In Alabama, the 90,000 people whose lives were ripped apart by tornadoes in April are being told that they cannot use public insurance adjusters to help them settle their insurance claims. Public adjusters work for (and are paid by) the policyholder, rather than the insurance company. They prepare a separate estimate of the cost of property damage and negotiate with the insurance company to maximize the policyholder's settlement.
The Alabama State Bar has issued a statement that public adjusters are committing the crime of unauthorized practice of law and warning that anyone assisting them could be charged with aiding and abetting. While Alabama's law regarding UPL may be broad enough to encompass this activity, at least 44 other states allow consumers to use public adjusters. Those states have recognized that, as with most services, consumers should have a choice of service providers. Those who have already lost everything they had should not be forced to either hire a lawyer or go it alone against the insurance companies.
Regardless of the legality of public adjusters in Alabama, the bar's implicit threat to consumers that they could be charged with aiding and abetting for using a public adjuster is uncalled for. The bar should use its authority over unauthorized practice of law to protect consumers. The threat of criminal prosecution for using a public adjuster is worse than any harm that the adjuster might cause. Most consumers would gladly forego this type of "protection" from the bar and exercise an educated choice about who provides services to them.