Whether you’re a seasoned pro or decided yesterday to become a public adjuster, you know that you’ve chosen a profession that is tightly regulated. What’s more, those regulations vary from state to state. Some states’ regulations may overlap, and some are quite similar, but no two states’ regulations are exactly the same. And thus is the joy of trying to keep up with the laws and regs in each state where you practice — all while you juggle the 100 other things you’re supposed to be doing. Don’t worry, we’re here to help.
This guide walks you through the essential regulations for public adjusting in Georgia — the dos, the don’ts, the must-haves, and more. It’s part of a series of articles we publish for public adjusters and other professionals in the insurance claims space to answer your most pressing questions.
The goal with these articles is to help you avoid common mistakes by highlighting the most important statutes you’ll deal with regularly. It’s not a truly comprehensive list of every statute and regulation — for that you’ll need to consult the laws direct, starting with Chapter 23 of Title 33 of the Georgia Code and Georgia Rules and Regulations 120-2-3. Instead, Consider this as your trusty cheat sheet for staying on the right side of the law as you go about your work.
If you want to learn more about insurance claims laws in Georgia, including info on deadlines, AOBs, bad faith, and more — check out the Georgia Guide to Property Insurance Claims. And with that, let’s get to it.
Georgia’s Definition of Public Adjusting
What makes someone a “public adjuster” under Georgia law? The definition lives in § 33-23-1 of the Georgia Code. In the simplest terms, you’re considered a public adjuster in Georgia if you get paid to help policyholders with first-party property claims.
More specifically, Georgia says you’re a public adjuster if you do any of the following for compensation:
- Help policyholders negotiate or settle claims for damage to real or personal property (other than auto). This is a fairly standard definition of public adjusting.
- Advertise or tell people you’re a public adjuster who handles first-party property claims. Most states include this activity in the definition of public adjusting, so no surprise to see it here.
- Assist someone else engaged in public adjusting by directly or indirectly soliciting business, investigating claims, adjusting losses, or advising policyholders about first-party property claims. Some states carve out assistant work from the definition of public adjusting, but not Georgia. This means any assistants or admins may need a PA license in Georgia depending on the nature of their work.
So in a nutshell, if you get paid to help Georgia policyholders with property damage claims, you’re probably a public adjuster in Georgia. (Unless you’re an attorney or insurance agent — these professionals can help their clients negotiate and settle claims without needing a PA license, Georgia Code § 33-23-43.1.)
Why does the definition matter? For starters, if you fit the definition above, you’ll need a license and you’ll have to follow all the rules outlined below. But it’s also sometimes helpful to know what doesn’t count as public adjusting. For example, does giving free claims advice in Georgia make you subject to the state’s public adjusting rules and restrictions? Probably not, because receiving compensation is in the definition of public adjusting.
Prohibited Acts for PAs in Georgia
Now that you know who’s subject to Georgia’s PA rules, let’s look at maybe the most important one: the list of prohibited acts. Georgia Code § 33-23-43.8 sets out a long list of acts that are forbidden for public adjusters (and in some cases other types of adjusters too). Some of these prohibitions are obvious, like don’t lie, cheat, or steal. But others aren’t always intuitive. Because the list of no-nos is long, we’ve grouped them into different categories. First up, solicitation and marketing.
Solicitation and Marketing Restrictions
Like most states, Georgia restricts what a public adjuster can do to get new customers. Here’s our short list of no-nos when you’re trying to attract new customers.
- Don’t solicit business “during the progress” of a natural disaster. Here, “natural disaster” means an event for which the governor of Georgia declares a state of emergency.
- Don’t solicit business late at night or early in the morning. This one actually isn’t that restrictive. The permissible hours for direct solicitation are 8 AM -10 PM Monday-Saturday and noon – 10 PM on Sundays.
- Don’t advertise without pre-approval from regulators. Before launching an ad, you’ll need to get the green light from the office of the Georgia insurance commissioner.
- Don’t advertise without displaying your name and Georgia license number.
- Don’t do any of the following in your ads or solicitations:
- invite an insured to submit a claim by offering monetary or other valuable inducement.
- invite an insured to submit a claim by stating that there is “no risk” to the insured by submitting such claim.
- suggest in any way that the ad is from or sanctioned by a governmental agency.
- invite an insured to submit a claim when the insured does not have covered damage to the insured’s property.
Conflicts of Interest
Georgia has taken the position that any of the following activities are conflicts of interest for public adjusters and therefore are prohibited by law:
- Taking power of attorney authorizing you to act on the insured’s behalf beyond the claim. Georgia wants its public adjusters helping with claims, not legal or financial matters. No good deed goes unpunished, so don’t overstep on this one.
- Acquiring an interest in any property salvaged from the loss unless the insured okays it in writing after settlement. This is a very typical prohibition in state PA statutes, so no surprises here.
- Working both sides by adjusting claims for an insured and the opposing party. This one’s pretty obvious; a major conflict of interest.
- Acting on behalf of an attorney during the course of a claim adjustment.
- Advancing money to any potential client or insured. This one isn’t always prohibited, but it is in Georgia.
- Receiving compensation for referring an insured to any third-party individual or firm, including an attorney, appraiser, umpire, construction company, contractor, or salvage company. This one is relatively common in most states, but it’s still an important one to remember.
Requirements for Your Policyholder Contracts
Georgia heavily regulates the contract between you and your policyholder. You can find the complete list of requirements in Georgia Code § 33-23-43.2. For simplicity, we break them down into four commandments.
Include These Twelve Things in Your Contract
- “Public Adjuster Contract” as a prominently captioned title
- The legible full name of the public adjuster signing the contract, as specified on the license issued by Georgia state regulators and a statement that the PA is fully bonded pursuant to state law;
- Permanent home state business address and contact information of the public adjuster, including email address;
- Your department license number and a statement that the license is valid and in full force and effect as of the date the contract is signed;
- The insured’s full name and street address;
- A description of the loss and its location, if applicable;
- A description of services to be provided to the insured;
- Signatures of the public adjuster and the insured;
- The date the contract was signed by the PA, and the date the contract was signed by the insured;
- A statement of the fee, compensation, or other considerations that the public adjuster is to receive for services, including a listing of typical costs and expenses for which the public adjuster is to be reimbursed;
- A statement prominently captioned in a minimum 12 point font indicating that the public adjuster has no direct or indirect interest, including participation in activities that may be reasonably construed as a conflict of interest or as compensation by or interest in, any firm that performs any work in conjunction with the damages incident to any loss the public adjuster has been contracted to adjust, except for the compensation or fee from the insured for such public adjuster’s services; and
- A prominently displayed notice in 12-point boldface type that states “WE REPRESENT THE INSURED ONLY.”
Avoid Doing These Seven Things in Your Contract
- Restricting an insured’s right to initiate and maintain direct communications with his or her attorney, the insurer, the insurer’s adjuster, the insurer’s attorney, or any other person regarding settlement of the insured’s claim;
- Giving yourself the right to initiate direct communications with the insured’s insurer, the insurer’s adjuster, or the insurer’s attorney regarding settlement of the insured’s claim without specific written authorization from the insured;
- Giving yourself the right (a) to collect your fee when money is due from an insurance company but not paid or (b) to collect the entire fee from the first check issued by an insurance company rather than as a percentage of each check issued by an insurance company;
- Requiring the insured to authorize an insurance company to issue a check only in the name of the public adjuster;
- Precluding or restricting an insured from pursuing any civil remedies relating to his or her claim;
- Giving yourself the right to act in multiple capacities; or
- Identify yourself as also being a contractor, appraiser, or other position.
Get Pre-Approval from Regulators
Before you can even try to sign up a policyholder client in Georgia, you’ll need to email the form of your contract to the Georgia Insurance Commissioner at PAcontracts@oci.ga.gov for pre-approval. Georgia Code § 33-23-43.2 (a). Your form contract must be in writing and must comply with all the requirements listed above and stated more specifically in § 33-23-43.2. Pre-approval may be a pain in the neck, but the upside is that once you get that sign-off, you know for sure your contract is compliant with Georgia public adjuster laws.
Know that the Policyholder Has Rights
Regardless of anything you put in your contract, you should know that the following provisions will always hold true by operation of Georgia law.
- Your policyholder client can cancel your contract within three business days of signing.
- If the policyholder does legitimately cancel your contract, you must return any money or other benefits you’ve received from the policyholder under the contract within 15 business days of receiving the policyholder’s notice of the rescission.
- Before you can initiate contact with the carrier or the carrier’s adjuster or attorney, you must receive written, signed permission from the policyholder to do so. What’s more, you’re required to submit this signed policyholder letter to the carrier or their representative when you initiate contact.
Compensation: How Georgia Regulates your Pay
You provide valuable services, so you deserve fair compensation! Public adjuster pay is covered under Georgia Code § 33-23-43.3. Here’s what you need to know:
- Commissions are (usually) allowed. Some states, like Louisiana, prohibit public adjusters from taking a percentage of the claim paid. Not Georgia — it specifically allows commission compensation. The only exception occurs when a carrier pays or agrees in writing to pay the policy limits on the claim within 72 hours of the loss. In that scenario, you’re entitled to compensation, but it can’t be in the form of a percentage cut of the claim.
- Commissions must be reasonable and are capped at 1/3 of the claim. The one-third cap is higher than many other states allow.
- All carrier payments to the policyholder must include the policyholder as a payee. It’s not possible in Georgia for the insurer to make a payment solely and directly to a public adjuster.
As long as your compensation complies with the statute, you and your client can agree on whatever payment structure fits the relationship – flat fee, hourly rate, commission percentage, etc. Just be sure the written contract spells it all out clearly and complies with the law.
Getting Licensed in Georgia
Always a frequently asked question, the requirements for obtaining a PA license aren’t impossible to understand once you grasp the basic. In the case of Georgia, there are five primary requirements, each of which we address below.
- Basic statutory eligibility. Georgia Code 33-23-5 lays out the threshold requirements for licensing as an adjuster (of any kind) in Georgia. Requirements include being 18 years old and certain residency requirements for resident licenses. Be sure to review the statute carefully before you apply for your license.
- Fingerprints. New applicants will need to get fingerprints run as part of your licensing application. At last check, the fee for fingerprinting is $53.
- Bonds. This is an important one. The state requires you to obtain and maintain a $5,000 bond at all times while you’re licensed in Georgia as a PA. To learn more, here’s a list of bond requirements and the official form for the required bond.
- Coursework and Examination. What every professional dreads. All new applicants for a PA license must complete the state’s pre-approved coursework. Each prelicensing course must contain a minimum of twenty (20) hours of instruction per major line of authority. If you have to take the exam (see below for exceptions), you have to pass within a year of completing your coursework. If you pass the exam, you have to apply for your license within a year of passing.
- Exceptions to Examination. What every professional hopes for. While all new applicants need to take the required coursework, you don’t need to take the exam if you:
- Are a certified Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU certification).
- Are licensed as a public adjuster in another state or meet any other exception in Georgia Code 33-23-5(a)(4)(1)-(2).
- Have a college degree in insurance or have completed two college-level courses in the specific lines of authority for which you’re getting your PA license.
All these rules and regulations may seem daunting at first, but once you understand the basics, you’ll be on a much better path to feeling less stressed about staying on the right side of the law in doing your job. For more resources, don’t forget to check out our Guide to Property Claims in Georgia or visit the Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s website for adjusters and agents.