FOR MY READERS…A Simple Pledge!

I propose a pact. From now on,  insurance agents, independent adjusters, business groups, private citizens, insurers, friends and family, all those who read my blog; let’s pledge that when articles are published, similar to the January 3rd “advertorial” for Public Adjusters in the Tallahassee Democrat, we will all do what we can to get the whole truth published in response. This post,  numerous previous ones, and documents found in the “Library” tab above, should give you more than enough information to help set the record straight.

The President of the  Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA), Pat Cuccaro wrote a piece obviously designed to cause people with insurance claims to call members of his profession before doing anything else.  The article contained several misleading statements and withheld important information that could delay, even diminish a claim payment.

Most obvious, Cucarro went out of his way to avoid stating that Public Adjusters get paid out of the consumers claim check; often as much as 20%.  And, he talked all around the fact that the state sponsored study he referred to concluded that, “on average”, claim payments handled by public adjusters take three months longer to get paid.

Worse, in my opinion, he misrepresented the conclusions of the study conducted by the Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA), by saying “…policyholders who used public adjusters received much higher compensation…”.    He didn’t mention that OPPAGA only studied claims from Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens) and just for the 04/05 storms. A convenient omission because, at the time, Florida’s state run insurer had immense problems adjusting well over a million losses and its head of claims was under criminal investigation for taking kickbacks. Using this isolated and unfortunate incident to allege higher payments from PA’s is, at best, disingenuous.

I’ve said before…since homeowners’ insurance premiums already include payment for claim service and post-claim consultation, hiring a public adjuster, in essence, is 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.

Cucarro also omitted another option consumers should consider before calling a Public Adjuster; mediation. Provided by the state, mandatory mediation can result in a higher payment whenever an insurer and claimant disagree on the amount; and, unlike Public Adjusters, it’s free to the consumer. This assistance, as well as that provided by the state Insurance Consumer Advocates office has also already been paid for and is easily accessed by dialing 1-877-693-5236 (877-my-fl-cfo).

Finally, in very rare cases, the services of a qualified licensed attorney may be required. Unlike Public Adjuster fee’s their remuneration is usually paid by the insurer in addition to amounts consumers receive for their claim.

For consumers, here’s the bottom line: while disputes can arise, policyholders should read carefully any Public Adjuster contract or similar document that might diminish their claim payment and always remember…

after a claim follow the required procedures in your policy. Call your insurance agent. Call the state consumer helpline, if necessary, but…never sign away any portion of what you deserve until you first exhaust the options you’ve already paid for!

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NOTE: To be completely accurate, PA “Advertorials” should, as a minimum, state that the client fee for a Public Adjuster comes out of the consumers claim payment. In fact, assuming Mr. Cucarro is a licensed public adjuster who may receive a call from a consumer as a result of his advertorial, some assert his ad should have included the following statutorily mandated statement:

THIS IS A SOLICITATION FOR BUSINESS. IF YOU HAVE HAD A CLAIM FOR AN INSURED PROPERTY LOSS OR DAMAGE AND YOU ARE SATISFIED WITH THE PAYMENT BY YOUR INSURER, YOU  MAY DISREGARD THIS ADVERTISEMENT.

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