Letter to the Editor: Setting the Record Straight

Jul 13, 2010

The following is a letter to the editor submitted by the Florida Association of Insurance Agents’ Executive Vice President Scott Johnson in response to a Tallahassee Democrat editorial that was published on July 7, 2010:

Dear Editor:

In the opinion section of your July 7, 2010, edition, you published a piece written by a public adjuster named Lenny Bauman. He gave a great deal of very good advice on hurricane preparedness and insurance coverage, but…his closing paragraphs sounded more like an advertisement and he omitted some material facts about filing claims. As a public adjuster, he encouraged everyone to call a “public adjuster.” He went on to provide contact information and to promote websites of trade groups to which he and other public adjusters subscribe.

Your readers need to understand that their homeowners’ insurance premium already includes payment for claim service and post-claim consultation and that hiring a public adjuster results in paying “again.” After a claim, one of the first things a policyholder should do is call their insurance agent. Many are “independent” and, while appointed by carriers, they hold licenses, which include state-sanctioned authority to adjust claims and assist policyholders in receiving fair payment. Not only are they prohibited from charging additional sums for this service, their locally-owned business and livelihood is based on customer satisfaction.

On the other hand, while public adjusters also want to satisfy customers, they take one-fifth of the claim payment, sometimes more, for having done so. This means policyholders pay twice—once to the insurance company who has contracted with the local agent (and sometimes an independent adjuster) to assist and service policyholders; and then another 20 percent minimum (about twice as much) to a public adjuster.

While disputes can arise, policyholders should be wary of signing documents that forfeit a portion of their claim payment.

BOTTOM LINE: if you have a claim, follow the required procedures in your policy. Call your insurance agent. And, by all means, follow Mr. Bauman’s advice on protecting your property. But…never sign away any portion of what you deserve until you first exhaust the options you’ve already paid for.

Scott Johnson
Executive Vice President
Florida Association of Insurance Agents