Americans hate to be told that we cannot do something. I think it is just in our DNA. Since the time we are little, we are taught to “never let somebody tell you that you cannot…..” Name the dream you want to accomplish because, in America, you can do it.
So, when I wrote a blog on Friday, Public Adjusting Is Illegal in Alabama, it is not unexpected that I will get all kinds of comments. One of the first was from NAPIA’s General Counsel, Brian Goodman, who disagreed with me and led to me filing a correction, Stop the Presses and Mark the Time—Chip Merlin, The Wizard of Something, May Be Wrong!!!
The important word in the new title is “may” because after writing it, I got an earful of private emails, some from attorneys, suggesting that representing a policyholder and negotiating their legal rights under a property insurance policy is the unauthorized practice of law in Alabama. Just think about what the Louisiana Bar says constitutes the unauthorized practice of law—and public adjusting is licensed in Louisiana.
I also received emails from public adjusters telling me that many insurance companies will flagrantly not deal with you; Alabama attorneys will tell their clients that public adjuster contracts constitute the practice of law; your name will be left off the check with a warning to your policyholder client that public adjusters are not licensed in Alabama, and you will get threatened to be sued. Other public adjusters wrote to me and said that the best advice is “to stay low and under the radar screen, so you do not draw attention.”
Dante Fabro’s comment raised a common question asked by many public adjusters who also read my earlier blog post, A Short History Lesson About How Adjusters Do Not Need to Be Licensed Attorneys. That post described how difficult it was for even independent adjusters representing insurance companies to be able to adjust claims:
The concern is the public rather than insurance companies. The Alabama Bar made certain agreements regarding adjusters representing insurance companies over 70 years ago but has never agreed to allow that for the public.
The very knowledgeable public adjuster Bill Cook, apparently has time on his hands because he commented that he had started an academic discussion of this topic with the Alabama Bar:
Give this some thought
Can a public adjuster not in privity to the insurance contract negotiate damages with an independent adjuster that also is not in privity to the insurance contract. Since staff adjusters are in privity to the contract, negotiating with one of them may be considered UPL and should be avoided for any involvement. A close reading of the statutes precise language appears to me to allow such activity. I spent considerable time with letter writing to the Alabama Bar and the Alabama Department of Insurance to resolve the issues. The issues still remain open with the bar and the DOI. Lack of privity of an independent adjuster is the foundation of my argument.
For all of you interested in this topic and with time on your hands, you can read an Alabama case about an independent adjusting firm taking on lawyers in Alabama and what constitutes the unauthorized practice of law as it relates to adjusting in Alabama.1
I try to report to you what the property insurance law is and what trends I see. I can tell you that public adjusting is not licensed in Alabama. I can report to you what members of the Alabama Bar have written and told me.
From a practical and sound place of suggestion, I can also encourage you to follow the law, be safe when conducting your business affairs, and never practice law without a license. If you wish to practice public adjusting in Alabama, I suggest you have your contracts drawn up by a licensed Alabama attorney who will put that license on the line if the contract—and your conduct described in that contract—may get challenged.
A Video Thought For The Day For Those Of You Who Hate Being Told You Can’t
1 Wilkey v. State ex rel. Smith, 244 Ala. 568 (Ala. 1943).