What is Pre-Existing Damage, and How to Approach it as a Public Adjuster
As a public adjuster, you will often experience situations where the clients want to get compensated for damages that occurred a year or two ago.
And even more often than that, you will have clients who do not know exactly when the date of loss was.
Maybe it was because they have not checked their roof in a while, or they only noticed water leaking once the walls showed signs of water damage.
You should educate your client on pre-existing damages so the insurance company does not deny your claim.
Here’s what you should know and what you will learn from this blog post:
👉 What is pre-existing damage?
👉 What’s the difference between the date of loss and the date of discovery?
👉 Offer pre-loss assessment to commercial clients to grow your business to the next level.
There is a lot of ground to cover, but if you are starting as a public adjuster or want to join the ranks, this post is for you.
Let us start with the first point.
What is Pre-Existing Damage?
One of the first steps in any claim is doing the inspection.
A client might call you with a story of what happened, but regardless of what they say, you should inspect their property and interview them before you make any significant commitments and promises.
Your client might say their kitchen cabinets suffered water damage, but once you arrive at their home and start asking questions, it turns out the damage is two years old.
We both know you are not getting paid for that.
Therefore, step number one is determining if the damage is pre-existing.
Or in the words of insurance policies, check if the damage is accidental and sudden.
For example, if your client wants to replace a roof because it is old and battered, that is neither accidental nor sudden.
An old roof, similar to old and damaged kitchen cabinets, is an example of pre-existing damage.
However, if there was a hail storm or some roof tiles are missing due to strong winds, then you have sudden and accidental damages, and you can continue with the claims process.
The Difference Between the Date of Loss and Date of Discovery is Vital to Public Adjusting
The difference between walking out of a claim and staying to work on it is in the context.
You can have two claims, both with six-month-old damages but completely different situations.
For example, you could have pre-existing damages that a client couldn’t notice.
Your client could have a water leak in a supply line behind the wall.
Months can pass before they notice anything if the leak is small enough to not cause immediate damage.
It is only when mold starts to appear or when the paint is peeling that they think something is wrong.
In a situation like this, you cannot determine the date of loss, so you use the date of discovery.
Similarly, you could have a few months old roof damages.
People don’t go up to check their roofs every day.
So, naturally, the client doesn’t immediately notice the damage.
Especially if the damage isn’t significant enough for water to seep into the home and create a bigger mess.
In that case, you should talk to the client to determine when the damage happened. Maybe there was a hail storm some time ago.
You can then search the weather data or news articles, and find more information to support your claim.
You can learn more about all of this in our public adjusting handbook.
But essentially, you need the date of loss, in situations where it is possible to identify it.
This is why you try to use the weather reports to backtrack and investigate when the loss occurred.
You Walk Out if the Damage is Truly Pre-Existing
Let us get a couple of things clear.
We talked a lot about ethics and professionalism in our last Advocates United gathering we held in Miami.
Insurance companies are already all over the media trashing public adjusters because of a few bad apples.
It is your responsibility, as a public adjuster, to explain to your clients what is possible and what isn’t.
But also act ethically and professionally all of the time.
You walk out if your client is like: “Well this damage has been going on for a few years, and then somebody said I could file a claim on it.”
That is not accidental or sudden.
You will waste your and your client’s time.
Plus, you will add more reasons for the insurance companies to hate us.
Interview your client before you start making promises.
Ask about the date of loss or if they did anything to mitigate the damages.
And only continue if you can prove your claim.
Do You Want to Grow Your Public Adjusting Firm? Offer Pre-Loss Risk Assessment
After a few years of public adjusting under your belt, you will want to get commercial clients.
Commercial losses tend to pay much more. And yes, you also have to work more, but it pays off in the end.
However, most public adjusters do not know how to find commercial losses worth a million dollars or more.
One trick is to offer a pre-loss risk assessment.
Pre-loss risk assessment is a free service you can offer commercial property owners or associations.
Here is how to do a pre-loss risk assessment:
- You find commercial property owners or associations and offer to prepare their documentation in case they file a claim this year.
- Go out and take photos of the property, the exterior, the roof, all the rooms, etc.
- Also, ask them for a copy of the policy, and any repair bills for that year.
- Then save it all in a file.
- Again, you do this for free.
Here is what happens.
A hurricane or another type of significant storm comes and damages their roof and exterior.
Now, you have photos of how the property looked before the storm. Essentially, you already have half of the job done because you have proof.
They will be much more likely to call you, knowing you already have that information saved.
It might look like a lot of work to offer it for free.
But that is what you should do to get your hands on commercial claims worth a couple of million dollars.
It’s time to take full control of your claims. Of your business. Of your life.
A community can help you get there faster. It can offer support during these tough times. Inspiration. Guidance.
Together, we can get you to where you want to be.
What are you waiting for?