After a major storm or a freak accident that ends in massive amounts of property damage, you’re probably going to feel two things essentially at once: you’re going to be overwhelmed with the amount of damage that was caused and you’re going to wonder how you’re going to get the mess cleaned up.
A call to your insurance company will summon an insurance adjuster to help estimate the extent of the damage, but you have no say at all in who assesses the extent of the damage to your property or how much your policy should pay to help you rebuild.
If you’ve filed a claim before for a car accident, you’ve met an insurance adjuster employed by the insurance company that you’re filing on. This isn’t the guy you need when things get really hairy. Although he’s not out to get you, he’s working for the insurance company and trying to minimize their pay-out. That’s his job.
However, you can hire your own guy, known as a public adjuster, to help you navigate the complicated situation that comes around when a bicycle is flung through your garage door and then breaks out the back window of your car during a bad storm. Public adjusters receive the same training as those working for the insurance company, but instead of walking between two parties, the public adjuster you choose is working on your behalf exclusively.
Many homeowners are hesitant to call a public adjuster because they think the fees will be significant. Of course the public adjuster needs to get paid, but many will take a percentage of your settlement rather than demand fee after fee. Anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the final settlement is typical for the market.
It can be a lot of money, there’s no joke about it, but the difference between the insurance adjuster’s figures and your public adjuster’s figures can more than cover their costs. According to Bankrate’s research, a study of one Florida insurance company showed that the homeowners who used a public adjuster’s typical settlement was $22,266 where those who let the insurance company take the wheel only got $18,659.
To put those numbers into perspective, let’s assume the public adjuster had a 15 percent fee. On $22,266, the fee would be $3,339.90. Even once that fee is taken out, you’re ahead of the insurance adjuster’s payment of $18,659 by $267.10. If the public adjuster only has a 10 percent fee, that number gets even bigger — a whopping $1,380.40 in money you might have left on the table.
Just like working with any professional, there are better and worse ways to go about it. Unlike most other professions, most people know nothing about public adjusters, leaving them ill-prepared for how one works. Let’s talk about the claim cycle and how your contributions can speed up the insurance claim process.
* The Loss. Your house has the roof taken to Oz, a big tree in your yard crushes your car, a dirigible crashes into your picture windows — whatever happens, this has to happen first. If you call a public adjuster before you have a loss, it’s going to look mighty suspicious..
* First Contact. Who you contact at this stage is vital. You definitely need to let your insurance company know there’s an issue, but this is also the best time to get a public adjuster into the mix. If they begin at the beginning of your claim, they don’t have to hold up the show trying to get up to speed.
* Checking Your Docs. Find all your insurance papers and have them ready for your public adjuster. Your insurance documents double as a contract between you and the insurance company, it’s a really good idea to know what they say before you go into battle. Your public adjuster will be doing more in-depth research while you’re finding your papers.
* Documenting Your Claim. For personal property, this is generally most easily done with a video camera, but you’ll also need estimates for rebuilding your home. This is one of the many things a public adjuster can do for you if you don’t have the time or energy to line up the necessary talent.
* Submitting Your Bundle. Once everything’s put together, all your damages documented and the cost to get your life back together put down in writing, your public adjuster will give the packet to the insurance company for their consideration.
* Negotiating a Settlement. Finally, your public adjuster will stand in your corner and defend your claim with all they have. If there’s room for negotiation and you’ve given them permission to do so, the public adjuster may counter a lower offer from the insurance company on your behalf.
Since public adjusters get paid a percentage based on the amount your insurance company settles for, it’s in their best interest to get as much money as they can. They’re on your side, but they’re kind of on their own side, too.
In the moments after a massive hit to your property, you won’t be able to see beyond what’s in front of you, but when your head clears, you’ll need to figure out who you need to help you build your insurance claim. Luckily, your HomeKeepr family can set you up with all the home pros you need. Adjusters, contractors and so many more have already been recommended for you, just pop in and say hello to the people your Realtor trusts most.