Taking issue with several points in Melanie Elias’ column in the May 2012 issue of Claims magazine and the May 21, 2012 issue of National Underwriter (“Independent Adjusters Must Be Agile, Responsive”), the general counsel of the American Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (AAPIA) offers his rebuttal on several points.
In her original article, Melanie Elias states:
As previously mentioned, most states require independent adjusters to be licensed. Independent adjusters must adhere to certain rules and regulations that pertain to dealing with the public to protect the public’s best interest. Initial contact with an insured, inspection, estimates and payment must all take place within stringent timelines.
It is critical that the independent adjuster prepare an estimate for repair of the covered damages that is comprehensive and fair. Public adjusters usually have no specific state-licensing requirements and may not have the background, training and experience of independent adjusters.
It is wholly inaccurate to state, as Elias does, that public adjusters usually have no specific state-licensing requirements and they may not have equal background training and experience as independent adjusters.
Public adjusters are fully licensed in 45 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Contrast this state licensure of public adjusters to that of independent adjusters, who are only required to be licensed in 34 out of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
Rather than substantively change the foregoing passage written by Elias to conform with the facts, the revised article reads: “Even though public adjusters are licensed in 45 states and Washington, D.C., they still may not have the background, training and experience of independent adjusters (based on my observations in my 30-plus years as a claims professional).”
Regrettably, this remark is an anecdotal opinion claiming nonfactual information based on the experience of an individual with claims experience exclusively representing P&C insurers and third-party administrators.
Elias also states the following:
A third issue affecting independent adjusters today involves working with public adjusters. During the adjustment of claims, the independent adjuster often deals with public adjusters who represent the insured. While some adjusters serve the insured well, we find that, in most states, public adjusters are not held to the same standards as the independent adjusters. This standard variance is a major issue facing independent adjusters today.
This foregoing passage has not been changed in the online version of this article. We are specifically concerned that Elias writes that she finds that “in most states, public adjusters are not held to the same standards as the independent adjusters.” The plain facts regarding licensure of public adjusters, as well as the continuing-education and certification requirements, clearly undermine the credibility of this statement.
Without asserting any potential for bias revealed in the articles, it is noteworthy that nowhere in the articles authored by Elias does she provide citation or discussion of any study or report that provides support for her anecdotal opinion about the respective standards of public adjusters and independent adjusters.
We would reference the January 2010 report issued by the Florida Legislature, Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA), Report No. 10-06, which discussed the public-adjuster representation of policyholders in claims insured by Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
The report analyzed Florida’s public-adjuster law, which is comparable to and in some cases more stringent than those of other similar states in public-adjuster licensing requirements and various consumer protections.
This report analyzed data for all claims filed with Citizens from March 2008 to June 2009 for a total of 76,321 claims, of which 21,545 had public-adjuster representation, compared with a group of 54,776 claims that had either no representation or were represented by someone other than a public adjuster.
For catastrophic claims the difference in payments was 747 percent higher, and for noncatastrophe claims the difference in payments was 574 percent higher for those policyholders who used a public adjuster.
Additionally, many states have continuing-education credits for public adjusters, for which AAPIA sponsors seminars to assure compliance. AAPIA is an approved education provider in certain states for continuing-education course credits required for licensed public adjusters.
Our organization also monitors legislation in all 50 states and has communications programs that educate and inform public adjusters and policyholders on ethical standards and professionalism.
Once again, we are not aware of continuing-education credits required for independent adjusters, and therefore it is apparent that the representations made by Elias in her articles are simply not accurate.
APPIA was also active in the 2005 passing of the Public Adjuster Licensing Model Act by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The NAIC Model Act—which governs the qualifications and procedures for the licensing of public adjusters and specifies the duties and restrictions on public adjusters—has now been enacted in 14 states.
The NAIC Model Act has also adopted the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters’ code of ethics (found online at www.napia.com) as part of the statute. We are aware of no similarly enacted code of ethics that applies to independent adjusters in any state. Elias’ remarks that in most states, “public adjusters are not held to the same standards as independent adjusters,” again, are simply not supported by the facts or the law.
Our association is proud to serve the public as a consumer advocate as well as the public-insurance-adjuster industry through support, education programs and assurance of compliance with ethical requirements.