Florida Attorney General Candidate Sean Shaw and I collaborated and drafted language that made people making the values, numbers, scopes of loss or directly or indirectly, helping determine an insurance claim amount, have an attorney license or a public adjuster license. We wanted to better protect consumers and help stop allegations of or actual insurance fraud from occurring.
There were alleged “third party administrators” soliciting for work from public adjusters who were not public adjusters. It appeared to Sean Shaw and myself that the Office of Insurance Regulation and the public would want to have the people actually doing the work to determine the values for a claim to be accountable to a regulatory body. We thought it would reduce scammers who wrongfully inflated the value of insurance claims. We also wanted to hold public adjusters accountable for their submissions and from abusing their license and hiding behind an excuse that they were not intentionally submitting fraudulent claims or otherwise harming Florida consumers.
The officers of the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA) also wanted to protect the public and their reputations. They wanted only people who have licenses to help prepare insurance claims.
Sean and I drafted this portion of the statute that came into effect on January 1, 2018, to help prevent people who lack a public adjuster license aiding an insured or public adjuster in preparing an insurance claim, and make doing so a crime. Here is a link to the House Bill which was passed and the part I helped draft:
(19) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, no person, except an attorney at law or a public adjuster, may for money, commission, or any other thing of value, directly or indirectly:
(a) Prepare, complete, or file an insurance claim for an insured or a third- party claimant;
(b) Act on behalf of or aid an insured or a third-party claimant in negotiating for or effecting the settlement of a claim for loss or damage covered by an insurance contract;
(c) Advertise for employment as a public adjuster; or
(d) Solicit, investigate, or adjust a claim on behalf of a public adjuster, an insured, or a third-party claimant.
In my speeches starting in 2017, I have been teaching, telling, and warning people to get a Florida public adjuster license if they wanted to do or assist with insurance adjustment work for policyholders or public adjusters. Otherwise, they could wait until after a big storm occurs and face a long delay in getting one issued.
Some people who have criminal records or lack the character requirements to obtain such a license cannot get a license. Sean and I wanted to prevent those people from working on insurance claims in Florida through an indirect means. I know people like this and some I call friends—but “love the sinner and hate the sin.” There are consequences for wrongful conduct.
If you are working on Florida insurance claims and do not have a license, I think you could go to jail. If you are one of these people, I am not your attorney, and you should obtain a second opinion from somebody who is an attorney. The purpose of the bill was to prevent third-parties without a license from working and assisting on preparing the claim. How can I say otherwise, since I helped draft this? I would tell you to stop.
Another attorney may provide you another opinion and tell you that what you do is legal. But, I know what I intended in my suggestions to wording of the bill. If another attorney wants to get sued if he is wrong and have you risk arrest and going to jail or being fined, so be it.
David Altmaier is Florida’s Insurance Commissioner. While we initially had different views about the statistics regarding closed claims following Hurricane Irma, he is a very bright and dedicated public servant. His insurance background was as an insurance agent, and I am certain that his focus is on protecting insurance consumers. Public adjusters should expect that his office will conduct market conduct studies of their files. I certainly expect that his capable insurance investigators are in the Florida Panhandle looking for signs of illegal activity and will get the support of local prosecutors. Their job is to enforce regulations and the law.
Since I have had my phone blowing up with people I know that are not licensed upset about me publicly stating what I am writing about above, I expect some may not heed my warning. Please do not break the law. If you are good at assisting policyholders, simply go get a public adjusters license.