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1. Why should I hire a public insurance adjuster?

After a loss has occurred, most home or business owners find themselves in a completely foreign situation. Dealing with the loss and the complex insurance claims process is overwhelming, and people often turn to their insurance agent or possibly a lawyer for help; however, it’s unlikely that those professionals have experience as claims processing advocates.

The insurance agent’s job is to report your loss to the insurance company, who will in turn assign an adjuster to the claim. This adjuster will likely try to limit the insurance company’s financial exposure.

A public insurance adjuster is licensed, trained and experienced in claims processing – and works just for you. A public insurance adjuster’s only stake is in protecting your interests and making sure that you receive what you are entitled to under your insurance policy.

At Swerling Milton Winnick, we are large enough to have an adjuster in-house who is experienced in the specific type of loss you have suffered, but small enough that we will give you personalized attention and be available at all times. We understand every detail in your insurance policy, know the entire claims process inside and out, and have excellent relationships with the adjusters who work for your insurance company.

2. Why can't I deal with the claim myself?

Not many people take the time to read their entire insurance policy. In addition to the complexities of the policy, after a loss there are an infinite number of details to be attended to: building estimates, content spreadsheets, loss-of-use receipts, business interruption calculations – and on and on. These details can make it impossible to focus on rebuilding your home or getting your business back up and running. While all of this is happening, your insurance company is making monetary decisions that will affect the outcome of your claim.

We take care of all of these issues and details so you can concentrate on rebuilding your home or continuing business operations. The short answer is that you can deal with the claim on your own – the long reality is that considering the time, cost and disruption to your personal or professional life, it is well-worth it to hire a public insurance adjuster to advocate on your behalf and do the work – and worrying - for you.

3. What is the difference between a company adjuster, an independent adjuster and a public adjuster?

A company adjuster or “in-house” adjuster is an employee of the insurance company. An independent adjuster works for a private company and is hired by the insurance company to adjust losses on their behalf. The independent adjuster’s client is the insurance company. A public adjuster is hired by the insured to work on the insured’s behalf to prepare the claim, present the claim to the insurance company and negotiate the settlement. As public insurance adjusters, you are our client and our ultimate goal is getting you – not the insurance company - the best possible settlement.

4. What does a public insurance adjuster do that my insurance agent can't do for me?

Your insurance agent writes your policy, and their job is to make sure that you have the proper coverage in case of a loss from a fire or other disaster. But once they report your loss to the insurance company, they are out of the picture.

Unlike your insurance agent, a public adjuster works directly for you, serving as your advocate; our only job is to look out for your best interest. We examine all of the technical and insurance aspects of your claim, prepare an accurate and detailed claim (which is essential – each home has an average of 40,000 items in it, and differences in price for each item really add up) and present it to the insurance company in a format that they understand. We then negotiate the best possible settlement that your policy will allow.

5. But won't my Insurance agent be looking out for my best interest when I suffer a loss?

It depends. Generally agents fall into two categories. There are agents who are consumer-minded and concerned that their clients receive fair settlements so the client will keep renewing their policies. Then there are agents who are more concerned about their loss ratios with the insurance companies with whom they write policies. These agents would prefer to see all claim settlements be as low as possible so they will get more money back at the end of the year from the insurance companies.

6. How is SMW different from other public adjusters?

SMW has an in-house staff that handles your claim from start to finish – unlike most public adjusting firms, we do not farm out any part of your claim to a subcontractor. Each of our adjusters has extensive experience and knowledge, and we work as a team to prepare and submit a detailed claim to your insurance company and negotiate a settlement on your behalf.

You work with the same person - who inventories your home or business and prepares a detailed building repair estimate - throughout the process. Other public adjusters typically use a pool of outside estimators, who prepare estimates and then hand them off to the adjuster. SMW handles all aspects of your claim in-house so you receive focused, personal attention to ensure a smooth, coordinated approach that results in the successful resolution of your claim.

We are a family-owned and run business and have been for over 100 years. Our reputation, and whether our clients are happy and well cared-for, means everything to us, and our goal is to exceed expectations with every claim. But don’t take our word for it – read testimonials from our clients here.

7. How do your software programs differ from the insurance company?

Insurance companies typically use software that is "one size fits all," whereas our software allows us to customize your claim. Our job is to differentiate from the generic estimating that the insurance companies use so that your claim accurately reflects your loss and what is required to restore or replace your property.

Every last item in your home has a specific value. For example, if the generic software estimates $30 for a sweater, but all of your sweaters are $250 cashmere sweaters, that difference really adds up – especially considering most homes contain over 40,000 items.

8. What is your fee?

Our fee is paid by the insured party on a contingency basis. We charge up to 10% of the overall insurance claim, and this fee may be negotiated with respect to the size of the loss. We do not get paid until you receive your insurance settlement.

9. Do you handle claims outside of Massachusetts?

Yes! SMW works in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and other states, as well as in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean. We have handled major claims in Florida and the USVI following devastating destruction caused by major hurricanes that have struck these areas in recent years.

10. What types of losses do you handle?

SMW handles any first party property insurance claim. Fire, water damage, frozen pipes, storm damage, vandalism and windstorm are just a few examples of the types of claims we handle.

11. Why should a condominium community hire a public adjuster?

A condominium loss is a very different situation from an individual home or business loss, and can be particularly confusing and complicated. There are many parties involved, and it is necessary to keep the management company, unit owners, condo association or board and tenants informed throughout the process. A public adjuster can explain how the different insurance policies and condominium documents interact with one another, and the responsibilities of each party.

As public adjusters, we will prepare the claim for the condo association and determine what portion of the damage falls within the association’s insurance policy, and what portion is to be claimed under the unit owners' insurance policies. We examine all aspects of the claim, like what improvements a unit owner has made to their individual unit, and convey that information to the insurance company.

If we are engaged to represent a condo association or management company, we take the time to investigate and gather information where the insurance company adjuster will not. Further, we coordinate communication between the individual unit owners, condo board, management company, attorneys and insurance agents involved so that the association members or management professionals can focus on rebuilding.

Condominium claims require a strong leader who can prepare the claim, supply a breakdown for damages for each involved owner and common area, understand the insurance policy and condominium documents, and take the time to communicate and deliver accurate information so that everyone understands the process and ultimate goal. At SMW, we excel at all of these tasks.

12. What should I look for when hiring a public insurance adjuster?

You should look for a company that has experience, knowledge and a good reputation. It is also important to look for a firm that has skilled in-house staff to handle every aspect of your claim, such as building consultants, accountants and property claims specialists. It’s important that you have an open line of communication to the people who are preparing and presenting your claim. Ask the public adjuster for references from clients who faced a similar loss or claim.