Let’s consider an unfortunate set of circumstances. It is the middle of the night, and you’re dealing with the sudden challenge of suffering a significant property loss. In this situation, you are going to have to make a lot of quick decisions. Taking action will certainly be challenging, especially under this type of pressure and without having any experience or idea of what to do. To complicate matters, you will likely have several restoration companies and other service providers offering immediate emergency assistance. If you are actually of the right mind to make important decisions, hiring an emergency vendor should be considered. Their services may include securing the property, having water extracted and other like activities. The most vital decision is choosing the right public adjuster to represent you. There are several considerations in making this decision, and it should not be taken lightly.
So, how to choose the PA who will help you navigate the complex insurance claims process? Firstly, there is no need to decide right away if you are not comfortable, or as mentioned above, not in the right frame of mind. In that case, you are better off doing nothing rather than making harsh decisions. Before retaining a public adjuster, check references, find out about their reputation, and possibly talk with a few companies to make sure they are the right fit. Be mindful that whoever you hire is going to be working with you for a long period of time; make certain that your personalities mesh and you are on the same page.
Here are a few more criteria you should keep in mind:
In-house expertise – At SMW, we have experienced in-house staff – forensic accountants, building experts, personal property adjusters, etc. Most PA firms you talk with will likely outsource much of this difficult estimating work. Instead of managing various elements of a claim with a coordinated team such as what we do at SMW, the other firms negotiate unit costs and the scope of work using various outside independent so-called contractors. These outsourced vendors’ work product is usually unprofessional and has little to no credibility. If you hire a PA that’s a “one-man office” and they suddenly have other priorities to attend to, your file might fall to the bottom of the pile. This won’t happen if your PA firm is large enough to have a depth of professionals and experts who are on the same team – YOUR team.
The team – Choose the PA who will do the best job for you – not the one who offers a cut-rate fee. If you go for the lowest rate, you might get a lower payout. The old adage holds true in many of these situations – “you get what you pay for”. Go for the team that will professionally handle your claim and will be present when the loss adjustment becomes challenging. This type of commitment breeds strong results. It is also imperative that the firm you hire is available to meet with you and/or answer your questions as needed.
Industry clout – At SMW, if we write an estimate of $1M, we expect to collect amounts close to if not all of the amount claimed. Other firms inflate estimates while knowing they will get less in the end. Instead of a back-of-the-napkin guesstimate, SMW’s estimates will be comprehensive. We use the same industry software that the insurance company uses to do their own estimate, as well as the Matterport software to get 3D features included. One other difference is that we (SMW) review all claims we prepare with our clients prior to submitting anything to the insurer or their experts. Remember – this is your claim and the documentation needs to represent your concerns relative to the damage sustained.
Relationships – SMW has long-standing connections with all the major insurance carriers. We also have an established network of vendors who will be involved in site restoration – companies doing board-up, dry cleaning, contracting, legal and insurance services.
Reputation – SMW is a family business with 133 years in the industry. Every piece of paper that goes out the door has our name on it. A lot of PAs are not invested in their reputation – they just need the quick sale. The SMW name, and what it represents over 133 years, is so important to us and we work hard to keep our good name intact.