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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.

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.

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.

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.

Property Insurance

Rick Tapanes - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Homeowner’s Insurance Basics

You have brought your dream house, now it’s time to buy homeowner’s insurance coverage to protect what may be one of the largest investments you make in your lifetime. How much coverage do you need? What is covered? What will it cost? What are riders? Keep reading to learn the basics of buying insurance for your new home.

Determine Coverage

The first step in buying insurance coverage is determining how much you need. Instead of market value, insurance company’s use the homes rebuild cost to determine the price of the coverage. It makes sense because a damaged home will be repaired, not replaced. Depending on where you live, the home may require flood insurance. This is not included in homeowners’ insurance policies and must be purchased separately.

Included in a homeowner’s insurance policy is coverage for the contents, or your possessions. The typical amount of coverage is 75% of the home’s insurance value. There are also usually limits on the coverage for certain high value items. If you own expensive jewelry or collectibles, for instance, you may want to consider additional coverage for those. You will also want to inventory all of your possessions in the event of a claim. Take photographs or a video of all of the rooms in your home to document your possessions and put receipts for expensive items in a safe place. This will save you a lot of grief later if you need to prove what was damaged or destroyed to your insurance company.

Shopping for a Quote

A good as place as any to start comparing property insurance quotes is with your existing auto insurance company. Some, but not all, insurance companies offer multiple types of coverage. You may find that your auto insurance company will give you a good price if you bundle in your homeowner’s insurance with your existing auto coverage. Next, contact an independent insurance agent. Generally, independent agents are registered with, and can sell policies from, several different companies. This is a great way to quickly compare various quotes.

However you approach it, you will want to get quotes from at least three companies. Compare prices and take a look at reviews from existing customers. One or two bad reviews might indicate disgruntled customers who decided to vent online. It is better to get a broader idea of customer satisfaction by looking at many ratings and reading several reviews, both positive and negative.

Escrow

Many homeowners prefer to include their insurance premium in their mortgage payment. This can be easily set up with your mortgage company and is usually preferred by the bank as it gives them assurance that the property is covered. On a side note, you can include your property taxes in your mortgage payment as well. This allows you to write one check a month instead of three.

Glossary

Here are a few terms you should become familiar with when shopping for homeowners insurance:

Deductible – This refers to the amount you must pay for any repairs before the insurance company pays for the rest. For instance, if your deductible is $1000 and you property suffers $5000 worth of damage, you will pay $1000 and the insurance company will pay the remaining $4000. Deductibles are yearly, so you only pay your deductible once in any given year even if you experience another loss later that year. The higher your deductible, the lower your insurance payments will be.

Liability Coverage – This type of insurance covers medical and legal costs if a person is hurt in your home or on your property.

Premium – This is the cost of your insurance coverage. It is typically paid in monthly installments.

Rider – This is an additional policy that is in purchased alongside a homeowner’s policy to cover specific, usually valuable items in the home. Riders can be purchased for things like expensive antiques, or artwork.

Right to Repair

Rick Tapanes - Friday, February 26, 2016

You May Have Options if Your Insurance Company Invokes the Right to Repair

Does your property insurance policy include a “right to repair” clause – sometimes called “option to repair”? If you do not know, look under the “loss payment” portion of your policy where right to repair clause is usually found. On the surface that term certainly sounds like something that will be beneficial to you, but in reality it is a euphemism that grants your insurance company control over who will repair your damaged property. The concept of right to repair has been around for some time. Recently Florida insurance companies have been making it part of their regular process.

The problem with this approach, from the point of view of the property owner (it generally works out great for the insurer) is that your insurance company is interested in repairing your damaged property for as little money as possible. The contractors that will repair your property are working directly for the insurance company, not for you.

Furthermore, you have no control over the payment to the contractor and therefore have no control over the work. You will be unable to make any repairs yourself, if you are so inclined, and will not be allowed to bring in your own contractors. The right to repair also strips the property owner of their right to dispute the settlement. The insured and anyone advocating for them is taken out of the equation. The insurance company retains control over everything. Unfortunately this can sometimes result in substandard repairs.

But it is not so cut and dry. By invoking the right to repair the insurance company actually becomes the guarantor of the work done and has to accept liability for any law construction upgrades that the building department requires. For this reason, the right to repair is often used as a simple strong arm tactic. The insured is given the option to accept the insurance company’s settlement offer or they threaten to bring in their own contractors and take over the repairs.

All of this does not mean that the property owner is without rights. The insured has the right to demand that the insurance company provide the scope of work that will be done. This should include plans to make repairs with quality materials and that adhere to building code. Read your policy carefully and understand what is involved.

This is where a public adjuster from Guardian Adjusting can be a great help. The best time to call a public adjuster is before any damage has occurred. One of our public adjusters can review your policy with you beforehand and explain the right to repair clause. In the event of property damage, your public adjuster will at the ready to assist you in dealing with the insurance company. Since right to repair is often nothing more than a bullying tactic used by the insurance company, you may be surprised what a strong advocate on your side can accomplish. Call us today to set an appointment and have the protection you need at the ready.

Underpaid Claims

Rick Tapanes - Monday, January 25, 2016

Don’t Settle for Your Insurance Company’s Underpayment

Unless you have experienced property damage in the past, or have some expertise in estimating the cost of property damage, you may not even be aware if your insurance company is underpaying your claim. Without someone with that expertise working on your behalf, you may be opening yourself up to be taken advantage of.

It is not to say that insurance companies are out to cheat their customers, but their adjusters will work to minimize their costs, even if that means that you don’t get every dollar you are entitled to. Minimizing your settlement and underpaying your claims are simply ways to increase their bottom line. It is actually rare that an insurance company’s first settlement offer will be sufficient to make necessary repairs. In the worse cases, you may end up with a denied claim and no money for repairs whatsoever. Without an advocate, you are likely to take what they offer without question.

A Second Opinion

In order to protect your interests, it is best to get a second opinion on the extent and cost of your property damage. Public adjusters work as advocates for the insured. A public adjuster will perform their own inspection of the damaged property, provide a complete and unbiased estimate of the repair or replacement costs, and even act as a negotiator with your insurance company. And the services do not end there. A public adjuster will also help you complete and file your insurance claim paperwork and provide contact information for reputable contractors to get your repairs done. Furthermore, you can count on your public adjuster to be available every step of the way to answer your questions and address your concerns. In fact, by simply hiring a public adjuster, you are sending a message to your insurance company that you will not just settle for what they offer.

After the Fact

If you already accepted a settlement that you later realize is too low, or if your property insurance claim has been denied, it may not be too late. A public adjuster can help you with the process of reopening a claim and getting you the money you deserve. Reopening a claim for further settlement is a complex process and should definitely not be attempted alone.

The public adjusters at Guardian Adjusting Services have years of experience dealing with underpaid claims and reopening denied claims to get their clients the money they need and deserve to repair their property. Call Guardian Adjusting Services before damage occurs and we’ll be ready to act in the event of property damage. If you have already accepted a claim, call us as well. We can review your settlement and help you reopen your claim.

Insurance Fraud

Rick Tapanes - Monday, December 28, 2015

Insurance Fraud Costs Insurers and the Insured

According to the FBI, insurance fraud is estimated to be over $40 billion dollars each year. That number does not include health insurance fraud. Property insurance fraud accounts for about $32 billion of that. Five to ten percent of all insurance claims paid are fraudulent and one third of insurance companies say that number is closer to 20% for them. According to these estimates, insurance fraud costs the average American family anywhere from $400 to $700 every year.

Insurance Fraud Takes Many Forms

Fraudulent insurance claims can range anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars. Property insurance claims can take many forms. Below are some of the most common insurance fraud schemes insurance companies deal with.

  • Intentional damaging of property to make an insurance claim on it.
  • Overestimating the costs of lost or damaged property on an insurance claim.
  • Overstating the extent of damages on an insurance claim.
  • Staging a fake robbery to file a claim on stolen property.
  • Asking a repair company to inflate their bill to cover the insurance deductible.
  • Forging evidence like repair bills in support of a property damage claim.

Insurance Fraud Red Flags

Insurance companies now use computer software that analyses statistics to red flag claims that need to be investigated further. Insurance adjusters are also trained to identify these red flags that often point to fraudulent claims. Here are just some of the behaviors and circumstances that may point to a suspicious claim.

  • Absence of the insured at the time that an incident occurs. If there is no good reason why the entire family and the pets were out of the house when it burned down, the insurance company will investigate further.
  • The insured is recently divorced or separated. This is not unusual but combined with other factors it may cause the insurance company to dig deeper.
  • Serious financial difficulties on the part of the insured. Recent foreclosure or bankruptcy may be cause for further investigation of the claim.
  • The insured pushes for a quick settlement. Some people just want to get their property fixed quickly, but if the insured is particularly adamant about speeding up the process to get their money, it may warrant scrutiny.
  • An unusual amount of familiarity with insurance terms and processes on the part of the insured.
  • Claims that are filed shortly after insurance coverage begins or is increased.
  • The damaged or destroyed property was up for sale or very recently purchased.

The Law in Florida

In Florida insurance fraud is a felony. The severity of the crime is directly tied to the amount of the fraudulent claim or claims. Fraud in excess of $100,000 is a first degree felony and a defendant could face jail time as well as fines. A recent, extreme Florida case involved a ring of 22 people that hit insurance companies for $7.6 million over nine years. Some members of the ring acted as recruiters that would approach homeowners that might be willing to cooperate in the schemes. Homes and other properties were intentionally flooded or set on fire and the fraud ring would receive 20% to 30% of the settlement. The ring leader is facing 30 years in prison for arson, forgery, grand theft and racketeering.

Insurance fraud is a crime that affects anyone that buys insurance. Luckily it is taken seriously by law enforcement and efforts continue to curb the costs to insurance companies and society as a whole.


         
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