Considerations

WHAT IS A PUBLIC ADJUSTER?

A public adjuster is a person licensed by the State Insurance Department to advise and assist you in the preparation, presentation, adjustment and negotiation of your claim for damages against your insurance company. Adjusters are required to take a comprehensive state test, post bond with the state and comply with various provisions of the law before being licensed. In New York, you may call the Consumer Services Bureau of the Department of Financial Services – Insurance Division at (800) 342-3736 to determine if an individual or firm holds a current valid license.  You can also follow the following link to verify a license.  Be sure to click on “CLASS” category and choose Public Adjuster on the drop down menu: https://myportal.dfs.ny.gov/nylinxext/elsearch.alice#

WHY YOU NEED A COMPETENT PROFESSIONAL PUBLIC ADJUSTER:

Many people think that because they have insurance, their insurance company will “take care of everything”.  This simply is not true. An insurance company is in business to make money.  The company is under no obligation to point out all of the advantages and benefits available under its policy, but you can be sure it will take advantage of every limitation, exclusion or depreciation clause.  There will be several aspects of your loss that do not qualify for coverage and hidden costs that may never be considered.

The company will assign its own adjuster to your loss.  He or she works either as a direct employee of the company, or as an “independent adjuster” who is hired on a per case basis to represent the company.  It is the company adjuster’s job to look out for the company’s interests. You need your own adjuster to look out for your interests. Because insurance fraud is now commonplace, state and federal laws have been changed to make it ever easier for insurance companies to deny claims or portions of claims on small technicalities; even legitimate claims are now commonly denied or arbitrarily reduced by just about every insurance company.  The less an insurance company pays out in claims, the more money it makes.

An insurance contract is a highly technical legal contract subject to interpretation and prior court decisions.  All policies require that your claim be submitted in writing.  Proper research, preparation and presentation of a large claim takes many weeks of hard professional work. Neither the company adjuster nor your agent can possibly spend the time necessary to provide a properly detailed claim.  The better the claim presentation, the more money you will collect.

A good public adjuster works hard for your interests. He will provide advice each step of the way, take inventory of damaged property, provide detailed estimates of damages, assist you in dealing with contractors, and deal effectively with the company adjuster. You are likely to suffer a major insurance loss just once in your life; a good public adjuster successfully deals with similar losses every day.

A major homeowner loss is a trying time for you and your family.  There is a sense of bereavement.  You probably feel vulnerable and anxious about the future.  A good public adjuster will stand by you with professional experience and skill as well as personal understanding and assistance.

To a business, a loss can not only interrupt cash flow, but can result in loss of a customer base even after the damage is repaired and stock replaced.  Taking advantage of the “extra expense” and “business interruption” provisions in a business policy can minimize loss of future business as well as restoring your business’ availability to its clients in the shortest period of time.  A skilled public adjuster has the knowledge and experience to assist you in finding temporary quarters, replacing damaged items quickly and utilizing the tricky provisions of today’s modern business policies to insure that your business is compensated for every aspect of its loss.

In short, a good public adjuster can give you peace of mind, move your insurance claim along at the fastest possible pace, free you to concentrate on your family or your business, assist you with your immediate needs, and most importantly, make sure that you recover the maximum amount possible.

WHAT DOES IT COST TO HIRE A PUBLIC ADJUSTER?

A better question is what you might lose if you don’t retain a good public adjuster?  Rather than costing you money, in many cases having a skillful public adjuster may result in having money in your pocket after the loss is settled, the public adjuster is paid and the damage is repaired or replaced.  Successful professional handling of your homeowner claim will result in a higher resale value of your home and replacement of older contents with new ones.  Business experience and understanding of a good public adjuster can insure that your business will remain viable in the future.

Public adjusters work on a percentage of the amount of money recovered under the policy. Some adjuster’s contracts provide that you pay any expenses in addition to the agreed percentage.  By law, an adjuster in New York is not allowed to charge any fees which total more than 12 ½% of the paid claim, however, most if not all will negotiate a more favorable fee. Lawyers, by contrast, commonly charge one third of recovery to handle a case, and most will not negotiate. (Lawyers do not commonly handle property claims unless an insured and the insurance company fail to agree).  A claim well handled by a skillful public adjuster will invariably result in a higher recovery than could be obtained by a homeowner, a business owner, or even a contractor, or non-specializing attorney.  A low percentage charged by some public adjusters does not mean you will collect more money. It just stands to reason that some public adjusters are more skilled, work harder and command a higher percentage.  Beware of falling into the trap of a 3% or 5% fee by an adjuster who will not provide maximum recovery or maximum service.  Also be cautious of the public adjuster who says there will be no fee if you use his or her firm to do the repair work.  You need to be sure that such work will not consist of the cheapest materials and shoddy workmanship.  Again, checking with the Dept of Financial Services in NY or your state’s insurance department may reveal complaints against specific adjusters.  What matters is the honesty and skill as well as the bottom line of how much you will collect and have available for repair or replacement.

It is perfectly legal in New York for an insurance agent or broker to share a public adjuster’s fee, but the adjuster is obligated by law to reveal anyone else who has an interest in his or her fee.  It pays to do your own research into the competence of a public adjuster.

HOW TO GET THE BEST PUBLIC ADJUSTER:

As indicated above, some public adjusters are more skilled than others. The very best way to judge a public adjuster’s services is to speak to as many of his clients as possible. Most adjusters will furnish you with a couple of names (Even the worst adjuster is bound to get lucky sometimes). A good adjuster will furnish you with a lot of names. Most people who have been through a fire claim feel a certain kinship with others in the situation and are glad to share their experiences. They can tell you exactly how helpful their adjuster was and how pleased they were with his services. Even though this is a particularly trying time for you, the time you invest now to research the proficiency of a public adjuster can make a big difference in how much money you will recover and how long it will take to settle your claim.

An important question to ask former clients is how much time a public adjuster spent working on their claim. Many adjustment firms spread themselves thin and rely on unskilled help to handle their claims. A good public adjuster will personally handle each and every aspect of your claim. Ask other clients of a prospective adjuster how easy it was to contact their adjuster. You will have a lot of questions and concerns during your claim and having your adjuster available to you is vital.

Active membership of an adjuster in Associations of Public Insurance Adjusters provides educational benefits and keeps him or her informed of recent developments in the industry and in case decisions handed down by the courts.

Public Insurance Adjusting is a highly competitive business. You may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of them that will call on you. Some adjusters may attempt to impress you with the size of their firm. They have “engineers” who usually have no degree in engineering, but rather are builders or building estimators.  A truly competent individual’s experience, knowledge and skill at pricing and determining the degree of damage is important to your claim. Other adjusters may promise you specific dollar amounts. No adjuster can accurately predict the final value of a claim without weeks of research and hard work.  Don’t let the fact that many public adjusters are soliciting you interfere with your decision making.  There are a few excellent adjusters and your research can identify the best!

WHY ACT QUICKLY TO RETAIN A PUBLIC ADJUSTER?

Even though you are probably overwhelmed by your loss right now, the first stages of a claim are the most important.  Many people who have experienced a major loss feel that they should first meet with the company adjuster, and then if they sense there will be any problem, they can always hire a public adjuster to “fix things up”.  This could prove to be a costly error.

You will want to make sure that every aspect of your claim qualifies for coverage.  Some company adjusters will use their first interview to set up a possible denial of the claim at a later date.  There are many technicalities that could lessen or prohibit your monetary recovery under a policy.  You wouldn’t submit to a questioning session from an opposing attorney in a lawsuit without your own attorney present; you should be aware of the danger of giving the wrong information to an insurance company.  No public adjuster, lawyer or agent can later undo the information you submit that might harm your case or lower the collectible amount.

By law, a company adjuster sets a reserve estimate of your claim on his or her first visit.  You need that adjuster’s thinking to be in line with your need for a maximum recovery. (A company adjuster knows the company will pay more if you have a skilled public adjuster.)  A good public adjuster can assist you in obtaining temporary quarters, board up or protection of your property, and getting immediate advance funds from the insurance company.  Aside from the security of knowing your claim is in good hands from the beginning, the sooner you retain a public adjuster, the sooner your claim will get settled.

YOUR RIGHTS:

New York law specifically provides that no public adjuster is allowed to directly or indirectly solicit your business between the hours of 6:00 PM and 8:00 AM unless you invite him or her.  Board up companies and contractors are also prohibited from soliciting on behalf of a public adjuster during those hours.  Some unscrupulous public adjusters and/or their employees have been known to telephone neighbors or prospective clients at all hours of the night.  They often represent themselves as “fire investigators” or “building inspectors” asking questions such as where you will be staying, the name of your agent, attorney, etc.  Most legitimate fire investigators working for the police, district attorney or fire department will call on you personally to obtain needed information, as will building inspectors.  If your caller ID does not show proper identification, offer no information over the phone and offer to call back after you check the number.  If you receive any suspicious calls, report them to the police. Report any illegal adjuster activities to your state’s Insurance Department.

In New York and most other states you have three business days to cancel any public adjuster’s contract with no obligation. You must be given a copy of the contract and a pre-printed cancellation form at the time you sign such a contract.

A company adjuster must cooperate with any licensed public adjuster you retain.  The company adjuster would not be entirely truthful if he or she tells you that you do not need a public adjuster or that the same amount will be paid whether or not you retain a public adjuster.  The better your claim is documented and presented, the more you will collect.  No insurance company, agent or adjuster has the right to insist that you use a particular public adjuster or contractor.  Those choices should be yours alone.

WHY USE D’AMORE ADJUSTERS:

Just suppose we happen to be the very best public adjustment firm available. How would you know?

Experience and technical excellence are the most important attributes of a good public adjuster.   Bob D’Amore has served as a District Claim Manager for Unigard Insurance and as an independent company adjuster for over 30 different insurance companies.  This uniquely qualifies our principal to know both sides of the issues.  He has been hired by attorneys to testify as an expert witness in various courts and been hired by contractors to write construction estimates for them.  In the 45 years that Bob has been an insurance claim professional, he has handled over 10,000 claims!  That kind of experience makes a big difference in the results and the amount of respect given by company adjusters.  Unlike other public adjusters, Bob and his staff personally spend a lot of time on each claim, paying particular attention to the small details that add dollars. We have complex insurance programs with location-specific prices of thousands of building items and use the internet to price most items of personal property. Bob also has extensive experience in business operations and accounting. You can reach us at any time of day.  Our very reasonable fee includes all normal expenses.  We do not take a fee on any settlement or advances for the additional living expense portion of your claim, which most other adjusters insist upon.  Those who recommend us do so only because they know us and have been satisfied with our services.

We do not take on a claim unless we are certain we can make a difference. We will provide a free no obligation consultation and visit to the premises if warranted, review of an insurance policy and an honest analysis of what we believe would be your best course of action.  Not all insurance claimants need a public adjuster.  If we believe you do not, we will give you free advice and answer all of your questions.

Our word that we are a better adjustment firm really doesn’t mean that much. The real judge of our work product must be former clients. Please speak to both our clients and people who have used other adjusters. We take a great deal of pride in our work and care about our clients. Your immediate needs are our primary concern right now.  We get frequent calls from people who are clients of other public adjusters who have become unhappy with their adjuster or from those who have been attempting to handle a claim on their own without success.  Unfortunately, it’s often too late for us to help.  We don’t disappear after your claim is settled, but stand by to assist you with contractors and provide advice on repairs and replacements.

We are listed as an A+ business with the Better Business Bureau and subscribe to their free arbitration plan if a dispute arises (so far that has never been necessary).  We promise to be available to you when you need us.  You have Bob D’Amore’s 24 hour number and his cell phone number.  We will usually return your call within 3 hours of your message.  Ask former clients about our availability.

The next step is up to you. Please check out the section of our website entitled “about us” and carefully check our references as well as those of any other adjuster you are considering. We would very much like to sit down with you to discuss our services in detail.  There is no charge for a consultation, and we may be able to answer many of your questions immediately.  We don’t believe in high pressure sales; that’s why we have tried to make every aspect of our website informational and helpful to prospective clients.  Remember, you have nothing to lose by calling to discuss our services, but plenty to lose if you do not.