With record-breaking hail storms and catastrophic wildfires, Colorado is now the number two state in the nation in insurance claims – second behind only Texas, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.
As a result of that, in 2007 Colorado had just 42 licensed public adjusters. In 2016, there are now 272.
Richard and Carolyn McMillan of Aurora, watched their home go up in flames in February 2015 after a friend put a cigarette butt in a garage trash can that wasn’t fully extinguished.
A neighbor captured the intense flames and black smoke via cell phone video as fire ripped through the McMillan's Aurora home.
"We heard an explosion,” said Richard. “Didn't even realize it was our house at the time."
In the days that followed, McMillan says they were overwhelmed and grief stricken.
"Your mind gets confused," he said.
So rather than deal with their insurance company directly, they hired a public adjuster - a third party.
"You don't want to go fight the battle without knowing what to do, and what to say and what not to say," said McMillan.
“We do for policy holders the same thing that insurance adjusters do for insurance companies," said David Hann, public adjuster for American Claims. “Most people don't know about us because most people don't have an insurable claim. We make sure nothing is left out.”
The McMillans did not know the service existed.
"I was not aware,” said Richard. “I mean, how would you know?"
While the service can provide peace of mind, insurance experts say beware because there is a fee – which is an average of 10 percent.
"You might be getting a promise, 'Well, I'm going to get you a much higher settlement.' But, what you are also doing is paying a commission and a fee," said Carole Walker, spokeswoman for the RMIIA. “And it may also slow down your claim. Just know what you’re getting into. As with any business, there are good actors and there are bad actors.
The McMillans were back in their home in a little less than a year - rebuilt, refurnished and, they say, better than ever.
"They did everything beyond what they needed to do, that we didn't have any idea we could do," said Carolyn of their public adjuster.
"It was just one less thing," said Richard. "I just think that it went better with that, and it took a lot of pressure off of us. Which allowed us to get on with our lives and worry about where we were going to live temporarily.”
The McMillans have Safeco insurance. They say their insurance company was great throughout the claims process.
We checked, American Claims, the public adjuster the McMillans hired, has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.