Click on image to watch video of press conference

Donice Krueger came running into my study excitedly yelling that “Jimmy Patronis just called contractors and public adjusters locusts and predators on national television!” Since I just had a candid and positive discussion with Patronis the week before about hard issues confronting Florida’s insurance industry, I doubted that Florida’s Chief Financial Officer would say such slanderous things about entire trades of people trying to help others in their time of need. But then, Donice showed me the entire press conference.

Giving Jimmy Patronis the benefit of the doubt, his messaging was extremely poor. To be fair, he should consider apologizing to the insurance restoration construction community and public adjusters for his slander of them. It simply is wrong.

Policyholders suffering from Hurricane Ian need mitigation contractors right now. Flooded and water-soaked structures need to be dried and remediated immediately. Damaged roofs need tarps before more water enters from rain. The insurance policy requires the policyholder to do these things without waiting for the insurance company adjusters to show up. The messaging from Florida’s leaders that people should not immediately get help from reputable mitigation and restoration contractors is wrong and invites policyholders to breach their insurance contract obligations.

All Hurricane Ian policyholders should read Pay Up!: Preventing A Disaster With Your Own Insurance Company. The book has this to say about independent restoration contractors:

Reputable and quality-minded contractors can be valuable assets to policyholders. The average policyholder has no way of knowing when the construction work is done right. Construction and restoration are skilled trades. Using the wrong kind of roofing can result in problems in the future. Using the wrong nails on a particular shingle or failing to place the nails to spec can result in leaks or the roof being damaged in high winds or heavy rain. The details of construction matter—and the average policyholder simply does not have the expertise to recognize the fine details of quality construction. Good contractors do, which makes them experts in their specific domain. No one knows a quality roof repair better than a qualified and experienced roofer. When you hire your own contractors, so long as they are reputable, bonded, and willing to guarantee the work to manufacturers, you can better trust them to explain how to do the job right.

Even when you can pick your own contractors, the insurance company is still going to send out their adjusters to influence how repairs are made and the price to be paid. Good-quality contractors can push back and make sure that the work is done right. As compared to the average policyholder, experienced contractors are better equipped to insist that the job be done properly with quality materials according to the manufacturer’s recommended methods.

To be clear: contractors cannot negotiate your claim with the insurance company. That’s a job for you, a licensed public adjuster, or an attorney—no one else. However, contractors can serve as your eyes and ears on the ground. They can also advocate for you indirectly by doing work properly and in accordance with relevant laws. They can also let you know when work is not being done properly or according to regulations.

Most policyholders with significant Hurricane Ian damage can benefit from retaining licensed and reputable public adjusters. Pay Up!: Preventing A Disaster With Your Own Insurance Company has this to say about public insurance adjusters:

First and foremost, they work for you and not the insurance company. Today most insurance company adjusters are under tremendous pressure to pay less in benefits. In a perfect world, all insurance adjusters assess claims accurately, cover losses in full, and ensure that policyholders get the entire benefit due. But we don’t have a perfect world. In the real world, the insurance company claims managers often train adjusters to lower the company’s obligations to you.

Second, public adjusters can help you through the claims process and make sure you meet your obligations on time. After suffering a loss, you are required to mitigate further losses and damage. You may have limited time to make a claim, file reports, challenge an assessment, or meet other obligations. Public adjusters guide you through this process and get paid to do much of it for you. Many people simply don’t have the time to do these things themselves. Many business owners and homeowners don’t have time to dig through the rubble after a structure burns down. Public adjusters return to the scene of the loss to prepare detailed estimates. They’ll file paperwork to meet deadlines required by the policy.

Third, they have experience that customers do not. They understand the claims process and can guide policyholders through it. They are trained to look for and find hidden damage that may not be readily apparent. They know what policies typically cover and how to document a loss properly.

Fourth, they are better able to negotiate with the insurance company. Most policyholders simply aren’t experienced and trained to negotiate the fairest deal with the insurance company. Insurance company adjusters are experts at getting claims settled as low as possible. You need an expert to make sure you get the full benefit due and that nothing is overlooked.

To be fair and balanced, I think Patronis’ message about being wary of “scammers” and disreputable predators is proper. Policyholders should not be pressured to sign contracts and have to be wary of disreputable solicitors who will say and promise anything to get a contract signed. These disreputable people do prey upon ignorance and those in extreme need. Our leaders need to actually do something about it. In the past, I have reported and met with officials about this conduct, providing them names and examples of those doing the wrongful actions—then nothing happens.

Jimmy Patronis is facing many difficult issues regarding Florida’s insurance marketplace. I am happy his message is that insurers should promptly and fully pay claims. It is good that he has committed to insurance Villages. These are positive steps.

My hope is that a different message, with an apology, comes from Jimmy Patronis about reputable contractors and public adjusters. There are many very hard-working, experienced, and well-meaning restoration contractors and public adjusters helping Hurricane Ian victims. They are doing exactly what the law and our state expects and needs them to do—helping Florida policyholders immediately after a loss.

Thought For The Day

My philosophy is to do the best you can for somebody. Help. It’s not just what do you for yourself. It’s how you treat people decently. The golden rule. There isn’t big anything better than the golden rule. It’s in every major religion in one language or another.
—Art Linkletter