What is a Florida Public Adjuster?
A Florida public adjuster is a person, who for a fee, assists the policy holder in preparing an estimate of damages, negotiating with the insurer, and effecting settlement of their claim. However this is the simplistic description of the public adjuster and his duties and job description are defined much broader and more thoroughly in Florida Statute.
626.854 defines the Public Adjuster in the following manner:
626.854(1) A "public adjuster" is any person, except a duly licensed attorney at law as exempted under s.826.860, who, for money, commission, or any other thing of value, prepares, completes, or files an insurance claim form for an insured or third-party claimant or who, for money, commission, or any other thing of value, acts on behalf of, or aids an insured or third-party claimant in negotiating for or effecting the settlement of a claim or claims for loss or damage covered by an insurance contract or who advertises for employment as an adjuster of such claims. The term also includes any person who, for money, commission, or any other thing of value, solicits, investigates, or adjusts such claims on behalf of a public adjuster.
Within this statute, the narrow job description of the Florida public adjuster lies. For a public adjuster to perform a broader job description than outlined above, may cause harm to the insured's claim. On the other hand, if the Florida public adjuster fails to perform his full duties as outlined in this statute, his client's settlement may not be fully realized. To understand what a Florida public adjuster is, you need to know what he is licensed to perform.
When is a Person Required to Licensed as a Florida Public Adjuster?
A person is required to be licensed as a Florida public adjuster if he does the combination of these three well defined tasks. First, he has to perform the task for money, commission, or anything of value. Secondly, the task has to be performed for or on behalf the insured or third-party. Thirdly, he must complete his task by carrying out one of the following:
Prepares, completes or files an insurance form.
Acts on behalf of, or aids in negotiating for or effecting the settlement of a claim or claims
Solicits, investigates, or adjusts such claims on behalf of a public adjuster.
1. When a Person Prepares, Completes, or Files an Insurance Form Claim.
Unfortunately, this statute does not define what a claim form is, so we are left to speculate. Any person who completes these forms for a fee, may need to be licensed as a public adjuster. It is possible the following are considered a claim forms:
A sworn statement in proof of loss
A Coverage A and B damage estimate
A Coverage C personal property inventory form
An ALE estimate or worksheet.
2. When a Person Acts on Behalf of or Aids the Policyholder
A Florida Public Adjuster acts on behalf of and aids the policyholder or third-party in negotiating for or effecting the settlement of a covered claim under the insurance contract. Other than a lawyer, a public adjuster is the only adjuster that can legally represent the insured during the claims process. Although you, the insured, may have an independent or company adjuster assigned to your claim, those adjusters are not licensed to negotiate with the insurance company in your behalf. They are either employed by the insurance company or are employed by an independent adjusting agency and have been hired to determinethe amount of the claim on behalf of the insurance company. A pubic adjuster is hired by you to determine the amount of your claim loss. While theoretically, both the independent adjuster's and the public adjuster's estimate should be similar in scope and pricing, I have not found this always to the case. 626.877 states "every adjuster shall adjust or investigate every claim, damage, or loss made or occurring under an insurance contract, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the contract and of the applicable laws of this state". This statute requires both the public adjuster and the all-lines adjuster to adjust your claim according to your policy of insurance and the applicable laws of the state.
3. When Persons Solicit, Investigate, or Adjust a claim on behalf of a public adjuster.
I would image this portion of the statute is attempting to outline who is required to hold a public adjuster's license when in the employment of another Florida. public adjuster. While a receptionist or a bookkeeper may not require a PA license, any person who solicits, investigates or adjusts a claim would require a license. Additional statutes and rules assist in understanding this requirement. I strongly recommend you contact the DFS and inquire if your particular situation requires you to solicit or investigate a claim.