What Is a Public Adjuster? An Overview of This Important Profession

Tobias Patch
40 articles

Last updated on September 17, 2023
Published on May 03, 2023
Reading time: 6 minutes

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You’ve likely heard of insurance adjusters, but what is a public adjuster, and what do they do?

In this article, we’ll look at this important profession in-depth and explore how they can help you (a policyholder) deal with a property damage claim.

The Role of a Public Adjuster

It’s critical to understand an important separation for public adjusters. Public adjusters represent policyholders, not insurance companies. They work on your behalf to assess damage and negotiate with your insurance company. 

Advocating for Policyholders

Unlike insurance company adjusters, who the insurer pays, public adjusters are paid by you, the policyholder. This means they work for you as their client and should look out for your interests.

Property damage is stressful and overwhelming. You’re likely worried about repair costs and how you can afford them. This is where a public adjuster comes in. They’re your advocate and work to ensure you receive the compensation you need to get your life back on track.

Assessing Property Damage and Loss

Public adjusters understand policy language and coverage and often know building codes and regulations. Using this expertise, they’ll evaluate your property damage and loss fully, ensuring that everything is considered.

When assessing your property damage, a public adjuster should take a detailed inventory of all damaged or destroyed items. They will also inspect the property to determine the extent of the damage and what repairs are needed. This information is then used to create a comprehensive claim that accurately reflects the true cost of the damage.

Negotiating with Insurance Companies

A public adjuster’s primary role is to negotiate on your behalf with your insurance company. They are skilled at presenting evidence and documentation to support your claim and can negotiate with adjusters to secure your claim payments.

Insurance companies are in the business of making money. They do that by receiving insurance premiums; paying claims isn’t how they make a profit. It’s critical to realize that getting your insurance company to pay for your loss is your responsibility. Considering this, they may not offer a full settlement of your claim at the start. Read our post about your duties and role during an insurance claim.

A public adjuster understands this reality and will fight to ensure you receive the full amount owed under your policy.

In addition to negotiating with insurance companies, a public adjuster can help you navigate the claims process. They can assist with filling out paperwork and communicating with your insurance company, making the process less stressful for you.

Should I Hire a Public Adjuster?

Every situation is different, and the answer to this question would depend greatly on a few key points: 

  • How imperative is receiving a fair and full settlement for your claim?
  • How do you react to stressful situations and stress in general?
  • How much time do you have to handle your claim?
  • Comfort level negotiating and handling conflict

Overall, a public adjuster can be an invaluable resource when navigating a property damage claim. They’re your advocate and work tirelessly to ensure you get your life back to normal. It’s worth considering hiring a public adjuster if you’ve experienced property damage and must file a claim. Life is stressful enough. Let them help you navigate the claims process and get your deserved settlement.

The Public Adjuster’s Process

Now that we’ve established the role of a public adjuster, let’s look at the process they follow when helping their clients.

Initial Consultation and Evaluation

The first step in the process is to schedule a consultation with a public adjuster. During this initial meeting, you’ll discuss the details of your property damage and review your insurance policy coverage. They should paint a clear picture of the steps for handling your claim.

It’s worthwhile to note that public adjusters are licensed professionals who understand the complexities of insurance policies and the claims process. They’re experts in their field and can help you navigate the confusing and overwhelming insurance claim filing process.

During the consultation, the public adjuster should explain their fee structure and answer any questions you may have about their specific process. Public adjusters often work on a contingency basis, meaning they only get paid if you receive a settlement from your insurance company.

  • Most public adjusters charge 10% of the total claim they get approved for you
  • In many states, 10% can only be charged on “new money.” Not on the money you’ve already received.
  • Some public adjusters will require you to hire additional professionals or experts when needed.

Documentation and Estimation

Once hired, the public adjuster will document the property damage and loss themselves or hire an expert to do so. They’ll examine the affected areas of your property and document any damage to interior and exterior structures opersonal property. This information is used to create a detailed estimate of your claim value.

Public adjusters often use specialized software and tools to estimate your claim value. The software solution Xactimate is among the most commonly used by adjusters and contractors. It is used to prepare detailed estimates. If you’ve ever dealt with a property claim, you know what I am talking about!

Xactimate creates a list of items that a person inputs. Those items should make up the proper scope to complete a professional project. For instance, you could use it to estimate the cost of replacing a kitchen, bathroom, roof, or all three. The software utilizes a price list updated each month to give a general pricing guide for each line item. Read more about how this intricate software works or how to understand your claim estimates better. We dive in depth into key details about Xactimate and how to read and compare estimates. 

Settlement and Resolution

Once the public adjuster has completed their evaluation and documentation, they’ll submit your claim to the insurance company. They’ll negotiate on your behalf and present the evidence and documentation they’ve gathered to support your claim. You should know that negotiation takes time. The insurance company may require additional documentation or evidence to support your claim or may drag out the process for a while.

It’s critical to assert your rights during the claim process and ensure timelines are met. Check out our state guides to determine how long a claim might take.

If your claim is denied or you’re not satisfied with the settlement offer from your insurance company, your public adjuster can help you explore other options. These options may include mediation, arbitration, insurance appraisal, or litigation.

Benefits of Hiring a Public Adjuster

Insurance claims are rarely straightforward. The process can be complex, time-consuming, and complicated. They often take more time than you think to pay out fully. Public adjusters do not possess a magic wand or the ability to force an insurance company to pay. They can, however, assist in leveling up how your claim information is prepared. This can be a tremendous help in getting a full settlement as soon as possible. Here are a few key benefits:

  • Build a detailed claim file clearly outlining the damages and costs to repair properly
  • Confirm coverages and ensure you’re getting a full settlement
  • Help lower stress levels when handling an insurance claim
  • Offset loss of time when dealing with a claim.
  • Help you build a great Proof of Loss

Property damage and recovery are stressful and overwhelming processes. The last thing you’ll want to worry about is insurance claims complexity. 

Expertise in Insurance Policies and Claims

A major advantage of working with a public adjuster can be their extensive knowledge of insurance policies and claims procedures. They can provide you with guidance and expertise throughout the entire process. This will help you understand your coverages. Knowing what you’re covered for can help ensure you receive the full benefits under your policy.

They can also help you navigate the often confusing language of insurance policies, ensuring you understand your coverage terms and conditions. This is especially helpful when dealing with a particularly complex claim, such as one involving multiple types of damage or loss.

Faster and More Efficient Claims Process

The process of filing an insurance claim can be complex and time-consuming, especially when dealing with other tasks of recovering from property damage. Your public adjuster can handle the insurance claim part for you. Handling all paperwork, documentation, and negotiations is no small feat. However, getting this part right should help get your settlement faster and with less hassle and stress.

A key result of working with a public adjuster is to help you avoid common mistakes that delay or derail your claim. For example, they can ensure that you provide all the necessary documentation and information to your insurance company in a timely manner. In addition, they can help you avoid accidental statements that could be misunderstood and slow down your claim.

Safeguarding Your Insurance Settlement

Perhaps the most substantial benefit of hiring a public adjuster is a full and fair insurance settlement. Public adjusters have a track record of securing more appropriate settlements than clients who file claims independently. They understand how to negotiate, what documentation is necessary, and how to expertly present your claim.

How to Choose the Right Public Adjuster

Choosing the right public adjuster to represent you is a crucial decision. Not all public adjusters are created equal, and many have different specializations. This decision is an important one, so take your time and feel confident before making a decision on who to work with.

Consider these factors when choosing.

Check for Licensing and Certification

Confirm the public adjuster you choose is licensed and certified by your state’s insurance department. Negotiating an insurance claim without a public adjuster or a law license is illegal. This is why a contractor often shouldn’t negotiate a claim with an insurance company. 

Research Experience and Reputation

Do your research and choose a public adjuster with a proven track record of successful settlements. This can give you peace of mind you’re working with someone with the experience and knowledge to get you the best outcome.

Check their experience. Make use of LinkedIn or request a resume and talk to references. A public adjuster with construction experience is often an advantage when dealing with property damage claims. 

Compare Fees and Services Offered

Finally, compare public adjusters’ fees and services before choosing. Check online reviews, and ensure you understand exactly what services are included in the fee you’ll be charged.

Conclusion

When property damage occurs, it’s a confusing and stressful experience, but public adjusters can help you navigate the mess. Their assistance can be invaluable for complex insurance claims. When choosing a public adjuster, research and select someone with the experience and skills necessary to represent you effectively. Insurance claims are hard by themselves. Sharing the load of managing an insurance claim can help minimize stress.

Tobias Patch
40 articles
About the author
Tobias is a seasoned contractor, adjuster, and technology zealot. In prior lives he worked for both insurance companies and policyholders, so he understands claims and the rebuilding process from all possible angles. His obsession with finding a better way to handle claims led him to found Brelly, where he serves as the CEO.