As we all know, Louisiana was recently hit by Hurricane Laura, a deadly category 4 hurricane that caused over $8.9 billion in damages. It’s going to take years for the affected communities to recover from this disaster. However, many homeowners in the state will never be able to fully recover due to the Louisiana legislature’s inconsistent and misaligned insurance laws, primarily regarding public adjusters. The legislature would rather allow opportunistic insurance companies to take advantage of the defenseless – and it truly sickens us!
We believe all homeowners should have the right to use a public adjuster to seek an affordable and reliable advocate to help them with their insurance claims in order to ensure they’re handled correctly and get the payout they’re entitled to. However, the statutes do not allow this. Although the hurricane caused catastrophic damage, the state’s legislature has, and continues, to cause their citizens more harm than the hurricane ever would.
Many states provide a well-defined set of laws and statutes, including the role of public adjusters, who advocate and fight for homeowners when they have issues with their insurance company. Louisiana isn’t one of them! Their statutes appear to be lazily adopted, cherry-picked from other states and spliced together without thorough review, causing contradictions and leaving them open for interpretation. The state’s lack of clear guidelines regarding public adjusting is not conducive to a stable working environment, and further hurting homeowners in the long run.
In Louisiana, public adjusting is defined as “investigating, appraising, or evaluating and reporting to an insured in relation to a first-party claim for which coverage is provided by an insurance contract that insures the property of the insured.” (L.A. 22:1692). It fails to mention anything regarding negotiations with the insurance company, which plays an essential role in “advocating” for the insured.
For reasons unfathomable to us, public adjuster rights are very limited, and the rules are strictly interpreted regarding “unauthorized” practice of law. This is demonstrated in the case “Louisiana State Bar Association v. Carr and Associates, Inc. and Earl T., Jr.,” where the court concluded a public adjuster negotiating with an insurer can be considered unauthorized practice of law.
There are a couple avenues for the insured to take to try to defend themselves, but in no way are they guaranteed to benefit the homeowner. An attorney can be hired, which can take years to seek a final resolution without knowing if it will be worth it in the end. Moreover, the attorney fees can be as high as 33% for the homeowner! The second option is to hire an appraiser which is a whole different game. It’s a less costly alternative than filing a lawsuit, however, it’s a complete gamble for the homeowner and can be invoked when the homeowner and insurer fail to agree upon a settlement. Each side is required to hire their own appraiser to negotiate and try to reach an agreement, if they cannot, it goes to an umpire, who will determine the final settlement. This only adds to the insured’s out-of-pocket costs and, again, leaves them out of control of their insurance claim while attempting to stand up to a billion-dollar company. Moreover, the legislature has also put the adjusters and appraisers at large forcing them to become adversaries of each other. The claim becomes more about them battling it out, rather than focusing on the actual issue at hand.
That being said, Louisiana homeowners essentially have no way to ensure they will ever be paid for their hurricane claims and will continue to be severely underpaid on their claims, denied altogether or in debt after trying to fight the claim. With the legislature’s lackadaisical statutes in place, homeowners are left at a complete disadvantage. It’s essentially leaving the homeowner at the mercy of the insurance company and forcing them to go up against a billion-dollar company alone, which almost never works out in the homeowner’s benefit. It displays a complete lack of respect for their citizens – and it’s unacceptable!
By not allowing a public adjuster to negotiate with an insurance company on the insured’s behalf, they are being failed by their state government. What’s worse, is the insurance companies are fully aware of the state’s deficiencies and will continue to prey on the defenseless citizens of Louisiana, at the hands of the state, if nothing is done about it. In no way do they deserve to be treated like this, especially by their state representatives! The state’s neglectful inaction only induces the suffering of their own citizens, which will be felt for years to come if nothing is done about it.