Those who have suffered considerable damage to their property (residential or commercial) and wish to file an insurance claim must first identify the correct way to move ahead. The first step of the claims process is to find an adjuster to assist with your claim. The big question is: do you go with an independent private adjuster or a public adjuster?

People who are unfamiliar with the insurance claims process may be understandably confused by this decision, but it is important to understand the different roles these two types of adjusters play, as they are quite different from one another.

Let’s take a closer look at the roles and responsibilities of each.

Private adjuster

Also referred to as an “independent” adjuster, a private adjuster is one who works for an insurance company rather than a public entity. This is important to remember, as the adjuster is primarily concerned with the rights of their employer. This person does not work on behalf of the individual policyholder.

Insurance companies have adjusters on their payroll to adjust claims on their behalf. These adjusters have a license that only permits them to work for insurers—not the people who hold the insurance policies. These adjusters are either on staff with the insurance provider or contracted to the insurance provider via a third party.

Public adjuster

A public adjuster has a much different purpose than a private adjuster. Public adjusters represent policyholders, as they are paid directly by policyholders to act on their behalf. A person with an insurance policy obtains the services of a public adjuster in a way similar to how one retains the services of an attorney.

Public adjusters engage in negotiations with the private adjuster assigned by the insurance company to a specific claim. Public adjusters either work on their own or as part of a firm, and are usually paid based on an established commission rate (for example, 5% of the final settlement figure on residential claims).

The nature of a public adjuster’s job requires these professionals to market and sell their services in a way private adjusters never have to. All public adjusters must pass strict background checks, post a bond and complete apprenticeships.

To learn more about your options when filing an insurance claim for property damage in the U.S. Virgin Islands, speak with a knowledgeable attorney.

Tom Bolt is Managing Attorney of BoltNagi, a full service business law firm located on St. Thomas, VI.