“Independent” Insurance Adjusters: Do not be fooled!
In last week’s article. we discussed having a dispute with your own insurance company regarding payment of a property damage claim. This week, we will continue the topic and talk about who assesses the damage to begin with. Today, we will discuss insurance adjusters, their role, and where their allegiance’s lie.
If you’ve been in the unfortunate position where you submitted a property damage claim, whether due to a car accident or water damage to your home, you have likely dealt with an insurance adjuster. For purposes of this article, we will limit our discussion to real property damage.
There are three types of insurance adjusters. First, there are in-house or staff adjusters who are usually full-time employees of the insurance company. They oversee the claim and make the final decision on estimates, settlements, payments, etc. Then, there are independent adjusters who are hired by the insurance company. Lastly, we have the public adjusters who are hired by the policy holder. It is important to understand the difference and to keep in mind that not all adjusters are created equal!
When you submit a property damage claim, you generally deal with an independent adjuster. By any rationale interpretation, these adjusters are not independent at all. In my humble opinion, since the adjuster was hired by the insurance company, their primary goal is to keep their job. To effectuate this goal, they need to make their employers happy. What better way to make your employer happy than to make them a lot of money? Independent adjusters work for the insurance companies, and as such, they have the insurance company’s best interest in mind, not yours.
Independent adjusters have been known to quote inferior materials, i.e. pricing cheap commercial carpet and padding in lieu of more expensive but comparable carpet and padding. I have seen them measure rooms incorrectly (coincidentally always smaller) and even “forget” to add entire rooms! More likely than not, all of these “short-cuts” are covered under your policy and includable in your claim. The obvious, and in my opinion, intentional result, is that you are paid much less than you’re likely owed under your insurance policy, further fattening the insurance company’s pockets.
Then, we have the public adjusters. These individuals sole purpose in life is
to find all the corners that were cut and inaccuracies made by the independent adjuster’s “assessments.” Public adjusters are hired solely by the policy holders and are ethically bound to act in your, and only your, best interest. Unless an alternate arrangement is made, they are paid a percentage of any additional recovery made. Think of them as the personal injury attorneys of the insurance world; they only get paid if you win! Depending on the size of the claim, they will get a percentage of any recovery over and above what the independent adjuster’s estimate was. If the independent adjuster’s estimate is $15k in damages, and after hiring the public adjuster, they get you $25k, they would take their percentage from the additional $10k recovered.
Although hiring a public adjuster doesn’t guarantee that the insurance company will pay, it has been a helpful tool to countless homeowners.
As I mentioned last week. there are laws in place designed to even the odds by encouraging the insurance company to act in good faith and pay out legitimate claims under the policy. Specifically, the law provides that your reasonable attorney’s fees must be paid by the insurance company. When we obtain a judgment or settle a claim, any money received, goes directly to you. The law firm gets compensated by the insurance company above and beyond your claim amount. This means that we don’t take a portion of your recovery.
If an insurance company refuses to pay your claim or offers you an inadequate amount, it would be wise to hire a lawyer to enforce the insurance company’s obligations. Insurance companies require you to perform under the contract, why shouldn’t you require the same?
If I can be of any help, feel free to email me at GuirguisLaw@gmail.com.
This is a generalized discussion and is not intended for any particular set of facts and should not be relied upon as such. By no means does this blog create an attorney-client relationship or attorney-client privilege between the Attorney and the readers. The law frequently changes as new cases are decided and published regularly. Anything relied upon in this or any blog, is done so at the readers own risk.
VERNON W. GUIRGUIS, ESQ.
The Guirguis Law Firm, Pllc
1423 S.E. 16 th Place, STE 204
Cape Coral, Florida 33990