FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
A public adjuster (PA) represents the insured home or commercial property owner (the policyholder) in the preparation, presentation and settlement of property insurance claims. A qualified PA has specialized expertise that can simplify and speed up the complicated, time-consuming process of making and settling an insurance claim for property damage from fire, windstorm, hail, floods, hurricanes, and other disasters. A PA works only for you-not an insurance company, not a roofing company, not a repair company, or general contractor. A PA is an important protection for your rights as a policyholder.
When handling your claim for property loss, insurance companies use their own licensed claims adjusters or sometimes contract with licensed independent adjusters. Their job is to represent the insurance company’s interests. The public adjuster focuses only on your interests.
There are three types of insurance adjusters: Company adjusters who work for the insurance company; Independent adjusters, who may work for several insurance companies; and public adjusters, who work ONLY for the policyholder.
A policyholder is required, under their policy, to prove a loss to their carrier. Few people have the necessary expertise or experience to meet that burden. A public adjuster has studied insurance policies and been licensed by the State of Texas to represent policyholders as their claim advocate. They understand concepts related to current replacement cost, property repair, business income loss, and other elements of property loss that are critical to getting a fair and proper settlement.
- Carefully review your insurance policy. Insurance policies can be long, detailed, and sometimes difficult to understand. Policies can change from year to year and often require that insurance claims meet specific conditions. Not meeting the conditions can result in your claim being denied or reduced payments for the property loss. A public adjuster makes sure that a claim meets all the requirements of your policy.
- Thoroughly document your loss. The public adjuster should prepare your claim, including all estimates, inventories, photographs, and other factual information that is required to prove the extent of your loss. They can inspect your property loss and submit a Notice of Loss to your insurance company.
- Work with the insurance company adjuster to agree on the proper amount owed to you. Usually, the public adjuster and company adjuster settle the claim without controversy.
Responsible public adjusters often base their fees on a percentage of the final settlement- based on the time, energy, and expertise required to effectively represent their client.
Important: In Texas, a PA’s fee is capped at 10% of the settlement of the claim.
Fees are negotiable and are usually based on the size, location, and complexity of the property loss. Some public adjusters charge flat or hourly rates, but the total fee may not exceed 10% of the settlement of the claim. Much like accountants, realtors, and other professional consultants, public adjusters offset their fees in the time they save their clients and in the amount of the claim recovery. The public adjuster does not receive a fee until the insurance company pays your claim.
There are several ways to find a public adjuster:
- Ask friends and colleagues if they have worked with a public adjuster they would recommend.
- Look in local business directories for public adjusters in your area.
- Search the Internet for “licensed public insurance adjusters Texas.”
- Visit the Members tab on TAPIA website at www.mytapia.org.
There are several important things to consider in choosing a public adjuster:
- License: Make sure they have a current license to practice in Texas. Ask for his or her license number. If you have any concerns that it’s not a real license, before you enter info a contract:
Send an email to TDI at [email protected] or call 512-676-6500, OR: send an email to TAPIA at [email protected] or call 512-299-6680.
- No conflict of interest: Beware of contractors who offer to handle your claim “for free” if you let them do the work (sometimes called “contingent agreements”). Since public adjusters must be licensed, such services are technically illegal. A professional public adjuster will prepare your claim without committing to a contractor. That leaves you free to collect your money and then decide with whom and how to spend it. Also, beware of contractors and public adjusters who try to push you toward an attorney when there is no sign of a legal problem. Most property insurance claims can be settled if both parties act professionally.
- Experience: Public adjusters come from a wide range of backgrounds with different areas of expertise. Ask questions to make sure you select a public adjuster with experience that matches your specific loss. Feel free to ask for and talk to references.
- Professionalism: Do not sign a contract unless you’ve been given a thorough explanation of how the public adjuster will handle the claim, how they will communicate with you throughout the process, and how they will determine the fee you will pay.
- Comfort level: Be sure you are comfortable talking to and working with the public adjuster. It’s important for you to feel like he or she understands your needs and can communicate in a manner you’re comfortable with.
- Texas Association of Public Insurance Adjusters: TAPIA members subscribe to the highest level of professional conduct. All members adhere to a strict code of ethics. Visit the Members tab on TAPIA website at mytapia.org.
The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) is the state agency that regulates public adjusters. As in most states, Texas public adjusters are required to be tested, licensed, and current on continuing education requirements.
To qualify for a license, a PA must demonstrate significant knowledge and competence in a broad range of areas related to property insurance, claims settlement, and pertinent laws and regulations.
The Texas Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (TAPIA) also plays an important role in assuring that Texas public adjusters meet high standards for professional knowledge, competence, and achievement.
Through continuing education and other training programs, TAPIA assures its members are best qualified to handle your claim. TAPIA enforces a strict code of ethics to promote the highest standard of integrity and professionalism.
Contact the Texas Department of Insurance’s Consumer Protection group. To find out more, visit the TDI website.
By law, contractors — including roofing and restoration contractors — may not negotiate your claim with your insurance company. And, contractors may not hire adjusters to handle your claim. Insurance adjusting, especially public adjusting, requires special training and a license issued by the Texas Department of Insurance.