So you’ve decided it’s in your best interest to hire a professional public adjuster to handle your major property damage claim. But how do you ensure you’re in the absolute best hands when your financial future is on the line?

Know the right questions to ask. And be diligent about asking those questions until you get the right answers.

Here are 5 must-ask questions and things to consider when hiring a public adjuster.

1. Are you licensed in my state? 

The first thing you need to know is if the public adjuster or firm you’re speaking with is licensed. Do your due diligence by asking to actually see that license. Only work with a licensed public adjuster that works with a reputable firm. As an added measure, ask if they’re accredited through the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA).

2. How many years have you been in business? 

Experience is worth its weight in gold when it comes to public adjusting services. From navigating complex insurance claims to documenting hidden damages, deep expertise can expedite the process. And finding a public adjuster or firm with experience on the other side of the aisle is a plus. When an adjuster has worked for an insurance company in the past, they’ll have the added advantage of knowing exactly what your insurance company is looking for to maximize your settlement.  

3. Do you have references?

References show you two things. Experience. And satisfied clients. These are key when trying to determine reputability in the public adjusting field. Look for an extensive reference list and put it to use. A solid public adjuster will encourage you to make those connections so you can learn firsthand how claims were managed and real settlement amounts. Bonus points if they can provide case studies and direct you to previous clients who suffered similar damage to yours or are in the same industry in the case of commercial property damage. 

4. Will I have a dedicated public adjuster for the duration of the claim? 

Beware of small firms that call themselves “boutiques.” They are more than likely no more than a small group who at one time worked for a larger firm claiming that their business model is better. The problem? These firms come and go. Also, the same person sells, adjusts and manages your claim—so as soon as there is another fire or event, they are gone. Don’t be seduced. A balanced firm with a team of people working on your case—all with different areas of specialty—is the most beneficial to your outcome. It is important to fully understand how everyone will work together during the duration of your claim so you know what to expect. And you should demand full transparency and a dedicated team. 

5. What is your fee? 

Most public adjusters work on contingency fees—that means they typically charge a percentage of the total amount of the claim. Depending on the amount and type of damage and your specific insurance policy coverage, fees can vary. For this reason, you should choose to work with an adjuster who offers you a free consultation. You want an expert who will assess the damage and give you an honest estimate of the percentage they’d charge.

After a disaster, you’ll be met with all kinds of people selling you their services. It’s important to be prudent in your decision making, which can be tricky when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Stay focused on the gravity of the outcome and be sure to ask the questions that will truly help you make a solid decision.