(Chip’s Note—This will be a weekly feature of this blog which I am writing to obtain perceptions from experienced and leading public adjusters in the public adjusting profession.)   

Amy Bach and I were on a phone call last fall trying to determine a course of action to support policyholder interests regarding proposed legislation in Florida. She asked if I knew Rick Tutwiler. I laughed and said that I knew him and could tell her stories his mother, Linda Tutwiler, would tell me about Rick. Amy Bach then told me that Rick had been forwarding her all kinds of helpful articles and information about Florida’s insurance marketplace and was actively supporting United Policyholder efforts. 

Chip Merlin and Dick Tutwiler


When I first left representing insurance companies in 1985, two public adjusters, Ira Sarasohn and Dick Tutwiler, learned I had opened shop for policyholders. Each of them referred a policyholder client to me who needed help. Rick Tutwiler is a second-generation public adjuster of Tutwiler & Associates. His firm biography states in part:

Rick serves as President of Tutwiler & Associates…His interest in the profession began at an early age after witnessing firsthand how disasters can impact people’s livelihoods. He officially joined Tutwiler & Associates in 2005 after completing the Property Loss Adjustment Program from Crawford & Company’s University… Rick is also a Certified Umpire under the Windstorm Insurance Network’s certification program. He is a member of the Insurance Appraisal and Umpire Association. In addition to Florida, he also holds licenses and works in New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2005, Rick led the team following Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Wilma. In 2008 he led the team following Hurricane Ike in Texas. In 2010 he worked in the Caribbean after Hurricane Earl battered the islands with heavy rain and roof-ripping winds as a major Category 4 storm. In 2012, Rick was in charge of heading up the firm’s New York office following the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy and in 2015 he was in charge of the firm’s Northeast operation assisting clients in Boston, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Virginia affected by the historic Blizzard of 2015. In 2016, Rick led the team after Hurricane Hermine and Hurricane Matthew, which impacted the firm’s Hotel clients in Daytona Beach.

Rick was appointed President of the Windstorm Insurance Network (WIND) in 2019. Prior to that he has been a Board Member since 2012 and was the recipient of the 7th Annual WIND Presidential Recognition Award in 2016. He has also served on the Conference Committee, Chair of the Membership/Marketing Committee, Nominating Committee and Co-Chair of the WIND 2016 Conference Committee and was elected Secretary in 2016. In 2017 he received the Windstorm Network ‘Fellow’ Designation that recognizes individuals who demonstrate the upmost professionalism and technical knowledge in the field of property and windstorm insurance claims. In 2016, Rick received the WIND ‘Professional’ Designation and was part of the first group of property insurance experts to be named to the Windstorm Network Fellows Program. He has served on several insurance claim expert panels during the WIND Conferences. Rick also serves as an Ambassador for the Florida Association of Insurance Adjusters, FAPIA.

In December 2016, Mr. Tutwiler was elected on to the Board of Directors of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA)…Mr. Tutwiler also served on NAPIA’s UPPA Committee, Constitution & By-Laws Committee and is currently the sitting Chair of the Membership & Recruitment Committee. He is a past Board Member for the Texas Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (TAPIA), Community Association Suncoast Chapter (CAI), USF College of Business Alumni Chapter, a past member of the President’s Circle of the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce and actively involved as a Big Brother in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay where he has been matched with his little brother, Hyadi for over ten (10) years. In 2008, Mr. Tutwiler earned the Property Claims Law Specialist (P.C.L.S.) designation from the American Education Institute and in 2013 upgraded his license to an All-Lines Public Adjuster license so he could begin mentoring other Public Adjuster Apprentices who have since joined the firm…Rick has been featured in the Boston Globe, New York’s PIX11 News, WTSP Tampa Bay, and the Tampa Bay Business Journal to name a few. In 2021 Rick was featured in a Tampa Bay Times article The Policyholder’s Champion in Tampa Bay…

…Rick graduated from Jesuit High School of Tampa, before going on to earn his B.A. in Business Management from the University of South Florida….

I recently interviewed Rick for this inaugural weekly spotlight about public adjusters and the public adjusting profession. Here are some of the questions and his answers:

What have been the pleasures and challenges of being a second-generation public adjuster of a successful public adjuster?

As the saying goes, the pendulum always swings radically in this business.

For me, the challenges of being a second-generation public adjuster are:

  1. Frustration: When I first got in the business, the insurance company claims adjusters were credentialed, educated, and trained. This went a long way to claim resolution because company adjusters had authority to resolve claims. Some company field adjusters held authority up to $1 million and a checkbook to literally write checks while sitting in their car next to the loss. That is not today’s reality.
  •  Pressure: to uphold my responsibilities and standards of ethics, professionalism, quality of work, and integrity, and maintain the firm’s reputation that was built by my father….

Perhaps one of the greatest pleasures in being a public adjuster is seeing my client’s happy smiles when presenting their final settlement checks. That moment not only serves as proof that I honored their best interests but also invigorates a passion in me to help other clients achieve fair and equitable settlements of their claims. I feel a satisfaction that my efforts lead them to be able to get back on the road to recovery.

What would you tell other public adjusters about why it is important for them to participate with and support the efforts of United Policyholders?

If you position yourself with the values and concerns of United Policyholders, you align yourself with your potential clients. United Policyholders has a message that policyholders need advocates. That is what we do as public adjusters. United Policyholders educates consumers about their rights and not to give up. With that type of message, why wouldn’t all public adjusters want to support United Policyholders? Words cannot express my gratitude to United Policyholders. This organization has a deep bench of the best of the best and has been a lone force across our nation fighting and working for consumer rights for a long period of time. Anyone who wants to be around people of this caliber needs to act and support UP. There is no one in this Country like Amy Bach and her team.

What are the current challenges you see for the public adjusting profession?

Animosity by government and state leaders is polarized. Instead of being degraded by public officials and insurance industry lobbyists, public adjusters need to work to be seen as a trained and professional resource for policyholders needing assistance with their insurance claims. For instance, I am very proud to be part of a public adjusting firm that has nearly 200 combined years of work by those adjusters who formerly worked for insurance companies. They traded in their company and independent licenses to become champions for policyholders.

The insurance market has a simple solution to stabilizing itself—return to a focus on the policyholder. The insurance industry needs to empower its players in the claim process and allow them to do their job for their policyholders. Until it does so, the policyholders should decide who they want to retain so that their interests are protected first and foremost. Public adjusters can never go wrong so long as they put their client’s interests first.

It’s a shame that the insurance companies view their claims personnel and department only as a cost rather than one for customer service. Nobody appreciates working in the armpit of a company. To all my insurance company adjuster friends, I hope you’ll get more credit because you darn sure deserve it!

What advice would you give to colleagues who have worked in this trade for less than five years?

Business Ethics: Learning to navigate past people who act in the ‘dark side’ is necessary to avoid future mistakes. The best leaders I know keep ethical decision-making at the forefront in their daily practice.

Ongoing Learning & Self-Reflection: I am always listening and learning from mentors. This has helped me formulate new growth ideas and evolve from work-life balance to work-life integration. Likewise, help empower others and stay inspired about the future. It’s been neat to see others thrive after reaching out to me. Then, I find myself as the one striving to learn from and emulate them. I would encourage young public adjusters to join NAPIA and FAPIA and seek out the best and most reputable public adjusters to learn from and as mentors.

Networking: Young public adjusters should be forming long lasting relationships with industry professionals, including claims adjusters and managers with the insurance company. This has been key to building our business. There have been times when I have settled claims at conferences, such as the Windstorm Insurance Network. One year, I settled over thirty cases at the Windstorm Insurance Conference.    

Leadership Evolution: Public adjusters have to learn to change from trying to be a ‘boss’ into a more collaborative role and more of a mentor, coach, and teacher as the business grows.   

Reputation: Always work on maintaining your reputation. Once that is lost, it can never be regained.

Rick certainly had the benefit of watching and learning from his father about the insurance claims business. I would suggest that other public adjusters take to heart the many benefits of supporting United Policyholders and actively participating in public adjuster trade organizations. Seeking out mentors and those dedicated to being the best is good company to be around.

Like Rick Tutwiler, I also reflect on what I can do to better myself to help policyholders. I noted some of those ideas and reflections in How Do We Get Better and Be the Best at Helping Policyholders?  

Thought For The Day       

Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.

—Jim Rohn