Public insurance adjusters can help navigate your claim

Mary Lou Jay

Reading a home, life or auto insurance policy can be tough, even under ordinary circumstances. After a catastrophe, the task becomes almost impossible. It's not easy to concentrate on policy clauses, sub-clauses, riders and endorsements when you're worried about where your family is going to live. But understanding the details of your policy and knowing how to follow all the steps in making a claim is the only way to ensure that you'll get a fair settlement from your insurance company.

That's where a public insurance adjuster might come to the rescue.

What is a public insurance adjuster?

A public insurance adjuster can help you move through the insurance process when you have a large claim about $10,000 or more), according to insurance consumer advocacy group United Policyholders.

Unlike a claims adjuster, who works for the insurance company, a public insurance adjuster works for you and has a stake in getting you the largest fair settlement you're entitled to. States regulate public insurance adjusters and set the requirements for them.

Public insurance adjusters are familiar with the ins and outs of insurance policies and the claims process. A public insurance adjuster can assist you in inventorying everything you've lost and in getting estimates for replacement costs. The public adjuster will help ensure that you've filled out all the necessary paperwork and taken all the right steps in filing a claim.

How much does a public adjuster charge?

For their services on your behalf, public insurance adjusters charge a percentage of the amount that you recover from your insurer. That can go as high as 15 percent, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

In some states, however, the percentage is limited by law. In Texas, for example, the maximum fee charged by a public insurance adjuster can't exceed 10 percent of a claim settlement, according to the state's Department of Insurance. If a claim is settled within 72 hours of the reported loss, a Texas public adjuster is entitled only to "reasonable compensation for time and expenses."

If you're interested in hiring a public insurance adjuster, the Insurance Information Institute recommends asking your lawyer, friends or business associates for recommendations. You also can contact your state's insurance regulator for a list of licensees or go to the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters website for a roster of its members.

Check the license status of any public adjuster you're considering. United Policyholders recommends getting at least five references and following up, asking about the type of claim the public adjuster worked on for them -- and whether they were satisfied with the results.

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