Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Apr 6, 2016

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When your home has been damaged or destroyed by fire, you’re probably at the end of your rope – both mentally and physically. Just dealing with everyday tasks while living in temporary housing – without most of your personal belongings – would be difficult for anyone. That’s why many victims of fire hire public adjusters to help in the claim process. But who are they, when should you use them and more importantly, can they really help you?

Some experts in the industry aren’t convinced that using public adjusters is such a good idea. Dave Peterson, a fire insurance expert who has practiced in the insurance industry for over 30 years, pointed out some of the flaws involved with using public adjusters. “Public adjusters are nothing more than people the insured can hire to interface with the insurance company to get all of the benefits that the insured is entitled to get.

What I have found is that they’re not as up to date on coverages as the insurance industry and there are pros and cons from using public adjusters. It’s hard for me to answer whether it’s good or bad because there are good ones and there are bad ones, but I think that when you have a significant loss, there’s nothing wrong with hiring a public adjuster. Although if you think about it logically, it may not be in your best interest because they take a percentage of what you would normally get from the insurance company as contract benefits and you end up losing that amount in the end.”

Isn’t it the insurance company’s duty?

You may be asking, ‘Isn’t it the insurance company’s duty to investigate the loss?’ Rest assured that you’re not alone. Bob Scott, a partner with the Advocate Law Group, provided an answer to that question. “Normally, the answer to this is that the insurance company should be the one to assist you in the loss. That is their duty. The unfortunate reality is that the public adjusting business has grown. It’s institutional in every city and the reason it’s grown is because the insurance companies have failed to live up to that duty. So it’s much better if you just try to go it alone. I will tell you from a plaintiff’s lawyer’s perspective that I am very, very careful on ever taking a case that had a public adjuster involved in it because usually the thing is somewhat screwed up.”