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Florida Licensing of Adjusters for Hurricanes and Other Catastrophes

From the Florida Insurance Council

Tens of thousands of adjusters will work in Florida following a major hurricane, including resident adjusters who live in the state year-round and thousands more coming in under the Department of Financial Services’ Emergency Adjuster Licensing  System. Adjusters may be full-time employees of an insurance company or they may be under contract with independent adjusting companies who, in turn, contract with private insurers and Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. Independent adjusting companies have become a very significant presence in the post-hurricane claims process.

Public adjusters can also be brought into the development of hurricane claims, under contract with the policyholder, not the insurer. They assist the insured in developing his or her claim and will be paid by the policyholder out of the final insurance settlement amount. The Department of Financial Services does not issue emergency public adjuster licenses.  Public adjusters contracting with policyholders to adjust disaster related claims must hold a permanent resident or nonresident public adjuster license.

The Department’s Bureau of Licensing issued 17,488 Emergency Adjuster licenses for the four-storm 2004 hurricane season and 12,284 Emergency Adjuster licenses during 2005. Florida was again impacted by four hurricanes that year, but most of the damage was from Hurricane Wilma. In addition to adjusters working with emergency licenses, hundreds, if not thousands, of resident adjusters handled claims from the 2004/2005 hurricanes.

Resident and Non-resident Permanent Licenses are Available from DFS’s Bureau of Licensing

There are several categories of adjusters in Florida and each must be licensed by the State of Florida and DFS. This is a permanent adjuster license as opposed to a temporary emergency adjuster license. It is available to Florida residents and non-residents. Many adjusters who come into the state following a hurricane or other catastrophe will operate under a non-resident adjuster’s license.

According to DFS’s Bureau of Licensing, “Florida offers Resident and Non-resident adjuster licenses broken down by Company, Independent and Public adjusters.  Within those three categories the majority of the licensees hold All Lines or Property and Casualty Adjuster licenses.  However, there are more limited types of adjuster licenses such as Motor Vehicle Physical Breakdown and Mechanical Breakdown, Worker's Compensation, and Health.”

Here are statistics on current resident and non-resident adjuster licenses, as of July, 2008, provided by the Bureau of  Licensing:

Resident Adjusters:
Independent All Lines Adjusters:  13,821
Independent Property/Casualty Adjusters:  415
Company All Lines Adjusters:  14,697
Company Property/Casualty Adjusters:  322
Public All Lines Adjusters:  2,219
Public Property/Casualty Adjusters:  130

Nonresident Adjusters:
Independent All Lines Adjusters:  4,330
Independent Property/Casualty Adjusters:  5,561
Company All Lines Adjusters:  10,213
Company Property/Casualty Adjusters:  13,559
Public All Lines Adjusters:  170
Public Property/Casualty Adjusters:  227

Emergency Adjuster Licensing System

Florida offers emergency adjuster licensing, which is probably the primary license utilized by hurricane adjusters who will  work in a catastrophe here but actually live in another state. This is a temporary license initially good for six months. DFS will extend the duration following a major hurricane or series of hurricanes. In 2004, following four significant hurricanes, DFS extended emergency adjuster licenses once for a second six-months. After that adjusters had to have either a resident or non-resident license.

DFS activates its Emergency Adjuster Licensing System when insurers demonstrate that their claims volume exceed their ability to handle claims through resident or non-resident adjusters. Following a major hurricane, DFS may activate emergency adjuster licensing for all carriers. For more limited events like the Villages Tornadoes early this year, emergency adjuster licenses may be issued on a company by company basis. Companies had to demonstrate they needed to bring in outside adjusters, in addition to non-resident licensed adjusters who might be available, to handle their central Florida tornado claims. Several carriers did receive emergency adjuster licenses for the tornadoes, but not the industry as a whole. DFS reports that it issued 61 Emergency Adjuster licenses following the tornadoes.

From DFS’s Bureau of Licensing: “The Emergency Adjuster application may be activated once a catastrophe has impacted the state of Florida.  It is typically not activated in advance of a potential disaster or in advance of hurricane season.  The application is posted only when a disaster has actually impacted the state of Florida.  The department allows appointing entities (insurance companies, independent adjusting companies, independent adjuster or general lines agents) to submit applications for Emergency Adjuster licenses in accordance with 69B-220.001 of the Florida Administrative Code. 

"Here is the standard established in  69B-220.001 for emergency adjuster licensing:
“'For purposes of Section 626.874, Florida Statutes, an emergency exists when, due to a specific, infrequent, and sudden natural or manmade disaster or phenomenon, there have arisen losses to property in Florida that are covered by insurance, and the losses are so numerous and severe that resolution of claims related to such covered property losses will not occur expeditiously without the licensing of emergency adjusters due to the magnitude of the catastrophic damage.

“…A failure of claims to be resolved expeditiously shall exist upon an insurer's filing with the department a written  statement that one of the following conditions exists:

a. The insurer expects to incur at least 500 claims as a result of the event; or
b. The magnitude of the event is expected to generate twice the mean number of claims for one month for the affected area.”

Independent Adjusting Companies Now Handle Significant Portion of Claims Processing

As noted above, independent adjusting companies have become a very significant player in processing claims following a major hurricane. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, Florida’s largest hurricane insurer with 1.3 million policies, has 50 claims supervisors who are full-time employees and then 6,000 adjusters on contract through adjusting companies. Some large insurers still operate national catastrophe teams, but more and more insurers – of all sizes – have begun to contract with and count on independent adjusting companies following a major catastrophic event.

Adjusting Firms are not licensed by the state, but every adjuster retained by an adjusting company must be licensed and appointed.

Public Adjusters – As a hurricane victim, do you need them?

DFS reports that about 2,800 public adjusters have a regular license in Florida. Here is the breakdown:

Resident: 2,366
Non-resident: 397

Public adjusters are not paid by insurance companies as are company adjusters and independent adjusters, but will receive a percentage of the final settlement from the insurance company. The public adjusting community, including the Florida Association of Public Adjusters, sees this as an important benefit for consumers, contending public adjusters will be more objective and look out for the interests of the hurricane victim and not the insurance company.

Private insurers, the Florida Insurance Council and Department of Financial Services acknowledge there may be a need for a public adjuster in some hurricane claims, but caution consumers and emphasize that the adjuster’s fee is coming out of their settlement; insurers do not pay public adjuster fees as they pay attorney’s fees in successful lawsuits by policyholders. In addition, the private insurance community points out, Department of Financial Services mediation, at no cost to the policyholder, is available in disputes between hurricane victims and their insurance companies, an option that could be exercised before contracting with a public adjuster. However, policies issued through the National Flood Insurance Program are exempt from the mediation program.

The unlicensed practice of Public Adjusting is a third degree felony.  Public Adjusters should have a license issued by the Department of Financial Services in their possession. Florida Administrative Code 69B-220.201 (5) was amended on September 03, 2006 to include a provision requiring a 10% fee cap be placed upon Public Adjusters when the Governor issues an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency.  The fee Cap would apply to those contracts entered into with the consumer whose property is located in the county(s) for which the state of emergency applies. This amendment has diminished the Departments need to issue emergency rules for the purposes of regulating Public Adjusters. 

On May 16, 2006, 626.8795, F.S.  became law which prohibits a Public Adjuster from entering into multiple contracts pertaining to the same property which could cause a “conflict of interest”.  An example would be a Public Adjuster who is also a licensed contractor entering into contracts to both repair and provide adjusting services for the same property.  

Any complaints or information regarding suspected violations by any type of adjuster can be faxed to the department’s Bureau of Investigation at 850-488-5951 or e-mailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Hurricane Andrew - $20 Billion in Insured Losses and Thousands of Adjusters

As a result of Hurricane Andrew the then-Department of Insurance issued approximately 8,300 Emergency Adjuster licenses.  At the height of adjusting activities the insurance industry reported to the Department that it had a total of 17,400 adjusters on the ground adjusting Andrew-related claims.  Determining the precise number of adjusters is difficult.

The Florida Insurance News Service and Insurance Information Institute reported at the time that about 25 percent of all available property and casualty adjusters in the country came to Florida at one time or another to handle Hurricane Andrew claims.