The claims process can be very difficult and time-consuming. After a major property loss, there are many tasks involved in preparing and filing a claim. On top of that, negotiating a fair claim settlement can be very challenging. Typical insurance policies contain hundreds of provisions, conditions, stipulations, and various forms that are constantly changing. Generally, in the event of a loss, the policyholder is the one who carries the burden of proof.
Public adjusters are professional claims handlers who advocate for the policyholder in appraising their claim and negotiating settlements on policyholder’s behalf. Public adjusters differ from insurance company adjusters in that insurance company adjusters are employed by the insurance company and represent their interest. On the other hand, a public adjuster represents the interest of the policyholder, not insurance companies.
Although hiring a public adjuster may ultimately be the best approach for your personal situation, consumer advocates and the California Department of Insurance warns against rushing into anything. They say consumers should try working with their insurance company first. If you decide to hire a public adjuster, it is important to check that the adjuster is licensed with the Department of Insurance and review any complaints from former clients.
Public adjusters represent the policyholder for a fee. Most public adjusters charge for a percentage of the settlement claim amount—generally 10 percent. Keep in mind that this percentage is of the total settlement and not just the difference between what the insurance company initially offered and what the public adjuster negotiated.
California does not limit the fees in which public adjusters may charge, but it does prohibit a public adjuster from charging a fee that would result in customers getting less than what they were paid by the insurance company before they hired the adjuster.
It is also important to note that after a catastrophic event, the law prohibits public adjusters from soliciting customers until seven calendar days after the disaster ends, emergency responders have left the scene, and the evacuation orders have been lifted. The law provides customers five calendar days to cancel a contract with a public adjuster if the loss was caused by a catastrophic disaster.