Oklahoma tornadoes: Public adjusters come out in Moore disaster

People with homes destroyed or damaged do not have to deal only with claims adjusters working for insurance companies. State-licensed public adjusters offer their services only to customers of insurance companies.
by Richard Mize Modified: May 31, 2013 at 10:29 pm •  Published: June 1, 2013

“I was so sad. It was four days,” Carter said. Then, “It was almost like it was OK. I mean, you could deal with it.”

Customers first

The church was full of stories, but the people came to listen, not talk.

They heard Alice Young of Brown O'Haver explain the difference in types of adjusters.

“A public insurance adjuster works for the insured, not the insurance company,” Young said. “A staff adjuster (works for) an insurance company to adjust claims on their behalf. An independent adjuster is hired by an insurance company to adjust the claims on their behalf — they just don't work directly for the insurance company.

“A public adjuster only works for the insured, so we are advocates for the insured. The state of Oklahoma sees it necessary to license public adjusters to make sure that all insureds have the right to be able to hire their adjusters on their behalf.”

Young said that on average public adjusters help insurance customers get 30-percent to 40-percent larger settlements than if they dealt with a company-hired adjuster.

That's not counting the public adjuster's fee, which is negotiated case by case.

Cabral, the representative from United Policyholders, ticked off several things to do immediately when a property is damaged: Get a complete copy of the insurance policy; ask for a cash advance; clear up ALE — insurance-ese for additional living expenses; take notes of every conversation and communication with anyone involved; keep all receipts; and go online to www.uphelp.org.

Levels of damage

John Whitson of Brown & O'Haver talked details. High points included the basics of what to expect at three general levels of damage:

•  Destroyed and uninhabitable? Get policy limits from the company immediately. Remember that an extended coverage provision kicks in if a homeowner decided to rebuild and when work is complete.

•  Walls are still standing, with some roof support but with other major damage? Note that people in this situation are mostly at risk for undervalued settlements from insurance companies. Be ready to hire an engineer and other experts. Feel free to challenge an initial settlement offer.

•  Damaged but habitable? Use trusted and researched local roofers and contractors to get estimates before filing a claim. File only if certain that damage exceeds the deductible. Get multiple bids to complete work.

About contractors and restoration companies: Use of an insurance companies' preferred providers is not required. Don't let contractors adjust a claim; they are not licensed to do so. Do not authorize direct payment to contractors. Research companies, check references, try to stay local.


by Richard Mize
Real Estate Editor
Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman's weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999. From 1989 to 1999, he worked...
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A public insurance adjuster works for the insured, not the insurance company. A staff adjuster (works for) an insurance company to adjust claims on their behalf. An independent adjuster is hired by an insurance company to adjust the claims on their behalf — they just don't work directly for the insurance company. A public adjuster only works for the insured, so we are advocates for the insured. The state of Oklahoma sees it necessary to license public adjusters to make sure that all insureds have the right to be able to hire their adjusters on their behalf.”

Alice Young,
Brown O'Haver

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