If a picture says a thousand words, the one above certainly does. This picture was taken in the Panhandle of Florida following Hurricane Michael. This photograph may actually go so far as to imply the contractor is advertising for the practicing of law.

Just to make certain that the advertisement may suggest something that the contractor is not doing and that public adjusting is not a service the contractor is advertising to do, I went to the Mason Dixon Contracting web page:

“We Can Help You Streamline the Claims Process

It is your right to have one of our storm restoration specialists present for the initial adjuster inspection. A Mason Dixon Contracting inspector will meet with your adjuster on the property to discuss wind and hail damage and agree on a plan for repairs. This can dramatically speed up the claim negotiations. We will provide you with detailed explanations of the insurance estimate and documents throughout the process. Most importantly, we will handle your claim and complete all the work within your insurance company’s quoted price. In summary, here are potential benefits of working on your claim with Mason Dixon Contracting.

•Our representatives meet with your adjuster for the prompt and accurate resolution of your claim.
•All exterior projects get completed to code.
•Energy savings with modern materials and certified installation.
•Improved curb appeal.
•Low-maintenance or even maintenance-free siding.
•Call for a FREE Property Inspection for Storm Damage

Find out what makes us the leading roofing contractors in the area for storm damage repair and restoration….”

Mason Dixon contracting may be the greatest roofer and contractor in the world. Its advertising is very impressive. But, it is clearly advertising to handle policyholders’ insurance claims. This advertisement is illegal, and the acts are also illegal in Florida because they constitute the unauthorized practice of public adjusting and probably the unauthorized practice of law.

Merlin Law Group attorney Larry Bache recently gave a speech to an audience primarily composed of contractors. He made a good point that “everybody should stay in their lane” and abide by laws.

Contractors have to speak with insurance company adjusters because the insurance company adjusters must investigate the claim in order to settle it with the policyholder. The person doing the construction work may have valuable information for the adjuster about the damaged portion of a building but settling the claim and agreeing to what is to be done is a contract right owned by the policyholder.

Consumers should have true professionals who can legally explain all the options the policyholder has at the time a loss occurs and all the benefits the insurance policy provides. For example, policyholders do not have to build their structures back to how it was before the loss. Often, it is much more advantageous to rebuild a damaged structure differently and sometimes not even at the same loss location. Just this one issue is far beyond the expertise of what contractor is legally entitled to advise a policyholder.

Contractors are a core group that help restore our communities after catastrophes. Those contractors that come from far away communities and do quality work just as they do in their own communities are very important because there is no way local contractors can do all the work demanded following a large scale catastrophe. Professional restoration contractors that build with quality methods, materials, and pursuant to all local building codes are not the enemy and should be congratulated for their entrepreneurialism and willingness to work a long way from friends and families.

Nevertheless, as demonstrated by the photograph and the contractor website, the issues concerning and instances of unauthorized practice of public adjusting are significantly increasing throughout the country.

Thought For The Day

Construction is an important front for solidifying the foundations of a thriving country and creating bases for the people’s happy life.
—Kim Jong-un

  • Jim Johnson

    I would certainly never hire a contractor who shows such blatant disrespect for the law as normally these characters tend to conduct all of their transactions with equal contempt. However, many or most consumers are not experienced and fall prey to these predators! Sadly, law enforcement is not able to corral all of these perpetrators.

    • Jim,

      For all I know the contractor may do a great job contracting and building. It may
      be the advertising is just over the top.

      On the other hand, there are contractors that are really good at advertising, use
      pressure selling tactics for remediation work and do shoddy workmanship and
      simply gaming the system. Those types of contractors are good for nobody except
      themselves.

      Buyer Beware is a very important message to Hurricane Michael policyholders.

      Thanks for your comment.

      • Yes, they can be great contractors, but if they are also committing multiple felonies daily, why are there no consequences?

        • Mark,

          This is really a great question. Generally, consequences for breaking law come from those responsible for enforcing the law. Those enforcing the law need complaints or some knowledge that the law has been broken and sufficient resources to prosecute those infractions. It is not an easy job, and these types of crimes are often viewed as much less serious than those where crime is committed with physical harm or threats.

          I have spoken with insurance investigators with the various departments of insurance over the decades. Many of them complain that many State Prosecutors do not like to bring these types of cases for one reason another. Cases where the policyholder commits alleged fraud or an agent that sells but keeps the insurance premiums seem to be a lot more newsworthy.

          I was at a TAPIA meeting about a month ago where a Texas state prosecutor was appointed to just prosecute insurance crimes. Having specialized prosecutors or specialized training for prosecutors would be a great start for many states. I have had a least one insurance company attorney tell me to expect the prosecution of attorneys, runners, contractors and maybe public adjusters in Texas. If that takes place, there will be consequences for those violating those laws.

          Still, how often do we here about insurance adjusters and their experts being investigated and challenged on criminal grounds for the systematic and planned underpayment that goes on by insurance companies against their own customers? I have been vocal that if the claims managers were subject to criminal prosecution and enforcement for their fraud, we would have little need for bad faith cases and consumer protection because those defrauding insurance company managers could not buy their way out of jail.

          So, I suggest that if you see instances of wrongdoing, report those to the authorities and at least the leaders in FAPIA who have pledged to turn those people and entities into the authorities.

          My best and great hearing from you.

          • baruch

            Well said!

          • shirley heflin

            Dear Chip:

            Just because Insurance Company Adjusters and their Experts are not challenged “…on criminal grounds for the systematic and planned underpayment that goes on by insurance companies against their own customers….” is still in “mid-air”, does not excuse anyone “representing” the Insured ( i.e., Contractors, Runners, Public Adjusters, etc.) from engaging in unlawful acts. If one violates the law – no matter whom they “represent” – they should be prosecuted for their criminal acts. Saying “I didn’t know that” doesn’t cut it when one is arrested, prosecuted and appearing before a Judge for Arraignment to plead “Guilty” or “Not Guilty.”

            It appears that until cases are criminally prosecuted on the Insured and the Insurer’s side, each side will continue to veer in lanes they shouldn’t be in.

            Respectfully,
            SHIRLEY HEFLIN
            Tampa, FL

            Respectfully,
            SHIRLEY HEFLIN
            Tampa, FL

  • William Cook

    Since it takes two to Tango , the cooperating adjuster is in violation of the rules, he should be targeted on an equal basis for violation of the applicable rules.

    • Could not agree more. But won’t hold my breath waiting for action on this front.

  • shirley heflin

    Dear Chip:

    I agree that “Contractors are a core group that help restore our communities after catastrophes.” I also agree that many Contractors come from other states because we do not have enough of them to do quality work after large scale catastrophes such as Hurricane Michael.

    Indeed, it’s akin to our local electricity companies (TECO & Duke Energy), police agencies, ambulances, etc., traveling from Florida to other states to “help out”. The difference being – of course – is that these companies are on a payroll and are not dependent on “leads” and can be contacted and held accountable for any reason following completion of their services.

    I agree with Attorney Bache that everyone should stay in their respective lanes. Indeed, for anyone that questions this advice, refer to Merlin Law Group’s 12/2/18 Blog written by Attorney LaSalle. The Insured in that case relied upon their retained Public Adjuster (i.e., for “professional representation”) and – to their detriment – had a $250,000.00 claim DENIED and said Judgment was upheld on appeal.
    Respectfully,
    SHIRLEY HEFLIN
    Tampa, FL

  • rogerpoe

    To me – Contractors or Construction Consultants that deal with clients.that happen to be insured, can “help” insureds by way of proper construction market context. Meaning – They can fairly “help” insured clients by way of their own fair and fully formed event damage scope to a structure, justified safe and sound reconstruction protocols, by a fair market reconstruction cost price of a structure. How does doing so actually equal something totally different, which is,,intentionally “adjusting” financial loss values for insureds?

  • Joel

    Roofers and contractors are not the only culprits. I know many law firms who employ armies of “consultants” who are unlicensed to locate and bring them claims. I used to come across them while inspecting claims before I became a PA. the person who showed up was not an attorney or even a paralegal, but a contractor and when I asked them for their license they stated they were not a PA. In one case I then directed this info to the insured and asked her if she was aware of this, and then the consultant told the insured that she could answer no questions without the attorney present. I called DFS and they did nothing.

    What is the FL Bar doing to combat this? I thought the 2018 statute was designed to eliminate the practice of loss consulting? As A PA, who used to be an IA for years, it is unfair to allow this. I had to take the stupid test again, I have to pay a bond, and go thru regulatory hurdles, and then comes along someone who does not even know how to adjust and picks up clients.