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After Hurricane Sandy: Public Insurance Adjusters Can Streamline Big Claims

As homeowners assess the damage from Hurricane Sandy, many will be facing the process of filing insurance claims as they try to recoup from the historic storm.

Navigating the claims process -- understanding what a policy covers and how much of a cash payout should be expected -- can be overwhelming, especially after experiencing a natural disaster. One option is to hire a public insurance adjuster (PIA), a licensed middleman who works on your behalf to help determine what you're owed and who works with your insurer to make sure you get it. (See: " The $5,000 gap in your hurricane coverage.")

"Generally speaking, it's a good idea to use a public insurance adjuster, especially if the claim may be $10,000 or more," says David Barrack, the executive director for the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA). "It's really a judgment call for the policyholder, but we do try to help them get everything that's due."

That second opinion comes with a fee

Barrack explains that public insurance adjusters generally charge about 10 percent of the final settlement, so you'd pay about $2,000 if your claim settlement is $20,000. If they're able to recoup more than you would by filing a claim by yourself, a public insurance adjuster's service pays for itself.

Lynne McChristian , a spokesperson for the Florida office of the Insurance Information Institute (III), says PIAs may be a good option, but only if you're not satisfied with the settlement offered through your insurer's adjuster. She points out that you're already charged for the insurer's claim adjustment through your premium.

"Give your insurance company the chance to show you how much they are going to give you, especially since you've already shouldered the cost," McChristian says. "If there are concerns with the amount, or other issues, then think about going to a PIA."

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