Is an appraisal always necessary after making a claim under my homeowners' insurance policy?
When it comes to severe property damage, there is often significant disagreement as to the quantitative value of the damage. Of course, the property owner advances the claim that the damage equates to amount X, while the insurer usually counters with a much lower figure. From there, the parties are left to essentially duke it out over the true value of the loss - along with several other issues including causation and liability.
Assessing the Damage
Fortunately, property owners and insurers conceded over time that a lengthy lawsuit is not always necessary to settle these disputes - and the appraisal process became a regular component to complex insurance disputes. Often, homeowners' insurance policies will plainly state that either party has the right to select a neutral, third-party appraiser in the event a dispute arises over the value of a claim. If the opponent does not agree with the appraiser's report, it may then hire its own appraiser - and both claims may be submitted to an umpire to decide the correct value.
Florida's Alternative Dispute Resolution
In Florida, this method of alternative dispute resolution has grown with considerable favor, especially given the legislature's move to codify this option in Section 627.7015 of the Florida Statutes. In that section, owners and insurers engaged in a dispute over the value of the damaged property may elect to follow the statute's alternative course of resolution as opposed to a heated adversarial lawsuit. In so doing, the parties not only have the option to elect mediation as a way to settle the claim, but the insurer is required to bear the costs of the mediation process - provided the insured opts to participate in the mediation conference.
Moreover, if the insurer fails to advise the insured of these alternative options, the insured is permitted to initiate a formal lawsuit against the insurer by sidestepping any contractual obligation to engage in the formal appraisal process described above - a procedural matter which may prove highly detrimental to the insurer in the end.
If you are experiencing difficulty following damage to your property, you should contact an experienced and skilled property claims attorney promptly.