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Florida's public insurance adjusters get more scrutiny (p. 2)

We are continuing our discussion of a study that concluded that Florida's public adjusters are more likely to be disciplined than adjusters who work directly for insurance companies. State insurance regulators oversee adjuster's activities and respond to consumer complaints regarding the mishandling or delayed payment of a claim.

Adjusters have almost everything to do with how a claim is paid. If a tree falls on your home, it's up to the adjuster to evaluate the damage as well as to estimate the costs of repairs. This is true if the adjuster is self-employed or a long-term employee of your homeowner insurance company.

While company adjusters are paid a salary or a contract wage, public adjusters get paid by the policyholder, usually a percent of the claim. Most adjusters have completed specific training programs and have been licensed by the state.

A claimant may never see the same adjuster twice. Insurance companies that operate in Florida have about 47,000 adjusters on staff. The company can also hire one of almost 30,000 independent adjusters. The policyholder, though, may hire a public adjuster -- there are about 2,600 in this state.

In the last 18 months or so, the Florida Department of Financial Services has received 315 consumer complaints about adjusters. The vast majority of those -- almost 80 percent -- have been about public adjusters. As we discussed in our last post, there are a number of possible explanations for this.

However, the disparity has given insurance companies an easy target, according to consumer advocates. Some accuse insurers of vilifying public adjusters as a way to divert lawmakers' attention from sketchy insurance company practices.

All of this goes on behind the scenes, but the consumer ends up paying for it. There are a few simple ways for policyholders to protect themselves, though, and we'll get into those 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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