After your business has been damaged by a fire, you should know that the worst may not be over. Your next step is to file a claim with your insurance company, which is rarely a straightforward process. In most cases, policyholders will have to negotiate with insurers, prove the cause and extent of damage, and lose business and profits every day they are forced to wait for their claim to be settled.
A public adjuster or a lawyer could make the process go more smoothly, but which is right for your case? Attorney Bill Voss explains why you can actually have it both ways, using both the public adjuster and an insurance attorney to maximize the value of your claim.
Differences Between a Public Adjuster and an Insurance Attorney
Your interests and your insurer’s interests are in direct competition. Even if you dutifully paid your premiums for years and adhered to the terms of your policy, your insurer will attempt to pay you as little as possible for the damage. After you have filed your claim, the insurance company will send a representative to assess the damage, find ways to devalue the claim, and report back to the company for a settlement recommendation. Policyholders should have someone on their side as well, examining the evidence and interpreting the policy on the claimant’s behalf.
There are many differences between a public adjuster and an insurance attorney. The adjuster is a licensed professional who has extensive training in the preparation of insurance claims, estimating accurate repair or replacement costs, and evaluation of insurance policies. He is usually brought in at the beginning of a claim, and typically charges clients on a contingency fee basis and is paid with a percentage of the funds he recovers for the client.
An attorney can provide many of the same services as a public adjuster, with the added bonus that the attorney can legally negotiate with and file a lawsuit against the insurer. Many states do not allow public adjusters to negotiate claims, so adjusters may be limited to advising a policyholder when to reject the claim if the offer is unfair. If an insurance company fails to provide adequate coverage or acts in bad faith, an attorney will be necessary to move forward with the claim. Many people begin claims with a public adjuster and hire an attorney for legal action, but the attorney can be hired at any point in the process—and the earlier an attorney is brought in, the more likely the claimant will get adequate payment.
Choosing the Right Public Adjuster and Attorney for Your Insurance Claim
Public adjusters and lawyers can be a powerful force for the client when they work together. Each one has a specialized skill set and past experience that can be used to get the best possible outcome for the insured. Depending on the facts of the claim, they may each perform their own investigations or “divide and conquer” the tasks necessary to maximize your claim. At the end of the day, you can get professional and reliable service from both a lawyer and a public adjuster, as long as you make sure that you pick the right professional(s).
When you engage the services of a professional to assist you in your insurance claim, he or she should be able to:
- Demonstrate knowledge and ability in technical and complex insurance matters
- Provide advice and assistance that is only in your best interest.
- Be available to you for questions and updates about your claim.
- Determine whether or not the amount being offered by the insurance company is deficient or sufficient for the damage you suffered.
- Explain to you why your insurance claim was denied or underpaid and point out the basis for the same.
- Analyze reports related to the damage you suffered and how these reports can be related to your insurance claim.
- Advise you of other options and remedies in the event that your insurance claim does not prosper.
- Have experience dealing with insurance companies and be familiar with the policies and practices of each company.
- Demonstrate sound business practices and pass a professional background check.
If your business sustained fire damage and your insurance company is refusing to pay your claim, we can help. Order our free report on commercial property damage or fill out the form on this page today to speak to an attorney at the Voss Law Firm, P.C., about your claim.