Should I Hire a Public Adjuster or An Attorney?

Should I Hire a Public Adjuster or An Attorney on My Property Insurance Claim?

Many people are trying to make an educated decision on whether to hire a public adjuster or an attorney.  You’ve experienced unexpected damage to your commercial or residential property.  Besides calling in your claim to the insurance company and following what they say, how do you know if you’re getting a fair shake?  You want to make sure your property insurance claim is not delayed, denied or underpaid.  Property insurance claims can be complex and overwhelming.  Many people turn to representation and hire a public adjuster or an attorney to resolve the insurance claim dispute.  A public adjuster is an advocate to the insured and is hired on your behalf to represent your property insurance claim to the insurance company.  A public adjuster properly documents the damage and scopes the amount of loss to ensure you’re recovered all the proceeds your entitled to under your policy.  An insurance adjuster works for the insurance company, why wouldn’t you have an adjuster working for you?

Should I hire a public adjuster or an attorney for my property insurance claim?  This is a question that always gets debated.  In my experience I’ve worked at a first party law firm and a public adjusting firm.  Don’t take my answer as biased because I own a public adjusting firm, Prime Adjustments, but here are the facts I see in my experience.

I would almost always hire a public adjuster if I personally had a property damage claim.  I say “almost always” because there are instances where I would go straight to legal and we do recommend certain files go straight to legal at Prime Adjustments.  I will get into that later.

By hiring a public adjuster, you are typically getting charged a contingency fee of 10-20% of the recovery.  What you get in return for paying this fee is worth it even if it has to go to legal in the end.  Once a good public adjuster is hired, they will review your policy, damages and the facts of the claim to ensure you have coverage and that it’s a valid claim.  No good public adjuster will take on your claim if it doesn’t have merit because they are then just wasting their time, money and reputation on a bad claim.

A public adjuster will then thoroughly investigate and document your damages to place a value on the loss.  I say a good public adjuster because a bad public adjuster will not have the experience and knowledge to properly investigate and document a claim.  They may just sign you up and then direct you to hire an attorney right away without doing the proper work a public adjuster is licensed to perform.  A good public adjuster will then negotiate with the carrier from there and you will find out pretty fast if the insurance carrier is willing to play ball.  In most cases if a public adjuster puts together a solid claim package, backing it up with supporting documentation and proving the damages, the carrier will then come up on their offer and hopefully it’s enough to settle.

If the carrier refuses to discuss, inspect and negotiate the claim further after the claim package has been submitted, then it’s time to look into alternative dispute resolutions.  Some claims may be more suited for appraisal and others may be more suited for an attorney.  These choices depend on the state, the policy and the facts of the case.  Prime adjustments will give you our recommendation if we get to that point but we want to give you all the information so you can make an informed decision with your claim.

So, at this point your claim is going to legal anyhow.  What was the benefit of hiring a public adjudicator?  If your claim goes directly to legal the lawyer will then hire an expert to document and scope all the damages.  Upon the lawyer settling your claim you will be charged expenses in your case in which this expense is taken out of your recovery.  If you had hired a public adjuster this is already completed and included within the public adjuster’s fee.  By hiring a competent public adjuster first, a complete claim package is given to the attorney on a silver platter.

In most cases an attorney will lower their fee if a public adjuster was on the file to account for the work completed.  So, it’s a no risk to you, the policyholder, to hire a public adjuster first.  If the public adjuster was able to settle your claim, then you just saved yourself lawyers fee’s and the costs involved to litigate the claim.  Also, without going to legal your claim was more than likely settled much quicker than being stuck in litigation.

There are also lawyers that will take on your claim for 10%, like a public adjuster, only for pre-litigation.  If the attorney can’t get movement in pre-litigation your case will then inevitably go to litigation and get tied up for a longer period of time.  But remember in this pre-litigation 10% you will also most likely be charged their expert fees on top of the 10%.  What is an attorney’s motivation to settle the claim pre-litigation?  Wouldn’t they rather have your case go to litigation so they can obtain and charge their full contingency fee?  Not all attorneys operate this way but it’s something to think about.


When to Hire An Attorney on My Property Insurance Claim?

Now when would a claim come into Prime Adjustments, and we recommend it go right to legal and bypass us?  Many times, when policyholders bring us a claim that has been denied by their insurance carrier, we are able to overturn the denials depending on the facts.  In certain cases, it may be a legal issue that we as a public adjusters cannot legally handle. 

Another example would be when we get calls for third party claims.  In many states a public adjuster cannot work a third party claim, in which a lawyer would have to get involved.  An example of a third party claim would be if a contractor was hired and they caused further damage to the property that they are liable for and you would have to go after their insurance.  In this instance, you may also have the option if you have insurance coverage, to make a claim through your insurance and your carrier would subrogate the damages to that contractor’s insurance carrier.  If you have coverage, a public adjuster can assist with that type of claim.  If you don’t have insurance, you would need a lawyer to work this claim.

Prime Adjustments would also recommend an attorney if the loss is coming up on the statute of limitations and needs to be filed immediately to preserve the insured’s ability to recover the proceeds owed.

I hope this helps you make an informed decision on whether to hire a public adjuster or an attorney on your property insurance claim to achieve a resolution to your property insurance claim.  Contact Prime Adjustments today to discuss which solution is best for your claim.

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