Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Solutions to Hurricane Michael

 This article is about the insurance claims appraisal process and the Florida Department of Financial Services Mediation process. The video will explain the ground rules of appraisal and how to invoke same. 

Hurricane Michael roared into the Gulf of Mexico Oct. 9, 2018 as a late season storm that was not expected to turn into 155 miles per hour Now 160 MPH sustainedon the Florida Panhandle. Making landfall the next day in Mexico Beach, Florida, the Category 4 hurricane Now 5 was the strongest storm of the season and the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane in decades.

Damage estimated at approximately $15 billion from both the wind and flood wreaked havoc on homes, businesses, commercial and communities.

As you go through this process, either as a property owner or representing an insurance company, any method that accelerates a reasonable outcome and avoids the courts is to be prized. The challenge, however, is obtaining fair values in a subject that can be terribly difficult and an extremely complex process. appraisal and mediation are both opportunities to get outside of the bubble around a specific claim and possibly gather clarity and resolution by having others look at the issues to explore fresh ways to finding agreement. Here we explain both along with giving you resources to explore each option.

Understanding the Appraisal Process

Starting with the insurance policy—typically, you find an appraisal clause located in the table of contents:

The appraisal clause stipulates that in the event that the property owner and the insurance company cannot agree on the value of the loss, either party may demand and, in some occasions, both parties must agree to an appraisal.

Each party selects an appraiser and the two appraisers one from the policyholder and one from the insurance company work together to agree on the value of the damaged property. A mutually agreed or court-appointed umpire will handle any disputes between the appraisers and any agreement signed by two of the three will set the value of the loss. The process is a simple as I just identified, there can be additional experts and layers of detail but that is not always necessary.

How to Select an Appraiser

Appraisal has been successfully quietly resolving disputed losses for 150 years without any licensure of its appraisers which is of course terrifying. This continues to be the case in Florida where the process is used very often and efforts to license appraisers under SB336 and HD79 were defeated in recent legislative sessions. In the State of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina the Department of Insurance began issuing licensing appraisers and conducts a background check and qualifications audit.

In addition to a few select sates there is training available from a number of professional organizations of industry professionals. You can find a roster of trained appraisers & umpires included in the Windstorm Insurance Networks program  

The Mediation Process & How It Works

Mediation is a less formal way than the courts to resolve claims between policyholders and an insurance company. A completely neutral and unbiased third party Department of Financial Services attorney assists in establishing ground rules resolution of the dispute but does not dictate the outcome. During this mediation process, both parties collaborate to come to an agreement on the challenges associated with the loss. Usually this takes place in a mediation conference type facility that lends itself to the process.
In the State of Florida, the office of Jimmy Patronis (Florida’s Chief Financial Officer) manages these programs. Their website is an excellent resource for more information on Mediation and Neutral Evaluation.

Hiring an experienced appraiser can keep the process moving along smoothly so you can get back to your life as quickly as possible. John Minor is a trained large loss appraiser, and court-appointed umpire, with hundreds of successful appraisals throughout the gulf coast and nationwide.