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Florida's public insurance adjusters get more scrutiny from state

A recent study of insurance complaints revealed an interesting disparity between insurance company adjusters and public adjusters. It seems the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation is much more likely to discipline the public adjuster than the company adjuster.

The public adjuster who mishandles, denies or underpays a claim has a 75 percent chance of formal disciplinary action. But the insurance company adjuster? If he screws up, there is just a 16 percent chance of discipline.

Various theories exist to explain the difference. First, Florida regulators are heavily biased toward the insurance companies. In an effort to keep property insurers from fleeing the state, the investigators let the adjusters off easy.

In the same vein, some say public adjusters are targeted because they are actually advocates for consumers. Because the state's insurance industry gives generously to state officials' campaigns, the regulators are discouraged from publicly disciplining company employees.

Then, of course, there is a camp that insists that public adjusters are just sloppy and unprofessional.

Or, researchers could be looking at the wrong numbers. These statistics represent complaints about individual adjusters. Maybe consumers are complaining about their employers instead.

Public adjusters, for the most part, work for smaller companies or are independent, solo practitioners. The adjusters employed by companies have a larger organization behind them. If a consumer has a problem with a claim, chances are better that he'll complain about the company as a whole -- and regulators would investigate the insurance company, not the individual adjuster.

An adjuster has an enormous amount of power, really. We'll talk more about how public and private adjusters operate in our next post.

Source: Sun-Sentinel.com, "State seldom cracks down on insurance companies and their adjusters," Julie Patel, 07/15/2011

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