Reform is needed but the reform needs to focus on the insurance industry, specifically the practices they encourage and the adjusters they employ, and not towards the small group of professional public adjusters who stand up every day for insureds who have suffered property loss.
Commentary by: Brian S. Goodman, general counsel of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters.
There has been much discussion and legislative activity designed to ostensibly protect Florida insureds after major storm damage to their property. Much blame has been assigned by the insurance industry, as well as some legislators and insurance regulators, towards public adjusters. But, the facts are clear that this blame is misplaced.
Public adjusters are fully licensed in Florida as well as in 45 other states. They are the only licensed professionals coming under the regulatory control of each state’s insurance department who can legally assist an insured in preparing and presenting property damage claims to the insured’s homeowner or commercial insurance carrier.
An insured does not have to hire a public adjuster but it is perfectly legal to do so. There are safeguards in place by statute and regulation to protect the insured, such as the parameters post-catastrophe, rights of rescission of the contract, reasonable restrictions on hours of solicitation and others.
Much commentary has been made on public adjusters preying on vulnerable insureds in times of crisis. Both the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters and the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters have a stringent code of ethics prohibiting this type of misconduct. When officials refer to public adjusters as “locusts” after a catastrophe, or when the industry puts forth positions on the need to protect consumers from unscrupulous public adjusters, it is important to note that the facts and statistics undermine their argument.
For instance, official statistics from June 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2021 confirm 24,000 complaints in Florida against company adjusters or independent adjusters working for insurance companies as compared to only 200 complaints against public adjusters in the same time frame. A more recent report from WFLA-TV in Tampa reports 4,700 claimants filed complaints against insurers post Hurricane Ian, and a major investigation published on March 11, 2023 in The Washington Post found that insurers knowingly slashed Hurricane Ian payments far below damage estimates, at times by more than 80%.
Public adjusters, licensed professionals subject to stringent regulation, stand as one resource for the commercial or personal insured to assure that a carrier pays full indemnity after a loss. That’s why insureds pay premiums. To blame public adjusters for the perceived crisis in property insurance in Florida is completely erroneous.
Statistics don’t lie. Reform is needed but the reform needs to focus on the insurance industry, specifically the practices they encourage and the adjusters they employ, and not towards the small group of professional public adjusters who stand up every day for insureds who have suffered property loss.
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