11 Things Illinois Fire Victims Need to Know About Public Adjusters
What’s a Public Adjuster and What Do Illinois Fire Victims Need to Know About Them?
This guide is provided to help property owners suffering from fire or flood damage in Illinois. It will answer a few questions about Public Adjusters. We recommend you contact our adjusting firm and also an attorney if there are legal issues. The law firm of Law offices of Jason Harris is available to answer questions regarding legal issues. Public Adjusters are NOT allowed or qualified to answer legal questions.
01: What is the Difference Between a Public Adjuster and the ones sent by my insurance company?
Natural disasters and fires are unpredictable and the process of recovery daunting. If your property or home was insured, you will have no choice but to interact with your insurance company through the claims process. You will likely be approached by what is commonly known as a “Public insurance adjuster” claiming they can win a better settlement from your insurance company. Always run a background check and seek references regarding any public adjuster. Many are not properly tested or bonded and have used short cuts to obtain their license. Some firm’s owners are not even operated by a tested and bonded public adjuster. Also check with the Better Business Bureau and the Illinois Department of Insurance. Most importantly have your Attorney check them out. Be careful with any individuals claiming a service or benefit appearing “too good to be true” and contact the Illinois Department of Insurance before signing any contracts or formal agreements of which you may have questions or suspicions. Be aware that night chasing is illegal. We have posted other blogs on that issue.
To learn more, please visit Fight or Dance with Insurance Company Adjusters.
02: There are three kinds of insurance adjusters. Some work only for the property owner.
Insurance companies employ “Company Adjusters”. They represent the interest of your insurance company and are paid by them. They won’t charge you a fee since they are employees of the insurance company with an interest in keeping the claim low.
“Independent Adjusters” are hired on a contract basis by the insurance company and represent the interest of the insurance company only. In settling your claim they are only interested in protecting the insurance company. The independent adjusters are paid by the insurance company.
“Public Adjusters” don’t work for insurance companies. They are not a public employee and do not work on behalf of the state of Illinois, Department of Insurance or any other agency. They work for you, the property owner only. They are employed by the property owner to assist with the preparation, presentation and settlement of your claim. You hire a public adjuster by signing a contract agreeing to pay a fee or a commission based on a percentage of your settlement.
03: Do I have to hire a public adjuster in Illinois?
No, but with that said, many property owners find that services offered by public adjusters can be beneficial if the adjuster is qualified and knowledgeable. Unfortunately, many Public Adjusters in northern Illinois are not qualified. Take note, that if you have a legal issue, you need to retain an attorney, not a public adjuster. Attorneys are NOT public adjusters trained in estimating and adjusting losses. An attorney, however, can handle a legal issue if there is an overlap. Harris Claims Services is owned and operated Jason Harris who is an Illinois practicing attorney as well as a Public Adjuster. His background and knowledge is extensive and spans over thirty years in the industry as a public adjuster, fire restoration contractor and attorney.
Learn more about What a Public Adjuster Actually Does.
04: Is a Public Adjuster’s Fee covered by my insurance?
No. Insurance policies don’t cover Public Adjusters’ fees. A good Public Adjuster, however, will earn his fee by increasing the settlement in your claim.
05: How does a Public Adjuster get paid?
You pay for the services provided by your Public Adjuster from your claim settlement. At Harris Claims Services, if you don’t get paid they don’t get paid. Usually, the fee is equal to a percentage of the claim paid by your insurance company.
Learn more about Public Adjuster Fees – cost versus value.
06: Are Public Adjuster fees negotiable? How do I know I can trust him/her? Should I do a background check?
Yes. A Public Adjuster’s fees can and should be negotiated. Interview a few prospects and seek legal guidance to do a background check on any you consider. Many public adjusters tend to be repair contractors. Some may not have passed the public adjuster exam and use loopholes to get licensed. And some public adjusting companies are not owned or operated by a Licensed Public Adjuster, but a contractor, who may or may not be reputable. You must do your research, meet the owner and speak with an attorney. Remember you this is someone being trusted with hundreds of thousands of dollars. The person you hire will have their name placed on your insurance settlement check.
07: Do I have to sign a contract with a public adjuster?
Yes. It’s required by Illinois law for the adjuster to to provide a written contract specifying services, including any salary, fee, commission or any compensation or consideration exchanged for those services. The contract you sign is binding and can only be canceled by certified mail within five business days after the date the contract was signed.
Learn more about Illinois Public Adjuster Contracts.
08: Are there restrictions on when a public adjuster can solicit me?
Yes. Public Adjusters cannot solicit your business while a “loss-producing occurrence,” such as a fire is continuing or while the fire department or its representatives are engaged at your home or property. A public adjuster may not solicit between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. If you are solicited during these times, the adjuster should be reported to the Illinois department of Insurance. Do not consider any person approaching you during these hours if not invited by you personally.
Call Consumer Services at (312) 814-2427, Consumer Assistance Hotline Toll Free at (866) 445-5364, or visit http://insurance.illinois.gov.
09: Are there standards of conduct a public adjuster must follow?
Yes. A public adjuster is required to serve with objectivity and complete loyalty for your interests alone and to provide you information, counsel and service that best serves your insurance claim needs and interests.
10: Do Public Adjusters need to be licensed in Illinois?
Yes. Illinois law requires public adjusters to be licensed with the Department of Insurance. Contact the Department at (866) 445-5364 to verify that the public adjuster is licensed and in good standing prior to signing a contract. Ask to see their license and if they passed the public adjusters exam. Some are granted a license despite having not passed the exam. Run background checks for criminal charges, just to be safe. Meet the owner of the company. Most of the adjusters going door to door are just sales people with limited knowledge. Find out who will actually be doing the work, negotiating the claim and fighting the insurance company. You will be surprised to learn approximately 90 percent of the public adjusters going door to door do NOT do any of the negotiations and have no involvement in the claim after the 10 day cancellation period. Be very careful of these companies. That is not the case at Harris Claims Services; our adjusters, staff and owner are involved with the claims process from beginning to end.
11: Where may I go for more info?
The Illinois Department of Insurances’ consumer fact sheet, “When Disaster Strikes – What to do After an Insured Homeowner’s Loss” contains useful information on insurance coverage and how to manage the claims process. The fact sheet may be found online at http://www.insurance.illinois.gov. Also on their website is a list of agencies and organizations that can help you. Harris Claims Services has posted informational videos at http://www.harrisclaimsservices.com and at http://www.jasonharrislaw.com/
This information is provided to consumers as general information and guidance about insurance laws and coverage. It is not intended as legal advice or a formal and definitive description of the Illinois Department of Insurance Policies. For any specific information, you should contact the Illinois Department of Insurance or speak with an Attorney. To understand the process and how it works, you need to have all the facts. Harris Claims Services does not offer legal services. Harris Claims Services and Law offices of Jason Harris are separate companies (and operated as such) although both are owned and operated by Jason Harris.