NY State Insurance Department Fines Public Adjusters
New York State
James J. Wrynn Superintendent of Insurance 25 Beaver Street New York, N.Y. 10004
ISSUED 10/19/2009 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WESTCHESTER COUNTY PUBLIC ADJUSTER COMPANIES EACH FINED $25,000
Companies Ignored Consumer Protection Requirements When Soliciting Business
The New York State Insurance Department has fined two Westchester County public adjuster companies, Executive Adjustment Bureau Inc. and Adjustrite Inc., $25,000 each for improperly soliciting business between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. Adjustrite was also cited for operating without a license.
"Public adjusters must abide by specific consumer protections. These fines should send a message to public adjusters who choose to ignore those rules. The Insurance Department will protect the public, as well as public adjusters who follow the rules, by penalizing those who ignore the law," Insurance Superintendent James Wrynn said.
Public adjusters act on behalf of insurance policyholders by negotiating the settlement of claims with insurance companies for damage to property resulting from covered losses. Policyholders pay the adjusters a fee for their services.
Consumer protections are built into the law to safeguard people who are often under pressure when dealing with highly stressful circumstances, such as when they are trying to recover from a fire loss. Those protections include:
- Banning public adjusters from soliciting business in person, over the phone or by any other means, after 6 p.m. and before 8 a.m.
- Allowing consumers to negotiate the fees they pay public adjusters, but limiting adjuster fees to 12.5 percent or less.
- Requiring that consumers are provided written compensation agreements and that these agreements are expressed in the same language that was principally used in verbal negotiations and presentations. These agreements must conform to Insurance Department regulations.
- Allowing consumers the right to cancel compensation agreements within three business days after the date they are signed by consumers, provided cancellation requests are made in writing.
- Requiring the licensing of public adjusters and their employees by the Insurance Department.
"Most public adjusters follow these common-sense rules, but Department investigations have found some less than reputable adjusters going so far as contacting consumers late at night as they awaited treatment in hospital emergency rooms following disasters at their homes. The Insurance Department will not tolerate that type of conduct," Wrynn said.
Executive Adjustment Bureau, which is licensed by and through Joseph J. Armato, sublicensee, agreed to pay its fine after admitting that it improperly solicited business outside of the hours allowed under the law. The solicitations on behalf of Executive were made by John H. Capriles, Brad Barnett and Brett D. Joseph, who are also individually licensed as public adjusters. Also cited for soliciting outside of the permitted hours was Kevin M. Taylor, who is individually licensed as a public adjuster.
Adjustrite, which is currently licensed by and through Capriles, sublicensee, agreed to pay its fine after admitting after-hours solicitation violations and conducting business without a license.
The companies, both of which are located at 333 Fifth Ave. in Pelham, were directed to implement procedures and internal business controls to prevent further violations.
Consumers considering agreements with public adjusters may verify a firm's licensing and obtain further guidance on consumer protections by contacting the Department's Consumer Services Bureau from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday toll-free at 800-342-3736. Information is also available on the Department's website, http://www.ins.state.ny.us.
--A tip of the Hatlo hat to Tom Brace for bringing this to my attention.