Why We’re Different
For those of us who always serve on the insured’s side of the claim it’s almost heresy to suggest that there are some insurance companies and their adjusters who really do make a “good faith” effort to fairly respond to a policyholder’s claim, but there are.
Historically, when we have had the opportunity to read a policy, review an estimate and walk a damaged home, building or commercial roof about one-third of the time we concluded that the insured has been offered a decent settlement on the structural component of their claim. In those instances that “second opinion” we give them provides the peace of mind they need to move forward and begin rebuilding their lives and property by hiring a contractor and effectuating repairs. Since we are cap our fee on just a small percentage of the “new” money we add to the claim we have no financial incentive for telling them that there is more money to get if there isn’t. That is one of the main differences between us, and our competitors; that is, most public adjusters, except us, want you to pay them a percentage of the entire claim while we only want to get paid if we actually improve your settlement. Let’ take a minute to explore this.
Once a claim is filed an insurance adjuster will be assigned your claim and come out to inspect the property and gather the raw information about the loss. Based on their observations, training and opinions the adjusters are then going to put together their own estimate as to what they believe has been damaged and what it will cost to repair the property. (In most states it is legally required that they give you an estimate). It may take a couple of weeks to write this estimate but eventually you will be given one and this estimate is deemed to be their settlement offer. Most of the public adjusters within our industry want you to hire them immediately after the loss and before you get your estimate. They even want you to pay them a percentage of the entire settlement, INCLUDING what you are going to be offered anyhow! That doesn’t make any sense to us.
Paying a percentage to someone of what you are going to be offered anyhow is unwise, if not crazy. Think about it, what if you fall into that “one-third” category where the adjuster writes you a fair and complete estimate? In those instances hiring a public adjuster means you would just be giving away 10%-15% of what you were going to need to rebuild your property. To us it doesn’t make sense to hire a public adjuster on the structural side of your claim until you know that you are being mistreated as evidenced by their deficient estimate. That’s why we like to wait for the insurance carrier to provide an estimate and then, at no cost to you, review it and give you our opinion as to the fairness and comprehensiveness of it.
Having a chance to review the claim documents (our “due diligence”) ensures that we only get involved in claims when there is a major deficit in the estimate and where we have a chance to significantly increase the claim amount for our clients and to be profitable in so doing for our company. If we get involved in a claim our clients keep 100% of what they have been offered up to that point and we take all of the risk in adding additional monies to the claim. We put our money where our mouth is.
Let’s talk about a second factor that makes us different from others: our approach to gaining leverage and moving a claim forward. Within our industry there are two different approaches to handling a claim; the first being “public adjusting” and the second being “appraisal”. When the public adjusting process is used to negotiate a claim the Public Adjuster (PA) deals directly with the insurance company’s adjuster. If they reach an impasse with the adjuster on the settlement amount the PA has no leverage to get the other side to pay more money. In other words the PA is stuck with trying to persuade the person who has come up with the insufficient estimate that he or she is wildly wrong and that the insured is due a lot more money. No staff adjuster is going to admit that their estimate is off by 30%, 40%, 50% or more. As long as the adjuster has control of the checkbook he/she is under no obligation to pay more money just because the PA thinks he should. We think that arguing with the person who created the impasse is a waste of time. There is a better and more civil way to advance a claim.
Built into every insurance policy is a remedy that can be utilized to impartially determine the value of the loss. It’s called the Appraisal process and we have used it almost two-thousand times to move a claim forward. No one in the southeast has done more appraisals then us over the years. We use it almost exclusively as a means to ensure our clients get a fair hearing and to get the money they need, and are entitled, to fully and completely rebuild their damaged property.
Appraisal is considered to be an Alternative Dispute Resolution process that is similar to arbitration and mediation and it is a remarkably efficient mechanism to resolve disagreements concerning the true value of the loss. What makes it so effective is that each side has to hire their own appraiser and each appraiser has to be “competent and impartial” as clearly stipulated in almost every policy. The “impartiality” requirement forces the carrier to find someone outside their organization to serve as their appraiser (meaning that the adjuster who’s been involved in the claim up to the point cannot serve as their appraiser). The two appraisers then have to agree on a neutral umpire who then becomes the third member of the appraisal panel. Once any two of the three members of the panel agree on the amount of the loss, the loss is set and the carrier has 30 days to stroke a check.
If you are interested in having someone review your claim documents and render you a second opinion please give us a call today at 800-647-2236. It won’t cost you anything to find out what someone with decades of experience in handling insurance claims thinks of yours.