Private Eyes, Adjusting You
December 10, 2010 7:40 AM   Subscribe

What is the upside and downside of using an independent, private insurance adjuster for a claim as opposed to the insurance company's adjuster? Need to make a decision here and have no experience.

Recently a tree blew over and crashed into my building, throwing branches through my windows and causing some other damage both to my condo and to the building overall. I own my place and am on the condo board. We have a management company which has proven itself over 3 years to be incompetent, dense and outright irresponsible (let's not get into why we still use them). Due to the management company's usual lack of attention to detail, we ended up with both our building insurance company's adjuster looking at the damage and an independent private adjuster chosen and sent by the management company looking at it. The board did NOT sign any contract with the private adjuster (if you want the background on why we ended up in this situation, I'll provide it). Here are the results of both assessments:

Insurance Company: 23,000
Private Adjuster: 37,000

The private adjuster takes 10%.

Now, I don't trust our management company, neither do the other members of our board. Mainly we are worried that we'll end up with their contractors, which is nothing but a nightmare. However, a 14,000 dollar difference warrants a little thinking. None of us have any experience with a claim of this kind. So we have some questions:

1) What is the process when working with a private adjuster? Do they fight with the insurance company until a middle ground between their own assessment and the ins. company's assesment is reached? If so, how long does that usually take?

2) Why would there be such a huge difference? Is it because the adjuster will use his own contractors and is inflating the costs in order to take a bigger cut?

3) Is the potential hassle not worth 14,000 dollars?

4) Any other insight....we have no idea how this works.
posted by spicynuts to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you have an insurance agent, ask him this question. I wish I'd asked my agent these types of questions when I was being lowballed by my insurance carrier's adjuster after a house fire. If I had, I probably wouldn't have agonized and lost sleep during the terrible months I had to deal with that slimy excuse for a human being. I might not have needed a lawyer to act as my agent when I eventually tired of speaking to the adjuster. And I almost certainly would have been back in my house sooner had I called my agent to ask "Hey, this guy's lowballing me and being an asshole. What can be done about it?"
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:25 AM on December 10, 2010

#2 - Cynically speaking, the insurance company adjuster is working for the insurance company. They want the claim to be fair but cost as little as possible. The same cynicism could be applied to the private adjuster - the claim is higher, thus the fee is higher.

However, suppose the tree damaged the roof. The company adjuster would calculate replacing exactly what was damaged whereas the private adjuster could see that replacing solely what was damaged would eventually lead to redoing half the roof and factor in that increased cost. It could also be materials - the cost of repairing a building corner could increase because you need materials that match the building and they cost more now than when the building was originally built. The private adjuster should be able to tell you why they came up with that number. You could probably also get that info as a report.

That's as far as my commercial insurance expertise goes. AFAIK, the adjuster doesn't repair the damage, only assesses it. They might have contractors they could recommend, but that seems more of a management company (or board) decision.

Pure conjecture: If you want to fight for the higher amount, you or the private adjuster would probably talk to the insurance company claim rep about the 14k discrepancy and hopefully reach an agreement. I think a good claim rep would want to make the decision quickly (insurance time is variable - awesome utopia would be a week) considering it's 1) winter 2) your condo and 3) near Christmas/end of the year. Of course, these 3 factors could also work against you if you get a uncooperative claim rep because they could possibly freeze you into taking a lower amount. If you get stalled but have a good rapport with your insurance agent (the one who got you the policy), lean on them to resolve this quickly.
posted by zix at 9:32 AM on December 10, 2010

Response by poster: Good advice, zix. Some additional info: the insurance agent was chosen by the management company and I've already dealt with his incompetent ass so I'm not seeing that as a viable option.

Also, I looked at both estimates side by side and the insurance company's, while lower, is more detailed and includes alot of stuff like 'moving the refrigerator and appliances'. So I'm not worried about them failing to include collateral costs.
posted by spicynuts at 10:10 AM on December 10, 2010

Who is the policy under? The management company or the building/condo board? Whoever owns the policy is the one entitled to the insurance check. If it is under the board then it should hire its own independent adjuster to negotiate on the boards behalf. In which case you tell the mgmt co to back off.
posted by blargerz at 1:00 PM on December 12, 2010

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