It's likely that the person who coined the phrase "better safe than sorry" knew a thing or two about property insurance claims. We all know that life (and Mother Nature herself) can toss us some unexpected curveballs, and disaster can strike at any time--and in many different forms.
Maui residents are susceptible to "standard" calamities such as fire, flood, hail and wind, in addition to the extreme: tropical cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis. Not to mention, June 1 marked the beginning of Hawai'i's hurricane season (it runs through the end of November). While we all hope to emerge unscathed from a storm or natural disaster, it's wise to understand your insurance coverage in order to minimize damage to your property.
But according to Certified Professional Public Adjuster (CPPA) Robert Hugh Joslin of Hawaii Public Adjusters, policyholders should tread carefully when pursuing a claim.
Accidents happen. And when they do, you will need to negotiate with your insurance company. The insurance claims process can be a tricky minefield to navigate, which is why it may be a good idea to consult a public adjuster if you are facing a commercial or residential loss.
Photo Credit: Hawaii Public Adjusters
Unfortunately, Joslin said, it's possible to be victimized twice in the aftermath of a disaster: First by the disaster, then by the insurance claims process. For many, the claims process can be a tricky minefield to navigate, and as a result, policyholders face the possibility of receiving an unfair settlement insufficient to cover their losses--and at the time they need it the most.
But there is a last line of defense. According to the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA), a public adjuster is an expert on property loss adjustment who is retained by policyholders to assist in preparing, filing and adjusting insurance claims.
As one of only 93 CPPAs designated by the NAPIA in the United States and the only CPPA in the State of Hawai'i, Joslin is an authority on loss adjustments--and in more ways than one.
"I lost everything in a 1983 house fire in Clute, Texas," he said. "I was 24 years old at the time, and an insurance company left me virtually destitute by grossly underpaying my fire claim. I couldn't afford to rebuild my property back even close to what it was prior to that fire."
Public adjusters did not exist "back then," said Joslin. "So I didn't have anyone to turn to for help [and] it's the core reason why I ended up here on Maui in 1985."
With an office centrally located in Wailuku, Joslin said Hawaii Public Adjusters helps maximize settlements for policyholders facing a commercial or residential loss--more than what some of these insurance companies would ever offer.
"The insurance company sets out to minimize your policy," he explained. "We are the policyholder's advocates." His record speaks for itself: since it was established in 2003, Joslin said Hawaii Public Adjusters has maintained a 100 percent success rate, delivering both financial relief and peace of mind to property owners, business owners and families across the state.
When their condominium flooded out from a neighboring unit in Napili, Don and Ann Pistillo discovered the claims process to be "frustrating and something we certainly didn't want to do by ourselves." In the aftermath of the flood, they were offered a settlement that was less than $20,000. "The mental anguish alone made us want to quit," said Dominic. But there was a happy ending: After consulting Hawaii Public Adjusters, the Pistillos received a final amount of $162,000. "[Robert is] experienced in the tactics insurance companies use, and dealt with them on those terms," he said. "The playing field was leveled."
"It is a great sense of accomplishment to see folks put back on life's path and knowing that it was our people that put them there," said Joslin.
We can't control Mother Nature, but we can always be prepared. Joslin encourages all residents to not only take necessary precautions. "Dry summer conditions lead to brush fires that jump to structures, like the 2009 Father's Day fires in Ma'alaea," he cautioned. "Also be aware that condo pipes can burst as properties and their plumbing systems age, and of course, the hurricane season is upon us."
He also recommends taking time to review insurance policies and loss mitigation procedures. In addition, he suggests storm taking photographs and keeping a detailed record of all of your possessions.
"Give your insurance company a chance to do the right thing," he said. "It's wise to remember that you're not operating on a level playing field when navigating an insurance claim, because you are dealing with a for-profit company."
For more information about Hawaii Public Adjusters, visit www.hawaiipublicadjuster.com or call (808) 856-3041. To learn more about Hawai'i's hurricane season, visit the National Weather Service Website at www.prh.noaa.gov/.