Attorney vs. Public Adjuster: What You Need to Know

Suffering damage to your property or belongings caused by a covered event you have no control over is always a bad experience. As a homeowner, you expect nothing less from your insurance company than for them to compensate you fairly for the damages you sustained.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Should this be the situation you find yourself in, you might have no option but to hire an attorney or a public adjuster. Both an attorney and a public adjuster can assist you in getting the compensation you’re entitled to under your homeowners insurance policy. But should you hire an attorney or a public adjuster?

Read on to discover the advantages and disadvantages of hiring an attorney versus a public adjuster.

Man holding a model house in his hand

Have You Suffered Property Damage From a Covered Event?

When you suffer damage to your property caused by an event covered by your homeowners insurance policy, your insurer appoints an insurance adjuster to handle your claim. The insurance adjuster (paid for by your insurance company) will focus on mitigating their liability and acting in their best interests.

After your claim is processed, you’ll receive a settlement offer – it details the amount your insurance company is willing to pay to settle your claim.

But what if you receive a lowball settlement offer that doesn’t adequately compensate you for your loss?

You have a couple of options:

File a Complaint with the California Department of Insurance

You can complete and submit a Request for Assistance form or call them at 1-800-927-4357 for assistance. However, as mentioned in our article on how to file a complaint with the California Department of Insurance, they will typically not adjudicate (act as a judge) your case.

It’s unlikely that the California Department of Insurance will help resolve large or complex cases or coverage disputes.

Hire an Insurance Appraiser

Many homeowners or business owners policies contain an appraisal clause that allows both you and your insurer to hire an insurance appraiser.

Hiring an insurance appraiser might be a good idea if you cannot reach an agreement with your insurance company over the actual cash value or amount of loss.

The downside of hiring an insurance appraiser includes:

  • The appraiser should be disinterested and impartial. They don’t have to act in your best interests and cannot fight for you.
  • You have to pay their fees regardless of the outcome.
  • Apart from determining (in their opinion) the “amount of loss,” they cannot help you to dispute coverage issues.
  • They can’t manage your insurance claim on your behalf.

 

When you are up against an insurance adjuster with years of experience and who knows every loophole in the book, you need someone who will not only act in your best interests but will fight for you. Neither the California Department of Insurance nor an insurance appraiser fits the bill.

The best way forward is to hire an attorney or a public adjuster. And for reasons we’ll outline below, in the majority of cases, hiring a public adjuster is your best bet.

Attorney vs. Public Adjuster

Attorney and public adjuster consultation

Here are some important factors to consider when deciding whether to hire an attorney or a public adjuster.

Remuneration

Attorneys and public adjusters are usually remunerated on a contingency fee basis for homeowners insurance claims. It means they only get paid if they recover damages on your behalf.

The main difference is that attorneys typically charge between 30% – 40% of the total settlement, whereas public adjusters charge less.

Winner: Public Adjuster

Specialization and Expertise

Public adjusters typically have to obtain a license from their state’s insurance department. And this doesn’t mean anyone can just walk in and pay for a public adjuster license.

For example, California residents have to comply with several requirements and pass an exam before applying for a public adjuster license.

One of the requirements is an experience requirement:

“Experience Requirement: Must have two years certified experience in the insurance adjusting field. 2,000 hours of compensated time in the adjusting field is equal to one year of experience. New Applicants who were licensed as an Apprentice Public Adjuster for 12 months will satisfy the two-year experience requirement.”

Public adjusters are typically experts at handling homeowners insurance claims. Most attorneys, on the other hand, don’t specialize in homeowners insurance claims. They may mention it as one of the services they offer. But it remains just one of many things they can assist clients with.

It’s not a coincidence that attorneys often hire a public adjuster when dealing with homeowners insurance cases as they frequently don’t have in-house experience and expertise.

Winner: Public Adjuster

Litigation

In rare cases, a public adjuster might not be able to negotiate a fair settlement agreement or might reach a stalemate with your insurance company. On such occasions, litigation may be the only way forward. Should this be the case, you might have to hire an attorney to break the deadlock through litigation.

Winner: Attorney

Claim Management

Managing a large or complicated homeowners insurance claim on your own can be challenging and time-consuming. An experienced public adjuster can manage the process on your behalf, including dealing with contractors.

Attorneys are typically not equipped to manage the claim process and only get involved if there is a dispute between you and your insurer or a contractor.

Winner: Public Adjuster

Time to Resolve Claim

Public adjusters know what insurance companies want and need before they can make a settlement offer. And they are skilled at negotiating with insurance companies to ensure you get the best possible settlement offer – in the shortest period of time.

The wheels of justice often turn slowly. Hiring an attorney to file a lawsuit against your insurance company can be a slow and protracted approach to resolving a claim. It’s more adversarial than working with a public adjuster. And should your insurance company lose the case, they might appeal the court’s decision, causing further delays.

Winner: Public Adjuster

Determining the Value of the Damage

Public adjusters are skilled at determining the value of the damage, such as water damage you suffered after a covered event. They are typically as good, or even better, at establishing the value of the damage than the insurance adjuster appointed by your insurer.

Attorneys seldom get directly involved in determining the value of the damage you suffered. They will usually appoint a third party to investigate the cost of the damage on their behalf. And those estimates are frequently less accurate than those provided by a public adjuster.

Winner: Public Adjuster

Conclusion

Hiring an attorney can be costly but might be your best bet if the only way forward is to pursue litigation. In all other cases, the benefits of hiring a public adjuster far outweigh the benefits of hiring an attorney.

An experienced, reputable, and licensed public adjuster can help you overcome the challenges of managing a large or complex claim by yourself. They can assist you in resolving disputes and complaints and getting the best possible settlement offer you’re entitled to under your policy.

Avner Gat, Inc. has 17+ years of experience as a public adjuster in Los Angeles, covering Southern California. We protect homeowners from the games and fine print that insurance companies are known for.

Call us at (818) 917-5256 to find out how we can help you.

 

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