Insurance agents play a very important part of making the insurance product work for everybody. Most people and business owners rarely think of all the risks they face. Insurance customers certainly do not study insurance policy forms and coverages which will soften the financial blow should one of those risks of loss become a reality. The experienced and professional insurance agent studies these topics and can be an important advisor to insurance consumers.
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A recent case1 had the following fact pattern of facts and findings:

1. Public adjuster Erick Arias of Universal Loss Consultants, Inc., was hired as a loss consultant for the Plaintiffs with respect to the subject insurance claim.
2. Erick Arias produced an estimate for the Plaintiffs prior to the invocation of appraisal.
3. There exists a fiduciary relationship between Erick Arias and the Plaintiffs through the Plaintiffs’ counsel.
4. It is unreasonable to believe that Erick Arias would second-guess his initial estimate at appraisal.
5. There is too great a likelihood that neither Erick Arias, nor any other person affiliated with Universal Loss Consultants, Inc. could be disinterested for the purposes of appraisal as required by the appraisal provision of the subject policy.


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Merlin Law Group Attorney Mary Fortson celebrated her 20th year in our firm last week. In the summer of 2008, she met with Texas public adjusters Art Jansen and Jim Beneke about re-establishing the Texas Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (TAPIA). Today, TAPIA has 100 paid members.
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Those appraisers being hired on a contingency fee may want to read a recent case indicating that you cannot do so where the policy requires a “disinterested” appraiser.1 While the case discussion noted the difference between an “independent” appraiser and a “disinterested” appraiser, the trend in Florida cases is clearly moving towards no appraisers being previously retained as public adjusters or those hired on a contingent basis.
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Public adjusters in Florida have routinely appointed themselves as appraisers for their policyholder clients. This generally saves the policyholder money and provides a person already familiar with the loss and ready to move the appraisal process along. However, based on the trend and discussion in legal court cases, it appears that this practice of self-appointment will be a thing of the past.
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