Information is the key to success when working with a Public Adjuster. Before you call, make sure you have the following documents available — this will make it much easier for them to do their job and ultimately help you.
Your Current Insurance Information
The most important thing to provide is a copy of the relevant insurance policy. It is critical that you provide the entire policy to the Public Adjuster — this means every page, every footnote, and any content that could in any way be considered relevant to the policy.
Your Public Adjuster will use these documents as they try to get you the largest settlement possible, but they need to know the exact terms and conditions that are covering you before they can effectively negotiate on your behalf. They should have the information in-hand before they even start to examine the damage to your property.
This information is so important that you should store two copies of it, printed, even if you don’t currently need the services of a Public Adjuster. The first copy should be located in a secure part of your home – a fireproof safe is a good location. The other copy should be stored off-site, with people you trust, but close enough to be retrieved in two hours or less. Having two separated copies ensures that even the total destruction of your home (and loss of access to your computer and other materials) will not prevent you from supplying your Public Adjuster with the information they need to know.
Communications From Your Insurance Company
If you’ve suffered a major disaster, your insurance company will hear about it in the near future, and they may quickly start making you an offer and trying to get you to agree to something. In most cases, you should pass on what they said to your Public Adjuster as soon as you can. If your insurance company is undervaluing the damage to your property, your Public Adjuster can tell you how big the difference is and what they can actually prove – and since they get paid based on what they find, it’s in their interest to help you as much as possible.
Public Adjusters should also be given information about when a representative from your insurance company is coming to examine the property. Many states require at least 48 hours of notice, and while Public Adjusters cannot block the insurance company from accessing the property (or interfere with their investigations), the Adjuster can be present to help you resolve disputes. This is explicitly written into the law – Public Adjusters must be allowed into your in-person meetings with your insurance company, and taking advantage of this can help you avoid being pressured into accepting an offer that’s too low.
Proof of Value
Most insurance policies stipulate that you must be able to prove a loss before you can be reimbursed for it – so being able to prove the value of any items you own is important. For this reason, you should build (and maintain) a record of the important items in your home, including:
- Anything else of notable value
Receipts, if you possess them, will help. Alternatively, you can have these items professionally appraised or find their actual value online. Provide as much documentation as possible to prove the specific value of the items – if you cannot successfully prove something’s value, then you may not be reimbursed for its full amount.
Credentials and Contracts
Specifically, you need to see the Public Adjuster’s credentials when you first meet with them. In most states, Public Adjusters are required to be licensed and certified by the state government, but some unscrupulous people will pose as adjusters in order to take your money. They may also be Independent Adjusters, not Public Adjusters – and the difference is important, because Independent Adjusters usually work for the insurance company instead of you! Checking the credentials of your Public Adjuster will help you avoid fraud and see to it that you get the settlement you deserve.
You should also see a copy of the Adjuster’s contract when you start negotiating for their services. The contract will specify what they’ll do for you, how much you can expect to pay (this will usually be a percent), and all other matters relating to their services. However, you may not be in a good frame of mind in the immediate aftermath of a major disaster.
To help avoid problems caused by muddled thinking, you may want to select a public adjuster now and ask them for a copy of the standard contract. If a disaster does occur, you’ll be secure in the knowledge that you’re already familiar with their terms of service and made a good choice in getting their help.