As Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian begin to recover, repair, and rebuild, the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) is warning consumers about the threat of third parties, including some public adjusters, that prey on the insurance claims process for their own financial gain. The association is also providing tips to help protect policyholders and ensure they are well informed.
“Hurricane Ian tragically left many residents in Southwest Florida grappling with catastrophic property damage or the complete loss of their homes. The entire insurance industry is focused on helping our policyholders recover by deploying all available resources to work with customers to process claims quickly,” said Logan McFaddin, vice president of state government relations at APCIA. “However, a risk to homeowners unfortunately remains even though the storm itself has passed. As we have seen with previous storms, predatory third parties show up to abuse the insurance claim and damage repair process and make money for themselves by taking advantage of homeowners in vulnerable situations. We encourage homeowners to protect themselves by being informed and being wary of anyone claiming to offer services for no out-of-pocket cost.”
It is important for consumers to understand that public adjusters are independent businesspeople that have no relationship with their insurance company or agent. When a homeowner hires a public adjuster, any settlement check the homeowner receives will be made out to both the homeowner and the public adjuster, and will require signature by both parties before it can be cashed. Public adjusters typically take 10 percent of a homeowner’s insurance settlement. Hiring a public adjuster could also add extra time and delays in settling homeowners’ claims. APCIA urges policyholders to contact their insurance company or agent before signing any contracts with public adjusters and other third parties.
Before hiring a public adjuster, consumers should take time to get informed and know their options. In an effort to protect consumers, APCIA is providing the following tips for those considering a public adjuster:
- Check the public adjuster’s qualifications by calling the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) or your local Better Business Bureau. You can also use the licensee search function on the DFS website. Ask the public adjuster to provide references and call those references to verify they were satisfied with the service provided.
- Be careful of individuals that solicit business by going door-to-door with aggressive sales tactics.
- Ask third parties about their fees and for a written contract outlining the details of any work arrangement. The information pertaining to a public adjuster’s contract is mandated by Florida Statutes. A public adjuster contract checklist is available from the DFS.
- Consumers have the right to rescind a contract with a public adjuster for up to 10 days from the date of the contract by providing notice to the public adjuster in writing and sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, or other form of mailing that provides proof that the cancellation notice was sent to the address specified in the contract.
- Be careful about authorizing anyone to work for you without fully understanding what you will receive. An authorization to review a policy may be a contract for service.
- Watch for potential conflicts of interest that may incentivize a public adjuster to delay the claims process.
- Avoid public adjusters that misrepresent themselves as being part of a government agency or being sent by your insurance company or agent.
“These precautions will save you time, money, and headaches, so make sure you are an informed consumer before involving a third party in your insurance claim and always talk with your insurer first if you have concerns,” added McFaddin.
To assist Florida policyholders impacted by Hurricane Ian, insurers are devoting extensive resources to ensure the claims process is smooth, easy, and meets each customers’ needs. The insurance claims settlement process is thoroughly regulated by Florida law. Insurers must comply with specific timelines and there is a complaint process available through the DFS if there is an issue that cannot be resolved between the policyholder and the insurer. In addition, Florida law gives consumers rights and a dispute resolution process if they are unhappy with their insurance claim process or settlement.
The American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) is the primary national trade association for home, auto, and business insurers. APCIA promotes and protects the viability of private competition for the benefit of consumers and insurers, with a legacy dating back 150 years. APCIA members represent all sizes, structures, and regions—protecting families, communities, and businesses in the U.S. and across the globe.