuster receives a percentage of the payout amount as payment for their services. It is important to note that insurers do not consider the payment amount owed to the adjuster when determining the claims payout amount. This payment would come from the homeowner who hired the adjuster instead.

When should you hire a public adjuster?

A public adjuster will handle your claim and communicate with your insurance company on your behalf. Some people feel that the extra expense of hiring a public adjuster is worth it, if only for the peace of mind that they won’t have to handle the claims process themselves. Additionally, the public adjuster will look closely at your claim and help ensure that no damage is overlooked. Depending on what they find, you might get a larger insurance settlement to repair the identified damage.

A public adjuster might be right for you if:

  • Your claim is large or damage is severe
  • If you find working with insurance companies to be stressful
  • If you’ve had a poor claims experience in the past
  • You are too busy to correspond with your insurance company
  • If you feel that claim settlement is too low

How do you find a public adjuster?

Finding a public insurance adjuster is relatively easy. Start by searching the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA) website. The NAPIA Directory lists every public adjusting firm required to be licensed in their state of operation. You can enter your city and state or ZIP code to see a list of adjusters in your area.

The other way to find a public insurance adjuster is to get a recommendation from friends or family members. Ideally, you want to hire someone reputable and effective. Reading online customer reviews can also be helpful.

Once you find a few contenders, find out how much they charge. Most public adjusters keep a percentage of the final claim payout. It could be as little as 5% and as much as 20%. If you are facing a large claim with a potentially high payout, factor in the price before choosing to hire a public adjuster.

What should you expect from hiring a public adjuster?

When you hire a public adjuster, they will handle the entire claim process on your behalf. They will visit your home to survey the damage, do a comprehensive review of your claim, calculate their recommended payout and coordinate with your insurance company to process your payout.

Before settling the claim, you have the opportunity to negotiate with the insurance company to get a higher payout. If you choose to do this, your public adjuster will act as the liaison so you never have to speak with a representative or negotiate yourself.

As mentioned, working with a public adjuster could lead to a higher payout. A report from the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA) reported that homeowners who hired their own insurance claims adjuster received a higher payout from their insurers. According to the study, the typical settlement for homeowners with a public adjuster was about $22,266, compared to $18,659 without a public adjuster.

However, there is no guarantee that you will get more money by hiring a public insurance adjuster. Your insurance company will consider the public adjuster’s findings, but they may not agree with their recommended payout.

Frequently asked questions

    • Many homeowners hire a public insurance adjuster after receiving a recommended claim payout from their insurance company’s adjuster that is lower than what was expected. However, hiring an independent adjuster at that point could add weeks to the claim handling process. The best time to hire a public claims adjuster is before you file the claim or at the beginning of the claim process.
    • No, a contractor and a public adjuster have separate responsibilities. Although a contractor is qualified to survey home damage and estimate repair costs, they cannot handle insurance claims. If the public adjuster is questioning damage or what it might cost to fix, they can decide to bring in a contractor for a second opinion.