Some of the interesting changes in the public adjuster trade are the increased requirements to obtain and maintain a license. This past legislative year, the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA) lobbied for and obtained an apprentice period as well as specific continuing education requirements for public insurance adjusters. Some may be surprised that FAPIA pushed for this legislation, but there was an obvious need for it.
In 2004, there were several hundred licensed public adjusters in Florida before Hurricane Charley set off a wave of storms, culminating with Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The number of licensed public adjusters swelled to over three thousand in Florida. While there was and is a need for policyholders to have experienced professionals assist them to establish the proper value of any significant claim, many of the new public adjusters had little experience, understanding, or training.
All one had to do to obtain a license was pass an open-book online test. I have met preachers, car salesmen, fitness trainers, and salespeople who became licensed public adjusters after the first storm of 2004. The public suffers when inexperienced and inadequately trained people represent themselves as "professionals licensed by the state" to help consumers. I do not begrudge anybody the opportunity to make a living in this field, but good adjusters have a tremendous amount of training gained over years of practice. A thorough understanding of policy language, rules, laws, industry practices, construction estimating, building code knowledge, theories of coverage, financial issues, and adjustment techniques are learned through years of practice and diligent study. Adjusting claims is serious business with serious consequences if not done right.
Could you imagine letting doctors practice brain surgery the day after they graduate from medical school? This is essentially what Florida allowed, with some consumers unknowingly hiring "first time" adjusters. Accordingly, except for a minority of public adjusters that did not want any fee caps, the Florida public adjuster legislation was supported by FAPIA, NAPIA, the insurance industry, and the Citizens Property Insurance Claims Task Force. (Of special note, the Citizens Task Force, which was formed to suggest legislation regarding Citizens’ handling of claims, did not make one such suggestion, but was instead used by the insurance industry to make laws regarding other aspects of insurance.) My suggestion for those seeking to hire public adjusters is to look for the following:
- Membership in FAPIA and NAPIA
- Experience with the policyholder’s type of claim
- Sufficient manpower
I include price because you usually get what you pay for. Public adjusters typically charge ten percent (10%). Many will charge less, but they may not work the claim as diligently and make up the lost value of one claim by settling in volume. Ask for references. The lowest priced adjuster is often not the best. The highest may not be the best either. Look for experience, reputation, and past results so you have a good sense of trust with the person you select as your representative.