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Written by Andy Gurczak

July 10, 2024

Should You Hire a Public Adjuster or a Lawyer for a Large Homeowners Insurance Claim?

Large homeowners insurance claims can be a labyrinth of paperwork, negotiations, and potential disputes. Knowing when to enlist the help of a public adjuster or a lawyer—or both—can make a significant difference in the outcome of your claim.

Let’s delve into the roles of these professionals and determine when their expertise might be most beneficial.

Understanding the Roles: Public Adjusters: Your Claim Advocate

A public adjuster is a licensed professional who specializes in assessing and negotiating insurance claims on behalf of policyholders. Their expertise lies in understanding insurance policies, evaluating property damage, and advocating for a fair settlement. Essentially, they are your claim ally, working to maximize your recovery while you focus on rebuilding your life.

Lawyers: Your Legal Guardian

Lawyers specializing in insurance claims offer legal advice and representation in disputes with insurance companies. They are well-versed in insurance law and can guide you through the legal process if your claim is denied, undervalued, or if any legal issues arise. Their expertise can be crucial in protecting your rights and ensuring a just resolution.

When to Engage a Public Adjuster

A public adjuster can be invaluable in the following scenarios:

  • Complex Claims: If your claim involves significant property damage, multiple types of losses, or complex policy provisions, a public adjuster can help you navigate the intricacies and ensure your claim is thoroughly documented and presented.
  • Limited Expertise: If you lack experience with insurance claims or feel overwhelmed by the process, a public adjuster can take the burden off your shoulders and handle the claim on your behalf.
  • Disputed Claims: If your insurance company disputes your claim or undervalues your losses, a public adjuster can negotiate with the insurer on your behalf, leveraging their expertise to secure a fair settlement.

When to Consult a Lawyer

Involving a lawyer can be crucial in these situations:

  • Denied Claims: If your claim is denied outright, a lawyer can review your policy, assess the denial, and determine if legal action is warranted.
  • Bad Faith Practices: If you suspect your insurance company is acting in bad faith, such as delaying your claim or refusing to investigate your losses, a lawyer can advise you on your legal options and protect your rights.
  • Litigation: If your dispute with the insurance company cannot be resolved through negotiation, a lawyer can represent you in court and pursue a legal resolution.

When Both Might Be Necessary

In some cases, it might be beneficial to have both a public adjuster and a lawyer working on your claim. For instance:

  • Large, Complex Claims: A public adjuster can handle the claim investigation and negotiation, while a lawyer can provide legal advice and oversee the process, ensuring your rights are protected.
  • Potential Disputes: If there is a high likelihood of a dispute arising with your insurance company, having a lawyer involved early on can be proactive and prevent issues from escalating.
  • Bad Faith Concerns: If you suspect bad faith practices by your insurance company, a lawyer can investigate the matter and advise you on legal action, while a public adjuster can continue working on your claim.

Understanding Public Adjuster Fees and Contracts

While public adjusters can significantly benefit your claim, it’s important to understand how they are compensated and what their contracts entail. Most public adjusters work on a contingency fee basis, meaning their fee is a percentage of the total settlement amount you receive. This percentage can vary, so it’s important to discuss this upfront and ensure you understand the terms of the agreement.

Key Aspects of Public Adjuster Contracts:

  • Scope of Services: Clearly define the services the public adjuster will provide, such as claim evaluation, documentation, negotiation, and communication with the insurance company.
  • Fees and Expenses: Outline the percentage fee the public adjuster will charge, as well as any additional expenses you may be responsible for, such as appraisal fees or expert reports.
  • Termination Clause: Ensure the contract includes a provision allowing you to terminate the agreement if you are not satisfied with the public adjuster’s services.

Additional Factors to Consider

Time Sensitivity

Time is of the essence when dealing with insurance claims. There are often strict deadlines for filing claims and providing documentation. If you are struggling to gather information or negotiate with your insurance company, a public adjuster can help you expedite the process and avoid missing any crucial deadlines.

Emotional Distress

Dealing with a significant loss and navigating the claims process can be emotionally draining. A public adjuster can handle the communication and negotiations with the insurance company, allowing you to focus on your recovery and well-being.

Potential for Appeal

If your claim is denied or undervalued, you may have the option to appeal the decision. A lawyer can guide you through the appeals process and represent your interests, increasing your chances of a successful outcome.

Case Studies: Real-Life Examples

Examining real-life examples can help illustrate the value of public adjusters and lawyers in large insurance claims.

  • Case Study 1: A homeowner experienced a devastating fire that destroyed their home. The insurance company offered a settlement that was far below the actual cost of rebuilding. The homeowner hired a public adjuster who was able to negotiate a significantly higher settlement, allowing them to rebuild their home to its pre-loss condition.
  • Case Study 2: A business owner suffered a major loss due to a natural disaster. The insurance company denied their claim, citing a policy exclusion. The business owner hired a lawyer who was able to prove that the exclusion did not apply and successfully overturned the denial, securing the compensation the business needed to recover.

Negotiating with Insurance Companies: Tips and Strategies

Negotiating with insurance companies can be intimidating, especially when dealing with a large claim. However, armed with the right knowledge and approach, you can increase your chances of a fair settlement.

Tips for Effective Negotiation:

  • Be Prepared: Gather all relevant documentation, including your insurance policy, photos and videos of the damage, repair estimates, and any receipts for temporary repairs or living expenses.
  • Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with your insurance policy and the relevant laws in your state. This will help you understand what you are entitled to and avoid being taken advantage of.
  • Be Patient: The negotiation process can take time. Don’t rush into accepting a lowball offer. Be prepared to counteroffer and explain your reasoning.
  • Be Assertive: Don’t be afraid to advocate for your interests. Clearly communicate your expectations and be willing to push back if the insurance company is not offering a fair settlement.
  • Consider Mediation: If negotiations reach an impasse, mediation can be a helpful way to resolve disputes. A neutral third party can help facilitate communication and guide the parties towards a mutually agreeable solution.

Choosing the Right Professional: Questions to Ask

Whether you are hiring a public adjuster or a lawyer, it’s important to choose the right professional for your needs. Here are some questions to ask potential candidates:

  • Experience: How much experience do you have handling similar claims?
  • Track Record: What is your success rate in securing fair settlements for clients?
  • Fees: What are your fees and how are they structured?
  • Communication: How will you keep me informed about the progress of my claim?
  • References: Can you provide references from past clients?

Common Challenges in Large Claims and How to Overcome Them

Large insurance claims often present unique challenges that can make the process more complex and time-consuming. Here are some common challenges and strategies for overcoming them:

  • Disputed Coverage: If the insurance company disputes coverage for your loss, it’s important to review your policy carefully and gather evidence to support your claim. A lawyer can help you assess the situation and determine the best course of action.
  • Delayed Payments: Insurance companies may sometimes delay payments in an attempt to pressure you into accepting a lower settlement. Don’t be afraid to escalate the issue and seek assistance from a public adjuster or lawyer.
  • Underpaid Claims: If you believe your claim has been undervalued, gather additional evidence, such as independent appraisals or expert reports, to support your case. A public adjuster can help you negotiate a fair settlement.
  • Complex Documentation: Large claims often involve a significant amount of paperwork. A public adjuster can help you organize your documents and ensure that all necessary information is submitted to the insurance company.

Additional Resources for Policyholders

In addition to hiring a public adjuster or lawyer, there are several other resources available to policyholders navigating large insurance claims. These resources can provide valuable information, support, and guidance throughout the process.

  • State Insurance Department: Your state insurance department can provide information about your rights as a policyholder and assist you with filing complaints against your insurance company.
  • Consumer Advocacy Groups: There are several consumer advocacy groups that specialize in insurance issues. These groups can provide information, resources, and support to policyholders.
  • Online Forums and Communities: Online forums and communities can be a great way to connect with other policyholders who have experienced similar situations. You can share information, ask questions, and get support from others who understand what you’re going through.

Making the Decision

The decision of whether to hire a public adjuster or a lawyer—or both—depends on the specific circumstances of your claim. Consider factors such as the size and complexity of your claim, the potential for disputes, and your comfort level with handling the process on your own.

It’s also worth noting that public adjusters and lawyers typically work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if you recover compensation. This can make their services more accessible and affordable for policyholders.

In conclusion, both public adjusters and lawyers can play valuable roles in helping you navigate large homeowners insurance claims. Choosing the right professional—or team of professionals—can be a crucial step in securing the compensation you deserve and rebuilding your life after a loss.

When it comes to maximizing your claim and ensuring you receive the full value you’re entitled to, consider partnering with AllCity Public Adjusting. Remember, you are not alone in this process. AllCity Adjusting is standing by to help you navigate the complexities of your insurance claim and secure the settlement you deserve.

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