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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 a public adjuster is, why you should hire one and how you can find a reputable insurance claims adjuster in your area.

What is a public adjuster?

An insurance claims adjuster evaluates insurance claims and calculates the policyholder’s payout based on the severity of the loss and their policy coverage.

When you file a home insurance claim, you are assigned a claims adjuster through your insurance company. These professionals want to fairly reimburse you for your claims based upon your policy coverage and the severity of your loss.

Some homeowners may elect to hire a public adjuster to help them during the claims process. A public insurance adjuster is an independent professional that acts on behalf of the policyholder. Similar to a claims adjuster, a public adjuster will assess the damage of your property, help determine the scope of repairs and assess the replacement value for those repairs.

The adjuster receives a percentage of the claims payout when the claim is settled. 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.

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 Rivelli is a contributing insurance writer for Bankrate and has years of experience writing for insurance domains such as The Simple Dollar, Coverage.com and NextAdvisor, among others
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