Do You Need a Public Adjuster’s Help – Maui

The character in the story “Pinocchio” who tempts the wooden boy and leads him astray is named “Stromboli.” Stromboli is a puppeteer and showman who convinces Pinocchio to join his puppet show, but ultimately imprisons him when all Pinocchio wants is to return home to his father, Geppetto.

The fires in Maui weren’t even out last week when property owners in Lahaina began receiving calls from people called public adjusters. Like Stromboli, they come in heavy, launching fear-based sales pitches about their services to “help” settle an insurance claim.

Who are these people? Do you need them to help you with your insurance claim?

The answer is, probably not. In fact, there is very little chance that signing up with a public adjuster is in your best interest, at least right away. But for 5-10% of your insurance premiums as their fee, they really want you to sign up anyway.

Why are so many of them swimming to Maui right now to get in on the claims action? 5-10% of $500k-$1million in insurance money means a big payday for them. A public adjuster could make $50,000-$100,000+ per claim they sign up. Maybe now you begin to see why they are making a beeline to Maui? Maybe now you understand why they all carry fire scanners on their phones so they can literally chase disasters?

Why Are They Already Giving You a High-Pressure Sales Pitch?

The barrier to entry in this profession is low. And with so many wildfires destroying homes in the last decade, there has been a proliferation of public adjusters. Many of the ones calling you are brand-new to the job. They realize, as scummy as this sounds, that a fire survivor is most vulnerable right after the fire. Emotions are frayed. Fear and worry dominate. The person who just lost their home and all their worldly possessions is vulnerable. Anyone pressuring a fire survivor to sign up only days after a fire is a public adjuster seeking to take advantage of the situation.

Just like Stromboli, the charismatic puppeteer and showman, adjusters use persuasive sales skills to convince claimants they will not be able to settle the claim without their help. They tap into existing fears fire survivors have that their insurance company won’t treat them fairly. Vulnerable claimants are enticed by the prospect of someone else dealing with the big, bad insurance company.

They Make It Sound as If You Must Decide Now!

But you don’t need to make any decisions now. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the only sign up that should take place is the one with FEMA. You have months and months before you might need the help of a public adjuster. Experiencing the loss of your home to a wildfire is distressing and overwhelming. In the aftermath, dealing with insurance claims and property damage likely adds to the stress. The high-pressure sales tactic, the rushing you to commit? That is a good sign the public adjuster is looking after their best interests and not yours.

Hiring a public adjuster to handle an insurance claim, in most instances, won’t be necessary. It is best to wait and be patient. See how your own company’s adjuster is treating you. Review all the available resources at hand. If you’re a busy person with loads of disposable income and just do not want to deal with your claims process, then by all means, locate a reputable public adjuster. There are a handful. They won’t be the ones calling you today because they respect your humanity and realize what you’re going through is not their personal lottery. Otherwise, it would be prudent to be patient. Slow Down! This is not a sprint. Your claim will take at least a year if not longer. You have time.

Considerations Before Hiring a Public Adjuster (PA):

  1. Insurance Companies Do Not Like Public Adjusters: Insurance companies prefer handling claims directly with consumers. We have written a separate article about the insurance companies’ claims process and their adjusters. Internal insurance adjusters and the company claims teams do not trust PA’s to provide honest and accurate claims information. They view the PA as a conflicted and biased individual who is slowing the process down while attempting to make hay off your disaster.
  2. No Way to Determine Their Effectiveness: You cannot determine if the PA has ever obtained any of the things he/she is promising you for anyone in the past through Yelp or any other rating service. The harder the sales pitch, the more likely you’re dealing with an inexperienced, desperate adjuster. Few PAs have ever built a home, so they have no way of effectively proving your rebuild costs. It can be very difficult to distinguish a trustworthy adjuster from a misleading one.
  3. Knowledge and Resources: Public adjusters, despite what they are telling you, do not have any secret ways to move claims through an insurance company more quickly. Websites like United Policyholders offer comprehensive resources to guide policyholders through the claims process. Utilizing these resources and educating yourself about the claims procedure can empower you to handle the claim effectively.
  4. Cost Consideration: Public adjusters typically charge a large percentage of your settlement as their fee. Make sure you do the math. 5% sounds inexpensive. 5% of $1,000,000 is $50,000. Chances are, you are going to find out you don’t have enough insurance to rebuild. You probably can’t afford throwing $50,000 to $100,000 or more at someone you’ve never met for information that is freely available. For most claims, the amount you might pay a public adjuster is not likely to outweigh any potential benefits. Do the math before you sign the contract.
  5. Keep The Money on Maui: Your homes have been lost. That is awful. At the same time, your local economy is about to go through something horrible. Some folks will leave the island and rebuild elsewhere, taking their spending and communities away. Tourism will be decimated. All the other industries and jobs related to tourism will be too, creating a cascading negative effect on your local economy. It will take a decade or more for Maui to recover.As recovery, rebuilding, and renovation activities get going, the work is often done by outsiders, including public adjusters. Any outsider company taking a dollar is taking that dollar off the island and delaying Maui’s recovery. While public adjusters can be beneficial for some complex cases, mostly, they are another drain on an economy already badly damaged. Keep that insurance money on Maui!

In conclusion, before hiring a public adjuster after a fire, take your time and determine if it is truly necessary. By being well-informed, communicating openly, and utilizing available free resources, you can navigate the insurance claims process effectively and secure a fair settlement for your losses. It’s like building a house: the more research and preparation you do beforehand, the stronger and more dependable the result will be. Don’t fall prey to the Strombolis of the world. Take your time, be patient, use the right resources, and be persistent: you can get your insurance company to work with you without paying public adjusters big fees that you and your economy can’t afford.