On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal Published the article, "Sinkhole Claims Threaten To Engulf Florida Insurers." Chip Merlin promptly provided this story to you in his post, Public Adjusters and Sinkhole Claims Topic of Wall Street Journal Story.

There were several comments on the post which provided perspective from the field. The public insurance adjuster mentioned in the newspaper article was Tim Zeak, of Florida Public Adjusting.

Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss sinkhole losses with Tim. We discussed his practice and he shared interesting information about his public adjusting firm and about his background.

In 1979, when interest rates were on the rise, Tim Zeak left the real estate industry and became a public insurance adjuster in the great state of Indiana. He adjusted losses in Michigan and Indiana for over twenty years, and he has been a full-time public insurance adjuster for 32 years. Full-time for Tim was 7 days a week for many of those years.

I asked Tim if he could share information with the world about public adjusting, what would he say? He responded with a  question, “the insurance company will have their own adjuster at the loss, shouldn’t the policyholder have their own adjuster?” Point well taken.

Tim is a true pioneer public insurance adjuster and worked diligently in 1983 with the Insurance Commissioner in Indiana to revamp the state’s public adjusting statute after it was deemed unconstitutional by the Indiana Supreme Court.

Zeak moved to Florida in 2001, when Florida Public Adjusting was born. He recommends other Florida public adjusters take advantage of professional associations like FAPIA and the Windstorm Insurance Network. Zeak learned many of his best practices and earned his stripes on his own without the benefit of a strong network of public insurance adjusters. Similar to many other public insurance firms, Florida Public Adjusting is a family affair. Tim’s wife, Charlotte, and sister, Becky Davis, are integral in the business.

Zeak provided three tips for other public adjusters:

  1. Communicate– Call them before they call you. (This can apply to clients or other professionals you are dealing with on a claim)
  2. Explain– Explain to the client what to expect and explain to the insurance company your position.
  3. Florida is an infinitely better state to be a public insurance adjuster because Florida’s bad faith statutes and attorney fee statute can help you get better results for your clients. In order for these statutes to help, however, your client needs to involve a qualified first-party insurance attorney early in the claim.

I found it interesting that the Wall Street Journal article gave the impression that public insurance adjusters were canvassing neighborhoods and prowling the streets with advertisements in search of sinkholes, however, Zeak estimates that 90% of his clients have found their way to Florida Public Adjusting because of a personal referral. The other clients usually find Zeak and his firm through his website. As mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article, Tim’s website provides extensive information about sinkholes and is a valuable asset for homeowners and business owners who have property that may be on unstable ground.