Seeing your home go up in smoke or fill up with water is financially devastating and heartbreaking. The place where you and your family live is also your most crucial long-term investment. Seeing it threatened could make anybody sad, angry, and overwhelmed.
People buy home insurance to enjoy peace of mind in the event of a catastrophe, but filing an insurance claim can be a long, aggravating process. It helps to understand the different roles people involved play, who you can hire for additional help, and why you might need their services.
Let’s compare the role of public insurance adjusters and insurance lawyers in settling the matter.
What Does a Public Insurance Adjuster Do?
First off, understanding the difference between a public adjuster and insurance lawyer requires grasping just what a public insurance adjuster does. When you file an insurance claim, the insurance company will dispatch one of their employees or a contractor working on their behalf to assess the claim’s details.
Their main job is to evaluate the structural damage, find proof of the value of the lost or damaged property, and obtain receipts for additional cost-of-living expenses incurred after the disaster related to hotel costs and takeout. To make their case, they may speak to the fire department or engineers, but they’ll be your point of contact and connection to the insurance company.
The public insurance adjuster works for the policyholder, not the insurance company, though they may work independently or for a company. They usually get paid a share of the settlement to advocate for your interests.
If the policyholder feels the settlement offered is too low, the public adjuster can summon contractors or engineers to support your case. They understand the paperwork involved and help get it sorted.
Insurance lawyers can do all this, too, but they go beyond. They will work closely with you to ensure you understand the full extent of your existing coverage and submit all the paperwork properly. They will break down complex legal jargon into plain English and negotiate with your insurance company on your behalf.
Insurance lawyers are familiar with the insurance companies’ pressure tactics, such as getting policyholders to sign off on a final Proof of Loss before releasing advanced funds. They’ll recognize these tactics for what they are and intervene on your behalf. They are also very familiar with the major insurance companies, and how each of them operates to keep their costs to a minimum at your expense.
Indeed, if an insurance company knows an insurance lawyer is working on your behalf, they may not even try such base tactics. Insurance lawyers are especially helpful in larger claims, which are more complicated and have higher stakes. They may involve third parties and liability, and there is a higher potential for a dispute between you and the company. If things escalate to the point where you take the insurance company to court, a public adjuster cannot help you. Large loss claims also take longer to finalize. You have only 1-2 years to finalize the claim before you have to take legal action to protect your rights. Insurance lawyers can help you with filing a claim if you are close to a limitation date, but the claim is not settled.
It is sad to say, but do not feel entitled to enjoy total peace of mind after buying home insurance. Insurance companies stay profitable by paying out a minimal amount and can be resourceful in finding new ways to pay you less. You may still need the services of a public adjuster or, better yet, an insurance lawyer who can help you understand your rights and the fine print of the contract.