The Tampa Bay Insured Champion

Hourly Correspondent

Filing an insurance claim is one of the longest and most frustrating processes you can go through, explains Richard P. “Rick” Tutwiler. This is why many policyholders turn to a public adjuster for help in obtaining the money needed to repair or replace property damaged by leaking pipes, hurricanes, fires and other miseries of this type, he said.

Tutwiler, 39, is president of Tutwiler & Associates, a Tampa-based company his father founded in 1984. Tutwiler is licensed in 15 states and the US Virgin Islands. He is a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters and is chairman of the Windstorm Insurance Network, the only association whose members include both public adjusters and adjusters working for insurance companies. insurance.

He spoke with the Tampa Bay weather on domestic disasters and the difficult process of obtaining compensation for damages.

What percentage of people call a public adjuster before filing a claim with the insurance company?

I’m not sure I saw a statistic showing it. I can tell you this: For consumers who have had to file insurance claims and have already gone through the process, they will usually call us back immediately if they have another claim again. A lot of people went through the complaints process on their own and then got to a point where they started searching the internet and found us or contacted us based on a recommendation. …

Basically… most people don’t know our profession exists.

Why is there a disparity between what the insurance company offers and what you and the policyholder are looking for?

Here’s the thing, as with any business, insurance companies are a for-profit business, and they have an obligation to their shareholders and their CEOs and all the executives who work for them. They are in business to try to make money. On the business side, the claims department is where they lose money when they have to pay claims. So if I can express myself as politely, the insurance companies are trying to pay as little as possible. … Most people just don’t understand that they have the onus of proving their own claim, their own damage (and) submitting inventories to the insurance company to prove their claim. How much did you pay for the couch and all your stuff? Insurance companies usually won’t tell you, but they will offer a repair quote, but it will be a very small amount and there are a multitude of reasons why. But overall, to answer your question, this is a for-profit business and the ultimate goal is to make sure that outcome isn’t too far in the red.

In an interview with a local channel in 2018, Rick Tutwiler (left) is president of the public insurance company his father founded in 1984. [ Photo: Courtesy ]

Some companies advertise that policyholders get three, four or more times the insurance company’s offer when they hire a public adjuster. Is it true?

It is my practice to never promise someone who calls me a certain amount. I believe a lot of what these companies have published … (comes from) the OPPAGA – (Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability) study. … The Citizens (Property Insurance Corp.) basically sought to do a study on public adjusters and their impact on the market after the busy hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 here in Florida. What the study concluded was that, yes, the public adjusters — I think the point of the study was to try and find problems and frauds and all that stuff with it. public adjusters – but the end result was that policyholders who used an insurance adjuster got settlements that I think exceeded 747 percent (of the company’s supply). … The range in the report was 574% to 747.

What is your rate and how do you get there?

The fees of public adjusters are heavily regulated by the State of Florida. It depends on the type of claim, but overall, public adjusters can charge anywhere from one percent of the claim to 20 percent of the claim. … It depends on the loss. If we are dealing with a multi-million dollar loss, we might only charge 1 or 2%. …

In a declared state of emergency, such as when a hurricane hits, the insurance department will then impose a 10% cap on public adjusters.

When you settle with the insurance company, it is likely that the company will pay the cost of repairing the damage. Do your fees result from it?

The consumer has no upfront fees or charges. We get paid when they get paid and if we don’t get them money they don’t owe us anything. …

Often times, public adjusters are usually able to negotiate final settlements that cover their fees.

What happens when you and the insurance company can’t reach an agreement?

Many of these insurance policies have two different ways of resolving disputes. One is that you can go through the Florida State Mediation Program and try to resolve any outstanding disputes there. Or the second … if there is a dispute over the extent of repairs and the amount of repairs, it can be resolved in the appraisal process. … I’m a big fan of the appraisal process because you have two appraisers, one who works for the consumer and one who works for the insurance company. … If these two cannot come to an agreement, then there is a neutral arbiter and the decision of two out of three (members of the evaluation committee) will make the rules binding.

You say the Florida legislature continues to allow insurance companies to restrict what they cover and the amount of coverage they provide.

This year, the whole objective of the legislature was to try to find solutions to stabilize the market. …

It’s the same argument we hear year after year. …

The simple solution is, if you want to stabilize the market, focus on the insured first. And empower all those involved in the claims process to do their work on behalf of the insured. If you put the interests of the insured first, you can never go wrong. …

Insurance companies make money. They just know how to get around and make those arguments every year for the sake of passing laws.

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