Jenifer Ackerman has started a series in the New Hampshire Concord Monitor called “After the Fire." In this series, Ackerman describes her family’s experience after their house fire. Over the course of nine weekly chapters, Ackerman writes about stress and devastation of the fire and educates readers about the issues she did not anticipate.

Chapter one describes Ackerman and her small children using their fire plan to escape, and described the blaze as she observed it from the road. In her most recent chapter, Ackerman describes the complications she encountered with the insurance and mitigation companies and the helpful role of the family’s public adjuster.

Ackerman explains:

The mitigation firm racked up a $50,000 bill in two weeks – money that would later be deducted from our insurance payout, which was particularly painful because neither our house nor our belongings ended up being salvageable.

We also hired a "public adjuster" – an incongruous name for the company that would act as our own private adjuster, to do for us what the insurance company’s adjuster does for it. For a small cut of what we would eventually recover from the insurance company, our public adjuster, Ricky, handled all dealings with the insurance company, inventoried the contents of the house, assessed the building damage, created and submitted our claims and got our rental costs paid out of the living expenses portion of our policy, coverage we didn’t even know we had.

Ricky made sure that nothing was overlooked because, unlike us, he knew what to o and what to look for. My husband Jeff and I are educated people. But whatever knowledge we had accumulated in our lives to that point, none of it had anything to do with evaluating the extent of the damage to our house and belongings, or filing a claim that would protect our interests, much less defending our claim against the insurance company’s efforts to minimize its payout. Ricky knew how to talk to the insurance company. He wasn’t emotionally involved in the loss and could therefore advocate for us effectively and give us rational advice we would not have been able to formulate on our own.

On his first trip to our house, the insurance company adjuster gave us an inventory log, asking us to list every item that had been in the house, what we paid for it, where we got it, and how long we’d had it.

In fact, the only information relevant to our claim was what the item was, what its fair market value was at the time of the fire and how old it was. Had we told our insurance company that the couches in the family room were free hand-me-downs from family members, or that the kids’ name-brand winter coats were $3 each at a yard sale, it’s unlikely the company would have agreed, up front, to assess those items at fair market value, which is what we were entitled to.

Without Ricky, we would never have known that.

Ackerman will publish two more chapters. The next will appear this Sunday in the Concord Monitor. Neither name of the insurance company nor the name of the public adjuster are being disclosed. The Concord Monitor described Ackerman’s account of the insurance company and public adjuster as the unnamed villain and anonymous hero in a post responding to a reader’s comment.

To read Jenifer Ackerman’s series, click here.