When your home has been damaged—whether by bad weather, fire, theft, or other causes—you expect that the homeowner’s insurance policy that you’ve dutifully been paying will kick in and cover your property loss. That’s what you’ve been paying for all this time, right? Your claims adjuster should be working for you to help you get the money that you’re owed.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Here’s what you need to know about working with an adjuster to get a settlement that works for you.
What is a Claims Adjuster?
An insurance claims adjuster may be called an analyst, representative, or other title, but it all comes down to the same thing. The adjuster is the person who works for the insurer (or, in some cases, a third-party company hired by the insurance carrier to do the job). The adjuster is responsible for evaluating your claim. He or she may be an attorney, but this is the exception rather than the rule—and, in any case, the adjuster will be following the same company rules. An attorney has no special authority over a regular claims adjuster.
The job of a claims adjuster is, in short, to close claims as quickly and for as little money as possible. In many cases, his or her job performance may be evaluated based on these measurements of time and money, so the adjuster has real incentive to get you to agree to a low ball settlement quickly.
You shouldn’t be intimidated by the job title or in thinking that you’re facing down with a professional negotiator who is out to “get” you. There are two key facts that you should bear in mind:
• Your insurance company must act in good faith. The contract you entered into was mutual, after all. If the insurer fails to act in good faith, it may be liable for a lawsuit, which can quickly get much more expensive than simply paying the claim.
• You have the upper hand when it comes to negotiations. The adjuster likely has dozens of claims come across his or her desk every week, but you only have one claim to handle—your own. You are the expert when it comes to your claim.
Forearmed with that knowledge and with a little bit of legwork to prepare, you’re already in a great position for your claim. You may not want to accept the very first offer that the adjuster makes, but there’s nothing wrong with accepting a reasonable settlement and closing the claim out. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work out that easily.
When Negotiations With an Insurance Adjuster Fail
If you can’t get your rightful claim covered to a satisfactory amount (or at all) and you know the damage should be fully covered according to your policy, that’s when things can get tough. At this point, it may be a good idea to contact an attorney who has experience with the claims process.
Your attorney will know about the many ways that insurers often try to use to minimize or deny claims that they should rightfully be paying out, and he will work to protect your legal rights. Never let the insurance company talk you out of hiring an attorney, and if things have gotten to a point where you’re not comfortable negotiating on your own, don’t delay getting legal assistance. The claims process is often on a short timeline that varies according to policy, and the longer you wait, the harder your claim is to prove.