Florida Association of Insurance Agents: You can settle a claim with no public adjuster

Jan 9, 2012

Published in the Tallahassee Democrat, January 6, 2012

Re: “Public insurance adjusters help protect the consumer” (My View, Jan. 4).

The My View by Pat Cuccaro, president of the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA), is misleading and withheld important information that could delay and even diminish a claim payment.

Cuccaro failed to mention that public adjusters are paid from the consumer’s claim check, often as much as 20 percent, or that homeowners’ insurance premiums already include payment for claim service and post-claims consultation. In essence, a homeowner who hires a public adjuster is paying twice. Also missing was the fact that the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability report he referenced found that, on average, claims handled by public adjusters take three months longer to get paid.

In addition, that report examined only claims from Citizens Property Insurance Corp., and only for the 2004-2005 storm season — the most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history and also the time frame when Citizens’ chief operating officer was under investigation for allegedly taking kickbacks.

After a loss, one of the first things a policyholder should do is call his insurance agent. Many are “independent” agents, and, while appointed by carriers, they hold licenses that include state-sanctioned authority to adjust claims and assist policyholders in receiving fair payment. They are prohibited from charging additional sums for this service, and their livelihood is based on customer satisfaction.

The state also provides effective insurance claims assistance, including mandatory mediation that can result in a higher payment if an insurer and claimant disagree on the amount. This no-cost assistance, as well as that provided by the state Insurance Consumer Advocate’s office, is easily accessed by dialing 1-877-693-5236 (877-MY-FL-CFO).

In very rare cases, the services of a qualified licensed attorney may be required. Unlike public adjuster fees, an attorney’s remuneration is usually paid by the insurer in addition to what you receive. Bottom line: Never sign away any portion of what you deserve until you first exhaust the options you’ve already paid for.