What is a public adjuster and what do they do?

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When you file a home insurance claim, a representative from the insurance company reviews your claim and estimates your payout based on the damage. But unfortunately, claim payouts are at times lower than expected, and you may feel entitled to more money.

The solution to getting a fair and accurate home insurance claim payment may be to hire a public insurance adjuster. Keep reading to learn what an insurance adjuster is, why you should hire one and how you can find a reputable insurance claims adjuster in your area.

What is an insurance adjuster?

An insurance adjuster evaluates insurance claims and calculates the policyholder’s payout based on the severity of the loss and their policy coverage. The adjuster also handles claim payout negotiation between the policyholder and the provider.

When you file a home insurance claim, you are assigned an adjuster who works for your insurance company. These professionals want to reimburse you for your claims fairly, but they also want to ensure the insurance company does not lose too much money.

Insurance claims adjusters have a stake in the insurance company that employs them. Ultimately, they are not working for you. Because of that, you may receive a lower payout from an insurance adjuster that your insurance provider contracts.

As an alternative, some homeowners choose to hire a public adjuster. A public insurance adjuster is an independent professional that acts on behalf of the policyholder. When the claim is settled, the adjuster receives a percentage of the payout.

Unlike a regular adjuster, a public insurance adjuster completes an in-depth review of your claim, surveys the damage in-person and estimates their own payout based on the evidence they collect. A public adjuster usually does a much more comprehensive evaluation than a regular insurance adjuster.

When should you hire a public adjuster?

There are a few instances when you might consider hiring a public insurance adjuster. When you work with a public adjuster, they take care of everything for you, so it is a good solution for people who do not have time to deal with a stressful claim process.

A public adjuster can also come in handy if you are facing a large claim. 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 payout to repair the identified damage.

Some homeowners choose to hire a public claims adjuster if they have had poor claims experiences in the past. An independent adjuster works for you, not the insurance company. There is no conflict of interest and your claim payout is the main priority.

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

When should I hire a public adjuster?

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.

Can I hire a contractor instead of a public adjuster?

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.

Written by
Elizabeth Rivelli
Insurance Contributor
Elizabeth has two years of experience writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate.com, The Simple Dollar, Coverage.com and NextAdvisor, among others. In addition to auto insurance, Elizabeth regularly writes about home insurance, renters insurance and life insurance. She also covers industry trends and general insurance education.