Understanding How Public Adjuster Offices Do Business
Although every public adjuster has his or her own unique way of doing things, most public adjuster offices share a surprising number of similar characteristics in terms of how they do business. Understanding some of them will help you to get more effective insurance claim representation.
|Understanding Public Adjusters|
Public adjuster offices range in size from sole practitioners to firms with many public adjusters. While all of them charge a similar fee in one form or another, there are some practical distinctions to keep in mind that can roughly be broken down by the following categories:
| Once a public adjuster gets his license, it does not take much more to start his or her own practice other than renting office space and hanging up a shingle. Thus, it is not surprising that offices of sole practitioners are probably the biggest single category of practicing public adjusters. Sole practitioners can be excellent public adjusters and so you may want to consider retaining one if it makes sense, given the nature of and size of your claim. Although no 2 public adjusters are the same, potential benefits of hiring a sole practitioner include:
- A more direct one-on-one working relationship with your public adjuster. Your claim is not going to get lost in the shuffle because it is not going to be handed off to another public adjuster.
- Lower fees and costs. Although not always the case, sole practitioners generally have lower overhead than that of a larger public adjusting firm. Thus, it is not unusual for a sole practitioner to charge less than a big firm might charge for doing the same type of routine work.
- Taking smaller cases. As another potential benefit of being able to charge less, a sole practitioner may be more inclined to take the smaller claims that are not cost effective for a larger firm.
- A more informal working relationship. You are likely to get to know everyone in your public adjuster's office if he or she is a sole practitioner. This can lead to a better one-on-one working relationship, which may make you feel more comfortable.
|Small/Mid-Size Public Adjuster Firms|
|A public adjuster office with 2 to 5 adjusters can be characterized as a small to mid-size public adjusting firm. The benefits of working with a small to mid-size public adjusting office can include one or more of the factors mentioned above for a sole practitioner. Additional benefits may include:
- More expertise in a given specialty. In a firm environment, public adjusters are better able to develop areas of expertise since they do not have to be all things to all people.
- A small to mid-size public adjusting firm can handle a larger type of claim. Some large claims are simply too complex for a sole practitioner to handle.
- Better coverage. No public adjuster can be available all the time, so a benefit of a small to mid-size public adjusting firm is having other public adjusters to help out on a claim.
- Pooling of knowledge and experience. It is always helpful on a complicated large claim to be able to talk to other public adjusters to pick their brains on claim strategies. A small to mid-size public adjusting firm is a great environment in which to do this.
|Large-Size Public Adjuster Offices|
|A large-size public adjusting office would be a firm of over 10 Public Adjusters. Potential benefits of hiring a large-size firm include:
- Being the best of both worlds. A mid-size firm may have many of characteristics of a small public adjusting office yet at the same time have the adjusting resources to do battle with the big insurance companies. The balancing process can be a difficult one, but many large-size firms are successful in preserving it.
- Reputation. The larger public adjusting firms did not get big overnight. Such firms have usually been together for a number of years, and the fact that they have stayed together is evidence of a good reputation. Hiring a well-respected public adjusting firm can be a big benefit to a client.
|Identifying the People Who Work at a Public Adjusting Office|
|A public adjusting office can have many employees in addition to the public adjusters. Knowing who these people are and what they do may help you to be a more informed client and thereby facilitate the effectiveness of your public adjuster's representation. Typically, the hierarchy can include any of the following people:
- Partners: People commonly refer to the owners of a public adjusting firm as being the partners. It is very prestigious for a public adjuster to become a partner of his or her public adjusting firm. Partners are usually the most experienced public adjusters in a firm and, consequently, they handle the largest losses.
- Associates: Public adjusters who are employed by a firm but who are not owners are usually called associates. Generally, associates can be very good public adjusters but they typically have less experience than the partners of the firm. Although it varies from firm to firm, associates may have to work for perhaps 3 to 10 years before they are considered for partnership. Given their experience, associates tend to handle smaller claims than partners do.
- Contract Experts: A firm will sometimes hire outside estimators, engineers, inventory specialists, accountants or other professionals as independent contractors to assist in preparation of the claim. The firm will usually pay a contract expert on an hourly basis or a percentage of their total fee and then may bill it out to you, depending on how the contract reads.
- Receptionists: A firm of any size will have receptionist. Commentators will tell you that the receptionist is the most important person in the office since he or she is the firm's initial contact with the outside world.
- Administrative Personnel: Larger public adjusting firms will have their own administrative personnel to run the internal operations of the firm. While administrative staff generally do not charge for their services, they do constitute an overhead cost that is ultimately reflected in the percentage fee a public adjuster charges. Administrative staff may include bookkeepers, billing and accounts receivable personnel, and human resources.
- Marketing Directors: Yes, larger firms will even hire their own marketing directors. They are responsible for creating a positive image for their public adjusting firms with the goal being to attract new clients and to retain existing ones.