The Ultimate Guide On
Public Adjusters
in Florida

Are you looking To Hire A Public Adjuster in FLorida but not sure where to start?

In this guide will explain to you everything you need to know about public adjusters in Florida from what they are to how they work and help you get the maximum amount for your claim.

Don't have time to read the entire guide now?

Fill out the form for a downloadable PDF version of the guide you can reference later.

 

Chapter 1 What Is a Public Adjuster?

 

A public insurance adjuster is licensed and bonded and helps policyholders navigate the insurance claims process when an insured loss occurs. Public adjusters in Florida are held to a strict code of ethics when they belong to the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA). Public adjusters who belong to FAPIA have quality continuing education specific to their industry at their disposal. Additionally, FAPIA members have access to a network of resources to help their clients handle their insurance claims. 

In Florida, three kinds of adjusters are licensed by the state. Those include: 

  • Insurance company adjuster employed by the insurance company and who represents that company when assisting with the insurance claim. Their main job is protecting the insurance company’s interests.
  • The insurance company hires an Independent adjuster to represent them when dealing with claims. Like those already employed by the insurance company, the independent adjuster’s main job is protecting the insurance company’s interests. 
  • A public adjuster is the only one licensed in Florida to represent the insured party specifically. Their main job is protecting the client and their interests in the claims process with the insurance company. 

Someone with an insurance claim might hire an independent public adjuster to help settle the claim on their behalf. The insurance company usually provides an adjuster without charging the policyholder. However, a public adjuster has no relationship with an insurance company and could charge up to 20 percent of the insurance settlement to help with the claim settlement. While public adjusters help with the claims process, they can’t help get the policyholder more money than they should get based on their insurance policy documentation. 

When a person is considering hiring a public adjuster, there are a few things you should consider. Those things include the following: 

  • The public adjuster’s references and qualifications. Ask family and friends for recommendations for known adjusters. Ensure the adjuster has the appropriate licensing in Florida. If unsure, check with the Better Business Bureau or the state insurance department to verify the public adjuster’s record. 
  • Don’t choose a public adjuster who pressures you into decisions. Instead, read and understand the contract thoroughly before you sign it. 
  • Understand how major disasters affect insurance policies. Often, the state’s insurance department has the potential to decide what percentage of a claim the public adjuster can charge a policyholder. Be wary of a public adjuster who uses a catastrophic occurrence to increase their business by going door-to-door.

A relatively easy way to find a public adjuster is by searching the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA) website. NAPIA has a directory listing every public adjuster licensed in their state. Homeowners can locate a list of adjusters in their area by entering their city, state, or ZIP code into the NAPIA search portion of the website. 

Some homeowners find that reading online reviews from customers is a helpful tool for narrowing the choices of public adjusters. Those reviews present feedback on the public adjuster’s methods and professionalism. 

 

Chapter 2 What Does a Public Adjuster Do?

 

A public adjuster has a job that is much like that of an insurance claims adjuster. They will assess property damage, help determine what repairs are needed, and estimate how much those repairs will likely cost. The difference between the two is that a public adjuster works for the client directly rather than on behalf of the insurance company. 

Once the insurance company settles the claim, the public adjuster will get a percentage of the payout. Insurance companies don’t account for the payment of services when they are deciding how much to pay on the claim. The payment is expected to come from the homeowner, who hired the public adjuster to assess the damage. 

When someone hires a public adjuster, the adjuster handles the claims process for them. The adjuster comes to the property and takes a survey of any damage. They will review the claim and compute what they recommend the insurance company pay for the damages. Then, they will coordinate with the insurance company to have the company process the payout for the claim. 

Before a person settles their insurance claim, they have an opportunity to enter negotiations with the insurance company for a higher payout amount. If someone chooses to negotiate, the public adjuster acts as a liaison between them and the insurance company. This keeps the homeowner from needing to speak to their representative. 

Hiring a public adjuster could lead to a higher payout on the insurance claim. The Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA) indicated in a report that homeowners who chose to hire their own insurance claims adjuster received more money for their insurance claims than those who didn’t hire a public adjuster. According to the FAPIA study, homeowners who worked with a public adjuster recognized a payout that was just over $3,500 more than those who didn’t work with a public adjuster. 

Hiring a public adjuster doesn’t guarantee a larger payout. The insurance company will review its findings and determine how much your claim is worth. The insurance company doesn’t always agree with the public adjuster’s recommendation. 

Public adjusters offer the peace of mind of the homeowner not needing to handle the claims process on their own. Part of their job is reviewing the claim closely to ensure all damages are mentioned on the claim and nothing has been overlooked. 

A public adjuster might benefit someone who has the following: 

  • A large claim or severe damage
  • Increased stress when working with insurance companies.
  • Had poor claims experience before. 
  • No time to correspond with the insurance company. 
  • A need for a claim settlement reassessment.

 

Chapter 3 How Do Public Adjusters Get Paid in Florida?

 

First, people must understand that the public adjuster isn’t affiliated with any insurance company. Instead, they are there for the client’s benefit. That means the person who hired the public adjuster will be required to pay for their services. 

Those who are seeking assistance from a public adjuster in Florida shouldn’t worry about how they will afford to pay for the services. A public adjuster will not get paid until the claim is paid. The payment a public adjuster receives depends on a few factors. Those include the following: 

  • The reason for the claim. 
  • The homeowner’s location (each state has different rules)
  • The assessed damages.
  • The settlement the client receives. 

Individuals aren’t required to accept the first offer made by the insurance company. Rather, they can choose to negotiate a higher settlement. After the negotiations, the insurance company will give the person a final offer. Once the offer is accepted, the public adjuster gets a pre-arranged percentage of the payout.

Most of the time, the only payment the public adjuster receives is the percentage of the final settlement, which means the client doesn’t pay a dime until the insurance company pays the final settlement. This fee structure often motivates the public adjuster to work to get a higher settlement for their clients. Until the settlement is satisfactory to the client and accepted by them, the public adjuster works without compensation. 

Other fee structures exist for paying the public adjuster. However, whichever fee structure the adjuster uses, it’s still typical for them to be paid after the final settlement is reached between the client and the insurance company. In fact, many states prohibit public adjusters from accepting payment until after the claim is settled. 

The policy of only paying public adjusters after the final settlement is made provides added protection for policyholders. Since the person isn’t required to pay the public adjuster until they accept the final offer from the insurance company, they can accept or deny offers from the insurance company. When the individual is dissatisfied with the insurance company’s offer, they can request that the public adjuster renegotiate, aiming for a higher settlement amount.

 

Chapter 4 How Do Public Adjusters Charge in Florida?

 

Public adjusters charge in one of several ways in Florida. The adjuster could charge a flat rate, an hourly rate, or, most commonly, a contingency fee. It’s essential to set the rate and method of payment with the public adjuster before entering into a contract with them. 

The public adjuster should advise the client about their rate and payment method before a contract is created. The signed agreement should reflect the adjuster’s fees and payment method. The fees charged by public adjusters are regulated at the state level. Many states have rules for when, how much, and what methods are allowed for public adjusters to charge their fees. 

The following ways are ways public adjusters can set their rates: 

  • A flat rate: When a large claim is associated with a simple case with a clear outcome, the public adjuster could charge a flat rate for the entire process. In this case, it’s essential to learn what the fee covers and what it doesn’t so the person isn’t surprised by extra costs like those paid for expert opinions and other expenses. The fee should be determined before the client signs a contract with the public adjuster. 
  • An hourly rate: Public adjusters don’t typically use an hourly rate for their pay scale, but some do choose this method. Hourly rates depend on the state where the client resides, the adjuster’s expertise and experience, the adjuster’s operating costs, and the type of policy the individual is making a claim against. Experienced public claims adjusters will typically be able to tell the client what the hourly rate will be and how long the job is expected to take. 
  • Contingency fees: This is the most popular manner of charging for public adjuster services. The adjuster takes no direct payment from the client but rather sets a percentage of the payout as their fee. The amount they can charge is determined by their experience and state regulations. In Florida, the contingency fee varies depending on whether a declared disaster caused damage or not. If a declared disaster caused damage, the public adjuster can’t charge more than 10%, and if it wasn’t a declared disaster, they can’t charge more than 20%.  Something to note about the disaster maximum percentage is that any claim must be made within the first year after the loss. Otherwise, the maximum that can be charged reverts to the standard maximum of 20%. 

Most public adjusters run a competent, honest business, but people should still be aware of the potential for scams. Some who claim to be experienced public adjusters will ask for a deposit for the work and not complete the job. Others have been heard to refer repair work to contractors who aren’t best for the job but who compensate the public adjuster for referring them. These practices are illegal in many states, so it’s essential to be aware of them. 

It’s the client’s responsibility to ensure they are hiring a reputable, experienced public adjuster. They should have a stringent interview process, and they should establish how fees will be assessed before agreeing to any contract.

 

Chapter 5 How Long Does It Take to Get an Insurance Claim Check in Florida?

 

When someone files an insurance claim, they typically want the process to go as quickly and smoothly as possible. Laws are in place in every state to require that claims are settled in a reasonable amount of time. The exact timeframe varies depending on the kind of insurance and the situation, but insurers are required to be fair and responsive when handling claims. 

In Florida, insurance companies must follow three general timelines when they process claims. 

  1. The insurance company has 14 days to acknowledge a claim has been filed. If the policyholder doesn’t speak to an agent when filing the claim, the company must establish communications with them within 14 days. Sometimes, a small claim can be paid in this timeframe eliminating the need to acknowledge the claim. 
  2. The insurance company has 90 days to make a decision regarding an insurance claim after they acknowledge it. The policyholder should receive a notice that the claim was either approved or denied within that 90-day period. If the claimant doesn’t hear anything, they have the option of speaking to an attorney who specializes in insurance issues. 
  3. The insurance company typically has 20 days to pay claims once they are approved. Many policies specify that the 20 days begins when a settlement has been reached. 

Several factors can affect how quickly the claims settlement process goes, including: 

  • The length of time the policyholder waits to contact the insurance company. It’s recommended that claimants file their claims as soon as possible after experiencing a loss. 
  • The length of time it takes to provide necessary documents to the claims adjuster. If the policyholder takes a long time to turn over documentation that is vital to processing the claim, then the process will take a longer period of time. 
  • The kind of damage or loss that is associated with the claim. Straightforward property damage claims, such as a tree falling on the sunroom, are faster to process than liability claims that involve additional people. 
  • The responsiveness of the policyholder when asked questions by the claims adjuster. This is another case of if the client takes a long time to respond to the adjuster, then the process will take longer. 
  • The cost of the damages or the loss. Less expensive claims can be processed faster than more expensive, more complicated claims. 

There are ways to make the claims settlement process faster, which can lead to faster claims payments. Those ways include: 

  • Filing the claim as soon as possible. Many times, the home insurance policy will have a time limit for when a claim must be filed. Additionally, when the policyholder files faster, they will still have the occurrence fresh in their mind, which will allow them to provide better information to the insurance company. 
  • Staying in regular contact with the claims adjuster. The insurance company should be able to reach the policyholder whenever necessary to ask questions or clarify information related to the claims process. The adjuster might need to set up home inspections to assess damages. Many insurance companies now allow their clients to submit documents, schedule appointments, and track claims status online or via a mobile app. 
  • Maintain records of expenses or payments associated with the claims process. Save the receipts for immediate expenses like boarding up windows or putting tarps on the roof. Keeping a home inventory is an excellent idea for knowing how much was invested in the belongings that were stolen or destroyed. The insurance company may need to use the inventory to verify value amounts for processing claims. 
  • Request an electronic claim settlement payment. This prevents the need for receiving a check in the mail. If the insurance company offers this option, it can mean a direct deposit of the settlement within as little as 48 hours after claim approval. 

Insurance companies typically pay settlements in either actual cash value or replacement costs. Replacement cost provides the policyholder with funds to cover the cost of rebuilding the home or repairing damages using materials that are similar to what was already in the house. Actual cash value gives funds to repair or rebuild based on the home’s value in consideration of age, condition, and market value. Market value and replacement value may not be equal.

The insurance company will likely issue a check that is made to the policyholder and the mortgage company. Often, the mortgage agreement requires that the lender be listed on a settlement agreement to protect their interests in the property. Usually, the mortgage lender will release money as progress is made on the repairs or rebuilding. When the job is completed, and the home passes inspection, the remainder of the funds from the settlement will be released. 

Someone who has a mortgage must continue making their mortgage payments while they are waiting for their insurance claim to be processed and settled.

 

Chapter 6 How Much Should My Insurance Claim Be Worth?

 

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average homeowners’ insurance claim payout was $13,955 in 2020. That was the average for all homeowners insurance claims. Specific claims had different payouts, and the average for specific subsets could be much higher. For example, the average for fire and lightning claims was $77,340 for that same year. 

Most insurance companies require homeowners to maintain insurance that covers a minimum of 80% of the replacement cost. It’s better to keep 100% coverage when possible, but most insurance companies require a minimum of 80% coverage to pay a full claim against the policy. If the homeowner doesn’t maintain 80% coverage, the insurance company will prorate claims by the percentage of replacement cost that is covered minus the policyholder’s deductible. 

Having insurance for 80% of the home’s replacement value means that 80% of the cost of completely rebuilding the house with the labor and materials at current prices is covered. The replacement cost and market value are likely not going to be the same thing. One reason for that is that the market value also considers the land the house is on, and replacement value only considers the structure. 

If the homeowner has completed renovations to the home, then the replacement value may have increased. The homeowner needs to ensure that they update their insurance coverage to reflect the new value of the property. If the homeowner doesn’t have adequate coverage, they may not receive an adequate claim settlement. 

Replacement costs account for several factors. Construction costs, home features, material quality, and square footage of the home are considered as part of the replacement cost calculation. The final calculation represents how much it would cost to rebuild the house from the ground up as it was before it incurred any damage. 

Calculating the replacement cost of a home can seem like an intimidating task. However, a good way to start is by asking a contractor to review a property inspection report. Another way to begin calculating the replacement cost is to speak to an insurance agent and have them estimate the replacement costs based on their knowledge of the local market. 

There are specific factors that have a tremendous effect on the home’s replacement costs. Those include: 

  • The home’s age: Different building standards have been used over time, so the year the house was built is a tremendous influence on the replacement cost. Knowing the home’s age gives vital information regarding the construction materials that were used in the building process. 
  • The home’s square footage: A larger home requires more to replace or rebuild it. Higher square footage equals higher costs. 
  • The home’s features: Features include everything from floor coverings to roofing materials. If higher quality materials were used in the features, the replacement cost will be higher. 
  • The home’s fixtures: The quality of the fixtures also affects the replacement costs. The fixtures are such things as lighting, cabinetry, and countertops. Again, higher quality means higher replacement costs.
  • The home’s style: If the house has a complicated style, it will increase the replacement cost, whereas a simpler style will have a lower replacement cost.
  • The home’s foundation: Insurers want to know the type of foundation the house has. The type of foundation, slab, crawlspace, or basement, and whether the basement is finished or not, will affect the replacement cost of the home. 

Replacement cost coverage is based on an estimated value, so it’s not a guaranteed claim amount. It’s also not guaranteed that the amount will fully cover the total loss of the home. 

The actual cash value of a home refers to the market value of that property with consideration of depreciation. Appraisers get the value by subtracting the depreciation cost from the replacement cost of the home. If a policyholder suffers a loss because of a covered incident, using actual cash value can result in settlements that are less than the replacement cost would be. 

 

Chapter 7 What Happens When Your Insurance Denies a Claim in Florida?

 

Homeowners’ insurance claims are denied daily, sometimes for legitimate reasons, sometimes because of an error, and sometimes for reasons that aren’t understood. If there has been a property loss, and the insurance company denied the claim, the policyholder can take steps to challenge the denial. An insurance company will send a formal notice explaining the claim’s denial, and if no formal letter is received, the claim wasn’t denied. 

The formal letter should provide specific reasons for the denial of the claim. Policyholders should read the letter carefully and compare it to their policy to determine if their understanding of their policy matches the reasoning for the claim denial. If the claim were denied legitimately for things like the premium not being paid or the loss being explicitly excluded from coverage, the policyholder wouldn’t have any recourse. 

Suppose the comparison of the explanation and the homeowner’s understanding of the policy leads the homeowner to believe the damage should still be covered. In that case, they should begin with a conversation with their insurance claims adjuster and their insurance agent. It isn’t easy to persuade an insurance company’s adjuster to reverse a claim denial. However, it’s worth pursuing if the homeowner can present evidence of appropriate coverage in their policy documents. 

If explaining their position to the claims adjuster isn’t working for the homeowner, the next step is filing a formal appeal of the decision. There is a limited amount of time to file an appeal, and the time starts when the initial claim is denied. The appeals process is typically outlined within the homeowner’s insurance policy documents. 

Filing a formal appeal causes the denied claim to be reviewed. It’s best if the homeowner provides as much evidence and documentation as possible to back their claim that the damages to their property should be covered by their policy. An organized presentation of the information is more likely to get a more thorough review of the denied claim. 

Consulting with a licensed public adjuster is a smart choice when there has been a loss of property. This is true even if a claim has been filed and denied. A public adjuster can verify the coverage in the policy, document and assess the damages, and help to negotiate the largest settlement available within the confines of the homeowner’s insurance policy. Contacting a public adjuster sooner rather than later can lead to a more satisfactory resolution. 

The next step is a formal complaint with the state’s insurance commissioner. A policyholder in good standing has the right to having their property claim processed fairly and on its own merit. If this doesn’t happen, it’s time to consider filing a formal complaint with the insurance commissioner. 

Suppose the policy owner has reached the point they feel the need to sue the insurance carrier. In that case, they should find a qualified lawyer who has specific experience with property insurance claims. They should get references to prove the lawyer has experience handling property insurance claims rather than a basic understanding of property law. Even with increased regulations across the insurance industry, courts in all states are overrun with bad faith lawsuits and property claims disputes.

 

Chapter 8 Why You Should Not Accept an Insurance Company's First Offer

 

An insurance claim settlement is key to getting life back in order after a disaster strikes and causes damage to someone’s property. The insurance money is necessary for repairs to the property or rebuilding the home. It’s also needed to replace belongings and pay added expenses. Homeowners want the insurance settlement check as quickly as possible because it often feels as though life is on hold until the claim is settled and damages are repaired. 

It’s important that homeowners not become so desperate for the settlement money that they accept the first offer that the insurance adjuster gives them. There are several reasons not to take the first offer presented. Here are some of them. 

  1. There could be hidden damage to the property. Insurance adjusters offer property settlements based on the known damage. When there is extensive damage, there can be several unknowns that were missed in the initial assessment. Those can include: 
    1. The interior walls might have undetectable damage that is found when the work begins.
    2. A fire can leave a lasting smoky odor.
    3. Water used to extinguish a fire can leave mold, mildew, and other damage. 
  2. The initial appraisal might not cover every cost. The insurance company will settle based on the appraisal, which includes specific factors. Sometimes the company’s adjuster and a contractor won’t agree on the cost of these factors, and the insurance company will offer what they perceive to be a fair offer. The company might also attempt to get the homeowner to accept their offer by recommending contractors they feel will do the work for the price they are offering. The factors that property adjusters consider when making a settlement offer include the following: 
    1. Description of the damage
    2. Cost of materials
    3. Rates for hiring labor
    4. How many hours the work is expected to take
    5. Overhead and expected profit
  3. Coverage issues might cause a low offer. An insurance policy is complicated and has many conditions, exclusions, and provisions. When the company spends too much time on any one claim, it can easily find coverage issues. Instead of a settlement, they might send a letter outlining policy violations or other coverage issues. While they might not decline the claim, the company could choose to use the coverage issues as an intimidation tactic or leverage for lowering your settlement amount. 
  4. Things can be negotiated, including property depreciation values. When the company is required to pay actual cash value, the amounts they offer are usually not set in stone. Adjusters use charts and programs to calculate the depreciation of the property based on the life expectancy and the age when it was damaged. The norms make no adjustment for the actual condition of the property so that the homeowner can dispute the settlement values. 
  5. An appraisal is based on the adjuster’s opinion. When the insurance company offers a claim settlement based on an assessment, it’s negotiable because the appraisal is an opinion. Even computer-generated estimates can be questioned because they have been programmed by humans. 

Homeowners need to remember that the insurance adjuster isn’t on their side. The adjuster works for the insurance company. Therefore, they will be looking out for the company’s interest and their bottom line. Homeowners should take care when speaking to the claims adjuster that they only provide factual information that answers specific questions. 

A low first settlement offer shouldn’t be a surprise. Many insurance companies offer a low first settlement hoping that homeowners will simply take the offer and not do their due diligence. Sometimes, the low offer is meant to be a negotiation tactic. If the company starts with a particularly low offer, negotiations can lead to them paying a smaller amount than the homeowner had hoped to receive. 

When a homeowner feels they are getting an unfair settlement offer, they can decline it. Most people don’t realize that once you accept the offer, there isn’t a possibility of getting more money later. When an offer is accepted, the claim will be closed, and there will be no chance to reopen it if there are unexpected expenses later. If the homeowner isn’t sure they are receiving a fair offer, they can consult a property damage attorney to get a professional opinion about the settlement. 

Before considering a settlement, a homeowner has the option of consulting a public adjuster to get a second opinion on the value of the property. Gathering as much evidence and information as possible can help the negotiation process. The homeowner can take pictures and videos of all the damage to the property, and they can save any bills or receipts from the estimates for repairs. 

The unbiased opinion of a public adjuster can provide the information the homeowner needs to negotiate with the insurance company. The assessments provided by the public adjuster can often counter the points of the insurance company’s adjuster. 

 

The Takeaway

 

When a homeowner is forced to make an insurance claim due to damage from a natural disaster or some other catastrophic event, the insurance company will send their company’s adjuster to assess the property damage and prepare for a settlement. The homeowner may not realize it, but they have the option of hiring their own public adjuster to assess the damages and determine what they think the settlement should be. 

Homeowners shouldn’t be surprised by lower initial offers. The settlement can be negotiated as long as they don’t accept the first offer that is sent their way. The process of negotiating an appropriate settlement can be a daunting task for homeowners, but with the right knowledge and the assistance of the right professionals, they can confidently negotiate a satisfactory claim settlement.