Last Update: 02/01/16
Every year, the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) is investigating situations where companies throughout the State of Florida are illegally engaged in the business of public adjusting because they were offering themselves up to Florida citizens as public adjusters without bothering to get themselves properly licensed with the State.
What they are doing is a crime. In Florida, the unlicensed practice of public adjusting has been declared a third degree felony under Florida Statute 626.8738. If caught and convicted, they face not only fines but time behind bars for pretending to be public adjusters without having the necessary license. Still, many dishonest predators are out there — seeing the news of sinkholes or tornadoes or hurricanes or severe winds, flooding, or even car accidents and slip and falls as opportunities to take advantage of people who are already dealing with a life crisis.
What is a public adjuster?
The Legislature finds that it is necessary for the protection of the public to regulate public insurance adjusters and to prevent the unauthorized practice of law.
(1) A “public adjuster” is any person, except a duly licensed attorney at law as exempted under s. 626.860, who, for money, commission, or any other thing of value, prepares, completes, or files an insurance claim form for an insured or third-party claimant or who, for money, commission, or any other thing of value, acts on behalf of, or aids an insured or third-party claimant in negotiating for or effecting the settlement of a claim or claims for loss or damage covered by an insurance contract or who advertises for employment as an adjuster of such claims. The term also includes any person who, for money, commission, or any other thing of value, solicits, investigates, or adjusts such claims on behalf of a public adjuster.
(2) This definition does not apply to:
(a) A licensed health care provider or employee thereof who prepares or files a health insurance claim form on behalf of a patient.
(b) A person who files a health claim on behalf of another and does so without compensation.
(3) A public adjuster may not give legal advice or act on behalf of or aid any person in negotiating or settling a claim relating to bodily injury, death, or noneconomic damages.
The Problem of Fake Public Adjusters
In Florida, especially during hurricane season, the temptation is high for those out for a quick buck to tell an unsuspecting insured who has suffered harm or damage that they can help by acting as a loss consultant with the insurance company or outright adjust the insurance claim on the injured insured’s behalf.
Fake public adjusters can be roofers, plumbers, contractors, restoration companies, electricians, and other trades whose expertise is needed in the aftermath of a loss (like a hurricane). They are out to make some fast money, taking advantage of insureds.
The Vulnerability of Most Insureds
Most Florida insureds are vulnerable to these unscrupulous phony public adjusters because:
- Most people do not read their insurance policies, they buy what they think they should and then file away the policy among their personal papers.
- When most people do stop to read their insurance policies, they may not understand all the industry terms.
- When reading an insurance policy, most people do not know how various provisions are written to work together — usually to limit the company’s responsibility to pay.
- Most people assume they’ve got the coverage that they need to cover their loss (this may not be true).
- Many Floridians look to insurance adjusters to pay enough to cover their losses.
When facing a serious and severe loss of property or serious personal injury after an accident or injury, from a car accident to a slip and fall to a natural disaster like a hurricane, it’s important for victims to know their rights under their insurance policy and to protect themselves in the middle of a life crisis from a fake insurance adjuster ready and willing to take advantage of their situation for his or her own personal gain.
One way to do this? Have a trained personal injury attorney review the situation, making sure that all policy rights are protected. Meeting with a personal injury lawyer to discuss your situation may save someone not only time and money but stress and heartache in an already difficult time.
What Should You Do?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed by your insurance adjuster, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
- How Do You Know If Your Settlement Offer From the Insurance Company is Fair? Have You Considered All of The Factors Involved in a Florida Damages Claim?
- Bad Faith Insurance Adjusters: Suing Your Insurance Company For Failing to Pay Your Insurance Claim (or Not Paying Enough)
- 5 Things You Should Know About Car Insurance Adjusters When You Have A Car Accident Claim
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.