A. Your contractor is probably the most qualified person to evaluate your damages and give you an accurate cost estimate for repairs. However, it is highly unlikely that he understands the insurance claims process. In most states it is illegal for a contractor to adjust claims. Only a licensed attorney or public adjuster can legally represent homeowners and handle claims for them.
A. This may be one of the most difficult, but most important tasks. Depending on the size of the storm, contractors will swarm in like locusts from all over the country, set up temporary shop, do some work and swarm to the next storm. They may or may not be quality contractors. You have to do your due diligence.
Your better option is to find a local contractor who has a good reputation. Ask for and check references. The important thing is to know where you can find them if you have an issue when the work is done.
The insurance adjuster may offer you what is called an insurance company “preferred contractor.” They are “preferred” by the insurance company for a reason. Once again, do your due diligence.
A. Most homeowner’s policies cover these expenses. They are called Additional Living Expenses, or ALE for short. You would have to check with your agent or check your policy to find out if these are available to you. Your adjuster should also know.
A. Normally, you will want to have a contractor’s estimate and opinion before the adjuster inspects the property. If you disagree with the adjuster’s repair figures you have a few options. You can negotiate, write complaint letters to the company’s management, ask your agent for help, get help from the State Department of Insurance or you can hire a public adjuster or attorney.
A. Practically speaking, the insurance company will pay what you are willing to accept if it meets their idea of “reasonable.” “Reasonable” is in the eyes of the beholder. A lot of it depends on the philosophy of the claims department. A few will actually treat you like valued customers. Unfortunately, most treat you as a legal adversary. The important thing to remember is that a claim settlement is completely negotiable.
A. Your agent’s expertise is in marketing insurance policies. They are not trained in claims adjustments. Many insurance companies will not let their agents be involved in the claims process. Most agents are paid an annual bonus called a profit/loss ratio bonus. This is paid if their claims are kept below a certain percent. This creates an undisclosed conflict of interest as any time they are helping you with your claim they are working against their own financial interest.
Sometimes agents are able to help. It just depends on the company you are dealing with and how much your agent is willing to get involved.
A. Sure. But would it be in your best interest to do so?
It is the obligation of the homeowner to prove their claim just as a party to a lawsuit must prove theirs. Insurance policies contain many provisions, endorsements and exclusions that an unlearned homeowner may not understand. A homeowner also has duties and obligations under their homeowner’s policy which, if they are not adhered to, may cost you thousands of dollars. Most policyholders do not have the time or background to properly assess and prepare an itemized damage loss report that is crucial to recovery. A Public Adjuster has the experience to properly analyze and support your claim.