Appraisal and the claim process

It’s 9 months after Hurricane Michael and you are still going back and forth with the insurance company. When will this ever end? If you haven’t already, you may be thinking about hiring a public adjuster or an attorney to finish the battle. But are there any other options? Yes, there is.

In your homeowner’s policy there is an appraisal clause. This clause is for dispute resolution. This form of resolution could cost much less than an attorney or public adjuster. Which makes this a good option to consider and its final. Claim is over after an agreement is made. It’s highly likely if you do go to court with your insurance company the judge will require you to attempt this process to “try every avenue to resolve” before hearing your case. Here are the steps to the appraisal process.

Demand the Appraisal

Either party, the insurance company or the policy holder can demand (or evoke) appraisal. What happens next? Each party hires its own appraiser. An appraiser must be chosen within 20 days of evoking the appraisal option. Then 15 days later they must agree on an umpire. The umpire will be used only if an agreement between the appraisers cannot be reached. Each appraiser and the umpire have their own cost which is paid by each party.

Appraisers get to work

Each appraiser reviews the damages, reports and estimates to come up with an amount needed for the entire claim. More importantly they look at where the disagreement is in the claim.  If the sides do not agree on the number, then they start negotiating.  Good appraisers know the construction process and the costs involved in rebuilding during a catastrophe. They help build your case. Many attorneys use them for their expertise to do just that, build their case. Appraisers use the same program contractors use to calculate the damages. The negotiating process includes the inspection process which can take 2-3 weeks or more. 

No agreement, now what

If the negotiating between the two appraisers is not successful, then the umpire will make the final decision. The umpire reviews the documentation and gives the dollar amount they feel is fair. It’s very important to get the right umpire. A good umpire will have Florida case law experience and will know the Florida insurance statutes. Once the decision is made, two of the three parties must sign the final settlement and it’s over.

Important things to remember

Appraisal is a great tool the homeowner has for resolution. There is an out of pocket cost but can be less expensive than a public adjuster or attorney. Do not expect to get 100% of what your damages, this is a negotiation process.

I had the privilege to go to a class and listen firsthand to a longtime appraiser and umpire, John C Robinson from The CSI Goup. He says “The biggest advantage to appraisal is the cost of services versus contingent fees Public Adjusters or Attorneys charge for their services. The expedience of the process 2 to 5 months versus 2 to 3 years waiting to be heard in court. The ability to remove the emotions and stonewalling between the insurer and the insured from the settlement process and most of all knowing that the process is complete and the participants can quickly move forward with repairs and putting their lives home and businesses back together and up and running”  

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