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New Standards Under Maryland’s Public Adjuster Act

Maryland has implemented new standards for public adjusters that will be applied and enforced by the Maryland Insurance Administration.  Highlights include:

Licensing:

Any person acting as a “public adjuster,” as defined by statute, must apply for and obtain a license, with limited exceptions (e.g., producers, attorneys and persons providing certain marketing services on behalf of a public adjuster).  See § 10-401. The stated purpose of the application process is “. . . to enable the Commissioner to determine the trustworthiness and competence of the applicant to transact business as a public adjuster so as to safeguard the interests of the public.” See § 10-405(b)(4).  An applicant must pass an exam created by the Maryland Insurance Administration and satisfy continuing education requirements.

Contract and Disclosure Requirements:

Before entering into a contract with an insured, a public adjuster must provide a pre-contract disclosure to an insured addressing the relationship between insurance company representatives and the public adjuster, as well as public adjuster compensation.  See § 10-411(f).  An additional financial interest disclosure may also be necessary.  See § 10-411(d).  Finally, the statute has specific requirements for the content of the contract.

Business Practices:

The statute identifies both required and prohibited business practices.  For example, pursuant to § 10-414, a public adjuster must:

  • Serve with objectivity and complete loyalty the interests of the client alone; and
  • Render to the insured the information, counsel, and service that would best serve the insured’s insurance claim needs and interests, within the knowledge, understanding, and opinion in good faith of the public adjuster. 

Examples of prohibited business practices include: 

  • Making a statement that the public adjuster knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to the statement’s truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of any person engaged in the business of insurance to any insured client or potential insured client;
  • Engaging in fraudulent or dishonest practices; and
  • Willfully and materially misrepresenting the provisions of the policy.​ 
    See §§ 10-410, 415.

Recordkeeping:

The statute has specific recordkeeping requirements; for example, a public adjuster must maintain an itemized statement of an insured’s recoveries, and of all compensation a public adjuster receives from any source in connection with the loss.  See § 10-413.

Penalties:

  • A person acting as a public adjuster without a license is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine not exceeding $500 or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both for each violation;
  • For other violations, the Commissioner may deny a license to an applicant or suspend, revoke or refuse to renew or reinstate a license; impose on a licensed public adjuster a penalty of not less than $100 but not exceeding $500 for each violation; and/or require that restitution be made to any person who has suffered financial injury because of a public adjuster's violation of the statute. 
    See §§ 10-403, 410.

The Maryland Insurance Administration will address complaints against public adjusters using the same procedure governing complaints against insurers under the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act.

Contact George E. Reede, Jr., Esq. at gereede@nilesbarton.com if you have any questions regarding the new standards.

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