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Guardian Adjusting Blog
Tips and information on all types of property damage claims.

 

Before Calling the Insurance Company

Rick Tapanes - Thursday, May 25, 2017

What to Do Before Calling Your Insurance Company

It is unusual to contact your insurance company for anything other than the price of your policy, but is vital to be ready for the conversation that will come if you experience a property loss and have to file a claim. There are some things you can do to prepare and to maintain the upper hand when dealing with your property insurance company regarding a claim.

Review Your Policy – Know what benefits your property insurance policy includes and what steps you must take to insure coverage.

Maintain Detailed Records – You do not want to depend on your insurance company for proof when filing a claim. Keep all documents that your insurance company sends you, such as proof of payment and explanation of benefits. Retrieve these along with any other related documents that might pertain to the claim before filing it. Furthermore, keep a copy of everything you send them.

Take Notes – Record the date and time and the name of the representative you spoke with every time you call the insurance company.

Hire a Contractor – Have a good restoration contractor perform a damage inspection on your property. They will provide you with a detailed report of the damage and an estimate of the cost of repairs. The best way to find a good contractor is through a referral. Your public insurance adjuster (see below) can help.

Hire a Public Adjuster – A public insurance adjuster acts as a liaison between you and your insurance company and will always work for your best interest. A public adjuster will work with the contractor to negotiate the highest possible claim for you. Note that a contractor cannot work as a public insurance adjuster, nor can adjusters work as contractors. Be very wary of a contractor who offers to negotiate your insurance claim for you.

Knowing your rights and hiring the right experts to represent you are the best ways to protect your property and maximize your property loss claim. Remember that the insurance company is not necessarily looking out for your interests. Here are a few additional things to consider before making that call to your insurance company:

  • Be familiar with your policy and know your rights.
  • Many insurance companies place limits on the time you can claim a file. Do not put it off.
  • Insurance restoration contractors and public insurance adjusters represent your interests.
  • Hire the most qualified contractor and adjuster even if it means paying a little more.
  • Be wary of insurance company referred contractors.

The public adjusters at Guardian Adjusting Services are ready to help you with your property damage claim. Call us today to maximize your claim.

Broken Pipes

Rick Tapanes - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Broken Pipe? Act Fast

If there is a broken pipe in your property, you should act right away. The amount of money that your insurance company will pay can be affected by how engaged you are in the maintenance of your property and in the claim process. A broken pipe can wreak havoc on a home or place of business if not detected early, or if it is ignored. If mold sets in there will be whole other set of issues to deal with. The sooner you contact a public adjuster and get your claim filed, the better.

Many insurance companies are not forthcoming when it comes to broken pipe policies. For this reason, it is important to hire a public insurance adjuster who will perform an independent inspection, document the details of your damage, file your claim and deal with your insurance company directly. Furthermore, a good public insurance adjuster will put you in contact with reputable contractors that can perform the repairs that will get your property back to its pre-damage state. Finally, a public adjuster will appeal a claim if necessary and even represent you in court if it comes to that.

Once a broken pipe has been confirmed, call your public adjuster. To stop the water from continuing to enter the property you may require the services of a water remediation company. The water remediation company will work to remove all the water and moisture from your property, including moisture that has been absorbed by floors, walls and furniture. This is vital in stopping the spread of the damage.

After these steps are taken, your public adjuster should continue the property inspection to uncover all the damage, especially any mold or corrosion that has begun to settle in. These two forms of damage can spread if not addressed, even after all water has been removed. The remediation company can also perform an initial mold treatment to stop it from spreading.

The public adjusters at Guardian Adjusting Services have over 100 years of combined experience helping South Florida property owners with their water damage claims. They are experts at uncovering hidden damage and submitting detailed and accurate claims that will help to maximize your settlement. Water damage can be an ongoing issue if not addressed properly from the start. Guardian Adjusting Services will be with you every step of the way. Call us today to learn how we can help.

Maximize Your Claim

Rick Tapanes - Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Public Adjusters Work to Maximize Your Settlement

After you have suffered property damage, one of your primary concerns is receiving the insurance check that will allow you to repair your property and get your life back to normal. You have been diligent about making your premium payments, and now you expect, rightly so, that your insurance company will step up and provide the relief you have purchased ahead of time, gladly and promptly. But we all know that the insurance industry does not work like that. You are about to enter tough negotiations during which your insurance company will lowball your settlement or maybe even deny your claim.

It does not have to be this way. You do not have to face this process alone. If you want to maximize your insurance settlement, it is time to contact a public insurance adjuster.

Do Not Face Negotiations Alone

The insurance claim process can be complicated and frustrating for someone who is not familiar with it. Insurance companies often design it that way. It is one of the many ways they try to withhold your money. When trouble strikes, and it seems as though the insurance company is unwilling to pay, many will turn to an expensive attorney to help with the matter. What you may actually need is a public insurance adjuster. An advocate who will fight for your rights as an insurance policy holder and work to maximize your insurance settlement.

Maximizing your claim starts with calling a public adjuster. A public insurance adjuster will examine your policy to understand exactly what your coverage includes. They will perform a thorough inspection of your property to uncover all the damage, even damage that is not initially apparent. Do not simply accept the insurance company’s appraisal of your damages. They are not looking out for you, they are looking to minimize costs and maximize profits. That is their business.

After determining the severity of the damage, the public adjuster can put you in contact with contractors that will offer a fair repair estimate that can be turned over to the insurance company. All along the process, the public insurance adjuster will handle the negotiations with your insurance company. When it is time, the public adjuster will prepare a comprehensive claim and then continue negotiating and fighting for the largest settlement they could possibly get.

At Guardian Adjusting Services we specialize in maximizing property damage insurance claims for our clients. Contact us before damage occurs and we will be ready to step in and assist you when the time comes.

Types of Adjusters

Rick Tapanes - Thursday, February 23, 2017

Insurance Company Adjusters Vs. Public Adjusters

There are two primary types of adjusters you may encounter when dealing with property insurance: the insurance company’s own adjuster who work on behalf of the insurance company that employs them, and public adjusters who are advocates for insurance policy holders. Although they both hold the title of adjuster, their work is often in direct opposition.

Insurance Company Adjusters

Insurance company adjusters work, of course, on behalf of insurance companies. They have responsibilities before and after damage might occur. Insurance company adjusters provide policy quotes to potential customers. To do this, insurance company adjuster study a number of factors including things like property location, distance from the closest fire department, relation to earthquake prone areas, neighborhood crime rates and the building materials and structure of the property. In addition, they will investigate the applicant’s credit history, income level and amount of debt.

After a property damage claim has been filed, the insurance company adjuster will examine the insurance policy and visit the site of the damage. There, a property inspection is performed to determine the extent of the damage. The adjuster will use that information to prepare a preliminary estimate for the repairs. If the property owner accepts the proposed amount, a check is issued to the property owner which they will use to pay for the repairs to the property.

Public Insurance Adjusters

Public adjusters work on behalf of property owners and try to maximize the amount of the settlement received from the insurance company. Once a public adjuster is brought in, they will deal directly with the insurance company, and the insurance company’s adjuster, on most matters. The public adjuster will perform their own property inspection, often uncovering additional damage not in the insurance company adjuster’s report. This can lead to a larger settlement for the property owner. A public insurance adjuster will negotiate with the insurance company, prepare and file the insurance claim, and appeal on behalf of the property owner if the claim is denied. In some cases, the public adjuster may recommend that the insured hire an attorney if they believe the claim will need to be disputed legally.

At Guardian Adjusting Services, we work hard to get South Florida property owners the insurance settlements they deserve so they can get their lives back on track after a loss. It is not advisable to deal with insurance company adjusters on your own. Hire a public adjuster as your advocate or risk being underserved by your insurance company. Call us today to learn how we can help.

Claim Negotiation

Rick Tapanes - Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Public Insurance Adjusters Can Negotiate a Better Settlement

We make many negotiations throughout our lives. From marriage, to the children’s bedtime and requesting a raise, negotiations come into play in many aspects of our lives. Negotiation skills are developed each time we face one of these situations. If you suffer property damage and file a claim with your property insurance company, you are, in essence, initiating a negotiation. However, regardless of how many negotiations you have taken part in, negotiating with your insurance company is not something you want to take on alone.

In the eyes of the insured, a claim may not be the most appropriate term. As the property owner, you may have suffered a serious, possibly personal, loss, but to the insurance company the loss is reduced to a claim. To the insurance company it is a claim that must be negotiated. You will negotiate to be fairly compensated for your loss. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that your insurance company will actually provide fair compensation. The bottom line for the insurance company is that every dollar they pay toward your claim cuts into their profits. It is important to remember that insurance companies are in business to be as profitable as possible. Do not be surprised if the insurance company makes a settlement offer that appears to be wholly insufficient or simply denies the claim outright.

For these reasons, it is important get the help of someone capable of negotiating your claim for you. A good public insurance adjuster can be your representative to the insurance company. Every step along the way your insurance company will attempt to hinder your efforts to receive the compensation you are entitled to. A public insurance adjuster will work on your behalf to maximize your settlement so that you can get your property back to its proper condition. Trust a public insurance adjuster to perform a property inspection that will uncover any and all damage, represent you in all meetings with the insurance company, fill out the paperwork for your claim and be by your side until you have received your settlement.

The public adjusters at Guardian Adjusting are ready to negotiate your insurance claim for you. We have years of experience helping South Florida property owners obtain fair settlements from their insurance companies for their loss. Call us today for to learn how we can help you before property damage strikes.

Imperceptible Damage

Rick Tapanes - Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hidden Property Damage

Property damage is not always immediately discernable, especially to the untrained eye. The effects of some damage will continue well after the initial loss if not identified and remedied. When suffering property damage, every precaution should be taken to ensure that all the damage has been found and addressed.

Documenting all the damage your property has suffered is essential in receiving a favorable settlemetn. Damage that is found after a claim has been resolved will likely be disputed by the insurance company, often with a claim that the damage is due to regular wear and unrelated to the original loss. Bringing in your own property inspector is the best way to ensure that no damage goes unnoticed and unpaid.

Smoke and Ash

Smoke and ash that result from a building fire could continue to affect the property long after the fire has been extinguished. Even a home that has suffered very little damage from a fire may suffer from the long-lasting effects of smoke and ash. Often this damage is not readily visible. Smoke particles tend to remain in the air conditioning and heating systems. Aside from being carcinogenic, these particles can contribute to many ailments including childhood asthma. It is in your best interest to find the smoke and ash damage before your insurance company has settled your claim.

Mold and Rot

Water damage has the greatest potential of long-lasting effects on your property and your health. Water damage can often lead to mold. This is especially true if the property is not completely dried after the incident. Moisture in floors, carpeting, walls and furniture that is not found and removed can turn to mold in a short time. If left longer, mold will grow and spread. Severe mold can sometimes lead to irreversible health conditions while making a property uninhabitable. The mold may not make itself know for months after the initial damage. By that time, it has spread from its hiding places and will be much more difficult to handle.

Public Adjusters Can Help

A public insurance adjuster is your advocate in the face of property damage. They are trained to inspect a damaged property and uncover damage that was not caught initially (or intentionally overlooked by the insurance company). A good public adjuster knows where to look for smoke, ash, water and other damage that would otherwise go undocumented and claimed. Ideally, you should establish a relationship with a good public adjuster before a loss has occurred. In the event of property damage, your public adjuster will be ready to assist you in the claim process.

At Guardian Adjusting Services, we take pride in performing thorough property inspections that uncover all the damage that has occurred. In this way, we can help maximize our clients’ insurance settlements and save them the headache of lingering property damage. Call us to learn how we can help.

Questions for Public Adjusters

Rick Tapanes - Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Questions You Should Ask Your Public Adjuster

Have you recently suffered property damage? Perhaps you are considering hiring a public insurance adjuster. If you expect your claim to be for $10,000 or more, it is probably a good idea to get some help with that claim.

Documenting a claim, or listing everything that has been lost or damaged is more work than most realize, but it must be done before the claim process can begin. Once that claim has been submitted you can expect to negotiate with your insurance company since they are likely to lowball their initial settlement offer. For this and other reasons, having a professional on your side can help maximize your settlement and get your property repaired quickly and properly.

Hiring a Public Adjuster

Finding a reputable public insurance adjuster is something you should put some time and thought into. Ideally, you will establish a relationship with a good public adjuster that you feel comfortable working with before you ever suffer any property damage. Your adjuster will be familiar with your policy and property if the day ever comes for them to provide their services.

Referrals are a good place to start your search for a public insurance adjuster. Next make sure that the public adjuster is licensed to work in your state. Once you are ready to meet with them, consider asking these questions to determine their expertise and whether they are a good fit for you.

Would you describe your skills? Ask the adjuster to describe their specialties and some of the work they have done in the past. This will give you a sense if their expertise lines up with your needs. Do they have more experience with commercial buildings or residential homes. Have they dealt with more flood claim or fire claims? What are some of the highlights of their career as a public adjuster?

How many claims are you handling currently? A large number of claims could mean that they are good at what they do and regularly get referred. A low number of claims might mean that they will be more available to service you.

Can you provide personal references from previous clients? Personal references are the best way to gauge customer satisfaction. An experienced public adjuster should have a long list of previous clients. A good public adjuster should be able to provide positive testimonials.

With the answers to these questions you should be able to make a list of pros and cons for the prospective public adjuster. At Guardian Adjusting we are ready to answer any questions you may have and get to the business of helping you with you claim. Our public adjusters are experienced in all forms of properties and damage. Call us today to set up a meeting.

Water Claims Spike and AOB

Rick Tapanes - Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Insurance Industry Deals with Spike in Water Claims and Assignment of Benefits Lawsuits in South Florida

In South Florida, the type of property loss most frequently reported to insurance companies is water related. According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, and Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater, water related loss insurance claims are on the rise. Insurance companies believe the situation is out of control and are looking to not only raise rates to deal with the issue, but to also further reduce coverage on property policies. Since water damage claims happen so frequently, Florida property owners should be concerned.

Insurance Fraud or Industry Ploy?

The insurance industry, as well as Kevin McCarty, the former Florida Insurance Commissioner, have, on more than one occasion, suggested that the steep rise in water loss claims may be the result of fraud. One fact pointing in that direction is that while not limited to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, the rise in claims has been most pronounced in those counties.

Insurance fraud is defined as giving false information to gain benefits one is not entitled to. If the information provided is, in fact, found to be false, it is easy to identify who provided the information and who stands to benefit. However, the problem really lies in the sheer volume of fraud complaints that the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud receives on a yearly basis. That number is over 16,000! A number that is far greater than what the Division of Insurance Fraud can realistically handle. Furthermore, priority right now goes to the two most common types of insurance fraud, personal injury protection (PIP) and workman’s compensation.

Insurance Companies Say they are Being Strangled by Assignment of Benefits Lawsuits

Even with no major hurricanes, 2015 was still a tough year for insurance companies that cover homeowners in South Florida. The problem from their perspective is the proliferation of “frivolous” Assignment of Benefits (AOB) lawsuits and the high cost of fighting or settling them.

Here is what is happening in a nutshell. A homeowner’s property suffers water damage, and the homeowner calls in a water mitigation company to deal with the damage. The water mitigation company presents the homeowner with the bill as well as an Assignment of Benefits. The AOB transfers to the water mitigation company the homeowner’s rights to recover payment for damages from the insurance company. When the water mitigation company sends the claim to the insurance company, the insurance company denies the claim, or it is learned that the damage was not covered in the first place. The final step occurs when the water mitigation company decides to sue the big insurance company instead of the homeowner to collect payment.

The property insurance industry has lobbied for legislation that would limit the ability of a company to sue the insurance companies when they have no direct relationship with them. Until now, the Florida Legislature has not acted on the issue. Florida homeowners would be wise to stay abreast of developments as it could have a serious impact on their coverage and its cost.

2016 Hurricane Season

Rick Tapanes - Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 Hurricane Season Will Be Close to the 30 Year Average

The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season is here and the forecast calls for a storm season close to the historical average. Property owners in South Florida and along the US Atlantic and Gulf coasts would be wise to take note. Now is the time to prepare your property for the possibility of a hurricane or strong tropical storm making landfall and potentially causing damage.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 with peak storm activity occurring from July to October. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center has predicted the formation of 12 named storms with five of those developing into hurricanes and two into major hurricanes this season. The average over the last 30 years has been 12 named storms with six developing into hurricanes and three into major hurricanes.

A major hurricane is one of Category 3 or stronger. Category 3 hurricanes have sustained winds of 111-129 mph. The highest hurricane category, Category 5, has sustained winds greater than 157 mph. Hurricane Andrew, which made landfall in South Florida in August of 1992, was a Category 5 hurricane.

Interestingly, these predictions to not include Hurricane Alex which formed in January. Hurricanes outside of the regular season are rare but do occasionally develop. Hurricane Alex was a Category 1 hurricane that struck the Azores islands, 800 miles east of Portugal. This was the first January hurricane since 1955.

Landfall Difficult to Predict

Historically, a busy hurricane season does not necessarily correlate with hurricanes making landfall. Property owners and residents in areas that could be affected should make preparations regardless of the forecast for the season. It is possible that one or more of the named storms expected this season could strike the US, but it is also possible that we will avoid every one of them. Looking back again to 1992 we can see an example a very quiet storm season with only six named storms - half of what is expected this year. The one storm that did make landfall was the aforementioned Category 5 Andrew which had a devastating effect on Miami-Dade County. Compare that to the very busy 2010 hurricane season which saw none of its 19 named storms, 12 of which became hurricanes, make landfall.

Are We Due for a Major Hurricane?

The NOAA says that the average number of yearly hurricane landfalls in the US is one or two. The last 10 years, however, have seen an average much lower than that with a total of seven hurricane landfalls. It is likely that the US will be struck by another hurricane sooner rather than later, but it is not possible to predict if it will happen this season. It should be noted that even a tropical storm making landfall could cause major damage, especially if it is slow moving and brings heavy amounts of rain.

In the end what a busy hurricane season really means is that there will be more storms to keep an eye on as they develop and move through the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Property owners are encouraged to stay abreast of storm activity and have a plan in place in the event that a storm approaches. One part of that plan should be to review your property insurance policy. The public adjusters at Guardian Adjusting can help you review your policy and ensure that you have sufficient coverage. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

Sinkhole Coverage

Rick Tapanes - Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Are You Covered Against Sinkhole Damage?

A sinkhole can be a frightening occurrence, especially for a homeowner. Sinkholes occur when a hole or depression opens in the ground and they are caused by the collapse of an underground surface layer, which in turn is caused by water dissolving underground layers of soil and rock (usually limestone in Florida). These depression can be anywhere from 1 to 600 meters in diameter and depth. In Florida sinkholes are an unfortunate reality. To protect property owners, the law in South Florida requires all property insurance policies to cover what is called catastrophic ground cover collapse. There are four basic but increasingly serious requirements that must be met before this coverage takes effect:

  • The ground collapse occured suddenly
  • The ground collapse is clearly visible
  • The structure of the property is damaged
  • A government authority has condemned the property and ordered its evacuation

That last requirement is key, because if the property is not unfit to be occupied, the catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage will not kick in. So what happens if your home is seriously damaged but still livable? For this type of loss you may need sinkhole coverage.

Sinkhole Coverage

Sinkhole coverage will protect a property owner in the event of damage resulting from a sinkhole that does not necessarily meet all of the above criteria. Some sinkhole do not occur suddenly but rat

her gradually, and, furthermore are not visible to the naked eye. These slow forming sinkholes can still cause structural damage such as cracked walls or depressions in floors. This type of damage may not force you out of your home, but will obviously require repairs.

If you are not sure of about your sinkhole coverage, or whether or not you have it, the public adjusters at Guardian Adjusting can help. Allow us to review your policy before an event occurs to insure that your property is protected. Sinkhole coverage is not generally expensive but it will protect you from expensive repairs, especially when the damage is not catastrophic.

What to Do if a Sinkhole Occurs

The first and most important action to take if a sinkhole occurs under your property is to insure everyone's safety. This may mean leaving the property and staying somewhere else until the extent of, or potential for, danger can be determined. The safety of relocating may very well outweigh the inconvenience. Furthermore, many policies will cover alternate living expenses in some cases. The next step is to contact a public adjuster. A good Florida public adjuster can give you clear advise about what your insurance policy covers and what steps are appropriate in such a circumstance, such as contacting local authorities.

Not everyone has a complete picture of their property insurance coverage. It is best to know early and insure that you have the coverage you need. Call Guardian Adjusting today to set up a consultation with one of our expert public adjusters. We can perform a complete review of your policy and help you cover any gaps that may exist. Remember that you are likely covered for a catastrophic sinkhole loss, but that may not be enough.


         
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