CONSUMER ALERT: Commissioner Causey cautions Dorian victims to avoid scams when dealing with public adjusters

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey warned North Carolinians recovering from Hurricane Dorian to use extra caution when approached by public adjusters offering to help with insurance claims.

“While public adjusters can be helpful with some large, complicated claims, unfortunately there are unscrupulous fraud artists out there who prey on victims following natural disasters,” Commissioner Causey said. “Following a few simple tips can keep people impacted by Hurricane Dorian from becoming a victim a second time.”

Public adjusters do not work for your insurance company. Instead, a public adjuster is hired by and works for the person filing the insurance claim to help with the filing, negotiation, and settlement of a claim. The public adjuster charges a fee for his or her services, often a percentage of the final settlement amount.

In addition, some dishonest and unqualified individuals might pose as public adjusters, pressure you to sign a contract, or try to take advantage of you in other ways.

Commissioner Causey offered the following tips for people considering hiring a public adjuster:

  • Make sure the public adjuster is licensed in North Carolina. Ask to see the public adjuster’s license and write down the full name and license number. You can check the license status by calling the N.C. Department of Insurance at 855-408-1212.
  • Find out the public adjuster’s permanent address. Sometimes after a large-scale natural disaster, out-of-state public adjusters come to North Carolina. Once again, make sure an out-of-state public adjuster is licensed in North Carolina.
  • Make sure you understand the public adjuster’s fee, which is usually a percentage of the insurance settlement. If a claim is due to a catastrophic incident, the maximum feel allowed under state law is 10% of the settlement amount.
  • Ask the public adjuster for references in your local area and check them out. You may also contact the N.C. Department of Insurance about the public adjuster’s complaint history.
  • Do NOT pay any money up-front. The amount you pay the public adjuster is based on a percentage of your settlement.
  • Make sure insurance settlement checks are payable to both you and the public adjuster.
  • Ask the public adjuster how long it will take to settle your claim and ask for updates on the status of your claim.
  • Carefully read any contract that you are given by the public adjuster. DO NOT SIGN the contract until you understand and agree to the contract terms. Make sure you understand the total fee you will owe, when the payments to the public adjuster are due, and if you can cancel the contract.

You may also call your insurance company or the N.C. Department of Insurance at 855-408-1212 before you sign your contract, or even after you sign it if you have questions about it. Read the Department of Insurance’s Consumer’s Guide to Public Adjusters.

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Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.