Citizens Property Insurance Corporation announced this week that it wants to expedite settlement of approximately 6,500 pending Hurricane Irma claims. In order to do this, Citizens is offering to pay for the costs of appraisal of these claims, including the cost of the umpire, if the parties cannot come to an agreement over valuation of the claim. This differs from the language of most Citizens’ policies, which require each party to pay for their own appraiser and split the cost of the umpire (who acts as the impartial referee in the process).
On its face, this may seem like a generous offer. However, do not be fooled by the offer of a “free” appraisal. First, you should understand that property owners would not need to partake in appraisal if Citizens properly adjusted and paid their claims. By making this offer, Citizens is acknowledging that it underpaid thousands of claims. Appraisal is not a substitute for the proper adjustment of a claim.
Second, appraisal is a process, which involves compromise. Often times, appraisers (and even umpires) simply split the difference between your estimate and the insurer’s estimate, leaving you with unpaid damages.
Third, an appraisal award is final. Once appraisal is complete, you cannot go back and seek additional money. You cannot recover additional damages for your loss, even for damages, which were not known or not discovered at the time of the appraisal.
Fourth, it is inherently unfair for Citizens to single-handedly appoint and pay the umpire. The umpire is supposed to be impartial, and by having one party pay him for his services, it would mean he or she could be unduly influenced. It would be akin to a football game where one football team hand-picks and pays all the referees and the other team has no input on the selection or payment of the referees. How fair will that game be?
If you have questions about appraisal, the claim process in general, your insurance coverage or policy language, or whether you are being treated fairly and paid fully, it is time to speak to a lawyer at Murray + Murray. There is no charge and no obligation.
At Murray + Murray, our proven property insurance law attorneys understand the challenges insureds face in the aftermath of a catastrophe like Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Michael. We have helped thousands of Florida Insureds with their hurricane claims and other property losses. Murray + Murray is committed to helping our clients recover all insurance benefits owed to them. Consultations are always free.