When do I need a public adjuster?

Q:

When do I need a public adjuster?

A:

Great question. Let's start this off with an overview of what an adjuster is and does.

No offense to adjusters, but they're the people you never want to see. That's because they're the ones who are called in when there is a claim to be handled. Their job is to investigate the loss and figure out what is insured and how much the insurance company should pay (for related reading, see Insurance Industry Careers: What They Are and How to Get Them).

There are, broadly, two types of adjusters: claims adjusters and public adjusters. They do the same work fundamentally, but a claims adjuster is employed by the insurance company.

And therein lies the problem.

Adjusters must be licensed and uphold strict ethical standards in their dealings. Still, you could think of the adjuster working for the insurer as a conflict of interest. Because they're paid by the insurance company, they have an incentive to settle claims as quickly as possible and they might also be inclined to be a bit more conservative when deciding what is or isn't covered and when they're calculating how much the insured is eligible to receive.

To tip the balance back in your favor, you can opt to hire a public adjuster instead. They'll handle the paperwork, conduct an independent investigation, deal with negotiations, and generally advocate on behalf of you.

Now, it certainly sounds nice to have someone in your corner during these stressful procedures, but public adjusters don't work for free, and in most cases, you don't need one.

So, for your routine claims, you might be fine with the insurer's claims adjuster (but see How to File a Claim that Gets Paid Sooner for advice on filing a claim in your favor). But if you feel like your claim has been handled unfairly by the insurer or if your loss is very large and complex (this is usually the case for business interruption or legal liability claims), it might be worth paying the public adjuster's fee so you have someone fighting for your interests.

Public adjusters are most commonly at work on commercial insurance claims, since those are more likely to be large, complex, and time consuming. But when disputes arise, working with a public adjuster can make sense for personal policyholders as well.

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Written by Jacques Wong
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Jacques grew up around the insurance industry and began actively participating in 2013. Since then, he has gotten a Level 2 license, won an Insurance Council of BC award in 2015 for academic excellence in the insurance licensing courses and educates insurance professionals through PNC Learning.   Full Bio