On September 5, 2012, a Consent 0rder was entered in the matter of Emergency Services 24, Inc., in connection with a settlement stipulation. In Florida, the chief financial officer, as the head of the Department of Financial Services, has jurisdiction over unlicensed public insurance adjusting.
Emergency Services 24, an Orlando based water removal and water damage restoration company, was subject to a Department investigation that started last January. The Department sought to determine whether Emergency Services 24 was acting as a public adjuster without a license. To avoid formal litigation, Emergency Services 24 entered into a Settlement Stipulation.
As part of the settlement, Emergency Services waived its right to a hearing and to appeal the order.
Emergency Services 24 was ordered to cease and desist from the following acts:
1. Advertising themselves as a public adjuster.
2. Holding themselves out as a public adjuster.
3. Acting as a public adjuster.
4. Preparing, completing, or filing insurance claim form or forms for an insured or third party.
5. Initiating settlement negotiations for loss or damage covered by an insurance contract.
6. Engaging in claims handling.
7. Entering into an agreement, or contract, proposal, or similar document, with clients that grant Emergency Services 24 authority over the client's insurance claim or insurance related matters.
8. Using the following, or similar phrases on websites and advertisements: "We represent you, the consumer, and handle the insurance claims and adjusters on your behalf."
9. Routinely requesting from the insurer a copy of the insured's policy, declaration page stating policy limits, and a statement of policy or coverage defense available to the insurer.
If the Department discovers Emergency Services 24 violates the order, the company will be subject to the provisions of Florida Statute Section 626.9601, including a fine up to $50,000.00.
It is important for policyholders to understand they should ask those who attempt to do any of the above whether they are a licensed and bonded public insurance adjusters before they sign any agreements or allow work to be performed. This consent order does not represent an isolated instance of unlicensed public adjusting - it is far too common. Because navigating an insurance claim is such a foreign experience for many homeowners and business owners, insureds are often victims who unknowingly trust people who say they can help. In most states, the licensure of a public insurance adjuster can be found on the department of insurance's website. Florida public adjusters licenses can be checked here.
Florida Statute § 626.854 defines the act of a licensed public adjuster:
(1) A “public adjuster” is any person, except a duly licensed attorney at law as exempted under s. 626.860, who, for money, commission, or any other thing of value, prepares, completes, or files an insurance claim form for an insured or third-party claimant or who, for money, commission, or any other thing of value, acts on behalf of, or aids an insured or third-party claimant in negotiating for or effecting the settlement of a claim or claims for loss or damage covered by an insurance contract or who advertises for employment as an adjuster of such claims. The term also includes any person who, for money, commission, or any other thing of value, solicits, investigates, or adjusts such claims on behalf of a public adjuster. [emphasis added]
Merlin Law Group has written extensively about the practice of unlicensed public adjusting and the unlicensed practice of law in many blogs articles and papers. Check out: