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8 Steps You Can Take To Maximize Your Insurance Claim

No one ever wants to think about the possibility of water or fire damage, but the fact is that it can happen at any time. And when they do, it’s important to be prepared. One of the most important things you can do is make sure you have insurance. But even if you have insurance, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get the full amount you’re entitled to from the insurance company. 

That’s where a public adjuster comes in. A public adjuster is someone who works on behalf of the policyholder to make sure they get a fair settlement from the insurance company. They know the ins and outs of the insurance industry, and they can make sure you get the money you need to rebuild your home or business.

If you find yourself in the position of having to file a claim with your insurance company, here are 8 steps you can take to make sure you get enough money from the insurance company:

Bypass all of the steps below and hire a public adjuster: A public adjuster will work on your behalf to make sure you get the best possible settlement from the insurance company.

1. Get an estimate of the damage: Before you file a claim, get an estimate of the damage from a reputable contractor. This will give you a starting point for negotiations with the insurance company.

2. Gather all relevant documentation: Make sure you have all the documentation the insurance company will need to process your claim. This includes things like receipts, photos, and police reports.

3. File your claim as soon as possible: The sooner you file your claim, the sooner the insurance company will start processing it.

4. Be patient: The claims process can take time, so it’s important to be patient.         

5. Keep track of all correspondence: Keep copies of all correspondence with the insurance company, including emails and letters.

6. Don’t accept the first offer: The insurance company will likely try to lowball you with their first offer. Don’t accept it – counteroffer and continue negotiations until you reach a fair settlement.

7. Get everything in writing: Once you reach an agreement with the insurance company, make sure you get it in writing before you sign anything.

8. Read the fine print: Before you sign any documents, read them carefully and make sure you understand everything.

 If you follow these steps without the help of a Public Adjuster, you’ll decrease your chances of getting a fair settlement from the insurance company.

California fires won’t raise insurance rates in 2018


With October’s massive wine country wildfires and current monster blazes sweeping Southern California, this year will go down in the record books as one of the most devastating fire seasons ever for insurance losses.

A spokesman for the state’s insurance regulator said Thursday that year-to-date losses from the state’s fires already top $10 billion. However, a state ballot measure passed decades ago by California voters may save them from massive increases next year in property and casualty insurance rates.

Insurance claims for the October wildfires in Northern California alone now top $9.4 billion, which includes destruction of or damage to more than 21,000 homes and 2,800 businesses, the California State Insurance Commissioner revealed Wednesday. As of Thursday evening, at least 439 structures have been destroyed so far in the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, and that’s before the catastrophic losses from other blazes in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

“These are extraordinary loss figures — $9.4 billion in October alone — and sadly as the fires rage in Southern California we can anticipate that we will see significant losses there as well,” California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones told reporters Wednesday.

It’s too early to say what the exact dollar amount of losses is from the current Southern California wildfires since the fires are still raging, but S&P Global Ratings is estimating the October fires alone caused more than $12 billion in losses. Some of the homes that burned or were damaged in the Bel Air fires this week in Los Angeles County include properties costing tens of millions of dollars, while further north the so-called Creek Fire damaged or destroyed at least 30 homes.

“We may experience increases in insurance costs in the future as a result of the fires,” said Janet Ruiz, a California-based representative with the Insurance Information Institute.

Ruiz said insurance companies also can decide not to write new policies for homes in areas deemed high risk. She also said they manage risk in areas deemed larger fire risks “so they’ll spread it out. A company may feel like they have too much risk in a high-risk area, and they might not renew.”

There are also cases where new insurance companies come into high-risk areas because they might be able to get higher premiums. Either way, the existing and new insurers would need to get new rates approved by California’s Department of Insurance.

For those insurers that spread risk to reinsurers, experts said, a lot of the impact will depend on whether or how much the reinsurers start rerating. Even before the October wildfires, there already were signs some reinsurers were looking to reduce exposure to the property catastrophe business due to the impacts of hurricanes.

Regardless, a voter measure passed decades ago will present a challenge for insurance companies looking to jack up rates right after the California wildfires.

Proposition 103, approved by California voters in 1988, requires the “prior approval” of the state’s insurance regulator before insurance companies can implement property and casualty rates, including homeowner’s insurance.

“California has a consumer-friendly approach with Proposition 103, and the insurance industry hates it,” said Kenneth Klein, a California Western School of Law professor and expert on natural disasters.

Added Klein, “The insurance industry has been battling that proposition for a long time.”

Under Proposition 103 and other California insurance regulations, property and casualty insurance companies cannot take all the losses associated with one event, such as this year’s wildfires, and then simply put them onto next year’s rates. The state requires a longer-term trend, not a one- or two-year disaster impact.

“California is a state that you can say is a little bit tougher to get rate increases versus other states,” said S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Tracy Dolin.

“The insurers cannot take all of the losses associated with a catastrophe like this [year’s wildfires] and dump it into next year’s rates,” said Jones, the insurance commissioner. “Instead, there’s a catastrophe factor in the rate, which is a trend that looks back at catastrophes over the last 20 years.”

Jones said that means losses this calendar year — whether from the wine country fires or the current wildfires in Southern California — “will be added into that 20-year trend and will have some impact on rates.”

He estimated the catastrophes will have a “modest impact” but wouldn’t say how much he thought it would be.

“It will not be a dramatic impact,” he said.

Jones estimated that his office has saved California consumers and businesses nearly $2.6 billion in premiums since 2011 by rejecting excessive rates or rate increases from insurers.

Without Proposition 103, Klein said, Californians could experience what happened in the Gulf Coast in the wake of 2005’s disastrous Hurricane Katrina. He said the industry was able to pass along big increases right after the disaster.

“After Katrina, the insurance industry immediately re-rated on the assumption that a Katrina event would happen the next year, which of course it didn’t,” Klein said. “As a consequence, I believe that was the single most-profitable year they ever had — the next year.”

Nonetheless, Klein said, California’s insurance regulators can’t ignore the increased wildfire risk in urban areas of the state and will need to work with the insurance companies.

“There’s no question that insurance companies are going to have to react to what is apparently a consequence of climate change, which is the increase in the frequency and severity of wildfires and wildfires in urban interfaces,” he said. The state’s insurance regulator “is already having extended discussions about how they will make sure that the insurance industry remains healthy and robust in this state.”


Jeff Daniels |

California Approves Public Adjuster Reform Bill

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that establishes fair practices standards for public insurance adjusters and enhances consumer protections.

Senate Bill 488, authored by state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, and sponsored by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, was signed into law on Thursday.

After filing a claim, homeowners have the option of working with their insurance company’s adjuster or hiring their own public adjuster, who are customarily compensated with a percentage of the settled claim amount.

SB 488 clarifies several provisions in the public adjuster statutes, most of which came directly from cases and complaints handled by California Department of Insurance investigators.

According to the CDI, significant issues that were revealed through these investigations demonstrated that some public adjusters were unfairly charging consumers when taking over partially settled claims, entering disaster areas prematurely to solicit work from homeowners, and inappropriately using high-pressure tactics to coerce distraught consumers to enter into contracts.

SB 488 has an added value provision that would prohibit public adjusters from charging a fee that would result in the consumer receiving anything less than the amount previously paid to them by the insurer prior to the involvement of the public adjuster.

In addition, in responding to complaints regarding unlawful practices by public adjusters, CDI determined that consumers devastated by California wildfires were contacted by either an unlicensed individual working for a licensed public adjuster or by an attorney to solicit a public adjuster contract. Some consumers discovered, weeks after signing a contract, that the public adjusters were unlicensed, were providing inaccurate information, and were not handling claims in a satisfactory or timely manner. These practices resulted in multiple consumer and insurer complaints to CDI.

According to the CDI, SB 488 also increases consumer protections by:

  • Requiring public adjuster license applicants to complete pre-licensing education, pass a qualifying examination and pass a fingerprint-based background review.
  • Allowing California to be reciprocal with other states by streamlining the process for non-residents to obtain public adjuster licenses.
  • Prohibiting a public adjuster from contacting or soliciting a consumer during a disaster if: The emergency is still present; emergency responders are still present and/or; an evacuation order is still in effect.

These reforms enhance public protection so consumers using a public adjuster can feel confident that their best interests will be protected and that fair practices will be adhered to,” Jones said in a statement. “We have worked on some recent cases that highlighted the need for additional protections. I’d also like to thank Senator Block for authoring this bill in his last year in the Legislature.


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