Donice Krueger came running into my office excitedly shouting that “Jimmy Patronis just called contractors and public adjusters grasshoppers and predators on national television!” Having just had a frank and positive discussion with Patronis the week before about difficult issues facing Florida’s insurance industry, I doubted Florida’s CFO would say such slanderous things about entire businesses of people trying to help others in their time of need. But then Donice showed me the whole press conference.
Giving Jimmy Patronis the benefit of the doubt, his messaging was extremely poor. To be fair, he should consider apologizing to the insurance restoration company and public adjusters for his defamation of them. It is simply wrong.
Policyholders suffering from Hurricane Ian need mitigation contractors right now. Flooded and waterlogged structures must be dried and cleaned immediately. Damaged roofs need tarps before more water enters from rain. The policy requires the policyholder to do these things without waiting for the insurance company’s adjuster to show up. The message from Florida leaders that people should not immediately get help from reputable palliative and restorative providers is wrong and invites policyholders to breach their insurance contract obligations.
All Hurricane Ian policyholders should read Pay up!: Prevent a disaster with your own insurance company. The book has this to say about independent restoration contractors:
Reputable and quality-conscious contractors can be valuable assets for policyholders. The average policyholder has no way of knowing when the construction work is done correctly. Construction and restoration are qualified professions. Using the wrong type of roof can lead to problems in the future. Using the wrong nails on a particular shingle or not placing the nails according to specification can result in leaks or damage to the roof in high winds or heavy rain. The construction details are important – and the average policyholder simply does not have the expertise to recognize the fine details of quality construction. Good entrepreneurs do that, making them experts in their specific domain. No one knows a quality roof repair better than a qualified and experienced roofer. When you hire your own contractors, as long as they are reputable, bonded and willing to guarantee the work to the manufacturers, you can better trust them to explain how to do the job right.
Even when you can choose your own contractors, the insurance company will still send out their adjusters to influence how repairs are made and the price to be paid. Good quality contractors can push and make sure the work is done right. Compared to the average policyholder, experienced contractors are better equipped to insist that the job is done properly with quality materials according to the manufacturer’s recommended practices.
To be clear: contractors cannot negotiate your claim with the insurance company. It’s a job for you, a certified public adjuster or a lawyer—no one else. However, contractors can act as your eyes and ears on the ground. They can also advocate for you indirectly by doing the work correctly and in accordance with relevant laws. They can also notify you when work is not being done correctly or according to regulations.
Most policyholders with significant Hurricane Ian damage can benefit from retaining licensed and reputable public adjusters. Pay up!: Prevent a disaster with your own insurance company has this to say about public insurance adjusters:
First and foremost, they work for you and not the insurance company. Today, most insurance company adjusters are under tremendous pressure to pay less in benefits. In a perfect world, all insurance adjusters assess claims carefully, cover losses in full, and ensure that policyholders receive full compensation. But we don’t have a perfect world. In the real world, insurance company claims managers often train adjusters to lower the company’s obligations to you.
Second, public adjusters can help you through the claims process and make sure you meet your obligations on time. After suffering a loss, you must mitigate further losses and damages. You may have limited time to make a claim, submit reports, challenge an assessment or fulfill other obligations. Public adjusters guide you through this process and are paid to do much of it for you. Many people simply do not have the time to do these things themselves. Many business owners and homeowners don’t have time to dig through the rubble after a structure burns down. Public adjusters return to the site of the loss to make detailed assessments. They will submit paperwork to meet policy-required deadlines.
Third, they have experience that customers do not have. They understand the claims process and can guide policyholders through it. They are trained to look for and find hidden injuries that may not be obvious. They know what insurance policies typically cover and how to properly document a loss.
Fourth, they are in a better position to negotiate with the insurance company. Most policyholders are simply not experienced and trained to negotiate the fairest deal with the insurance company. The insurance companies’ adjusters are experts in getting the claims settlement as low as possible. You need an expert to make sure you get the full benefit and nothing is overlooked.
To be fair and balanced, I think Patroni’s message about being wary of “scammers” and unsung predators is correct. Policyholders should not be pressured into signing contracts and must be wary of unscrupulous solicitors who will say and promise anything to get a contract signed. These unfortunate people prey on ignorance and those in extreme need. Our leaders actually have to do something about it. In the past I have reported and met with officials about this behavior, and given them names and examples of those doing the wrong actions – then nothing happens.
Jimmy Patronis faces many tough questions regarding Florida’s insurance market. I am glad that his message is that the insurance companies should quickly and fully pay damages. It is good that he has committed to insurance villages. These are positive steps.
My hope is that a different message, with an apology, comes from Jimmy Patronis about reputable contractors and public adjusters. There are many very hard working, experienced and well meaning restoration contractors and public adjusters helping Hurricane Ian victims. They do exactly what the law and our state expect and need them to do – help Florida policyholders immediately after a loss.
My philosophy is to do the best you can for someone. Help. It’s not just what you do for yourself. That’s how you treat people decently. The Golden rule. There is nothing better than the golden rule. It is found in all major religions in one language or another.