This month, a letter to the editor by Guy Marvin was published in the Florida Times Union.
Marvin is the President of the Florida Insurance Council (“FIC”). The FIC is based out of Tallahassee, but Marvin has ties to Jacksonville from his former work as general counsel at Independent Life Insurance Company.
In case you are not familiar, the FIC’s website says its vision is:
[T]o be the premier organization representing the insurance profession in Florida. The Council will be the recognized and preferred source of information on insurance matters including economic, legislative, regulatory, and consumer issues.
The main point of Marvin’s letter seems to be –don’t worry, your insurance company will fairly and quickly handle your insurance claim in the event there is a storm. Mr. Marvin urges Florida policyholders not to hire a public adjuster. Marvin wrote:
Every insurer employs specially trained adjusters who can readily assess your damages and facilitate speedy payment for your losses, all at no cost to you.
Unfortunately, during times of catastrophe, there are some who see crisis situations as an opportunity to get the cash that your insurance company is paying you to help recover your losses.
Allowing anyone to skim 20 percent or more of the funds your insurance company pays for your damages is unnecessary. More importantly, it leaves homeowners unable to fully recover a catastrophic loss…
There is no need for the homeowner to bypass the insurer’s adjuster in favor of a public adjuster. After all, any reputable adjuster would make the same determination of loss. The difference is that the public adjuster will keep 20 percent or more of your payment!
…Consumers should recognize that the vast majority of claims are handled promptly and fairly by your insurance company adjuster.
The Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (“FAPIA”) promptly replied and explained where they felt Marvin got it wrong. The response was written by David Beasley, who is the current president of FAPIA. David Beasley was one of the first public adjusters I met when I began working on behalf of policyholders shortly after Hurricane Dennis.
David began the response by agreeing with his adversary: insureds should not panic after a hurricane. But he also explains:
The insurance company adjuster who comes to your house after the storm is there to protect the company’s interests.
Following a catastrophic event such as a hurricane, it commonly takes two to six weeks for the insurance company adjuster to visit the property, and that visit is usually by an independent adjuster with no check-writing authority.
Public adjusters are the only individuals licensed by the state to represent consumers and assist with estimating, documenting and submitting claims. Yes, they receive a commission on the claim that is paid, but unlike Marvin’s assertion that this represents 20 percent or more “skimmed” from the payment, the commission is capped by state law at 10 percent in the first 12 months following a hurricane.
Beasley goes on to urge homeowners to find reputable help:
…if the damage is more substantial? Is the insurance company adjuster going to focus on giving you the compensation you deserve? Public adjusters work for policyholders.
Their job is to ensure the policyholders receive every penny they deserve. As you might expect, insurance companies, and their representatives such as Marvin, aren’t real happy about that.
The Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters recommends that homeowners identify reputable public adjusters in advance, so that they can quickly contact them should damage occur.
With the current tropical action in the Atlantic, it is important to stay calm, but it is also important to stay informed and be prepared. I think it is unfortunate that Marvin wrote this post without clarifying that Florida statue regulates the fees charged by public insurance adjusters and, for the first 12 months following a hurricane, the fee is limited to 10%.
I hope Floridians and others in hurricane prone areas understand they need to ensure the insurance company adjusts and pays for all the covered damages provided for in their insurance policy. The process can be challenging and frustrating, but hiring a professional to adjust the loss on your behalf may help a policyholder even the playing field.