Often, the damage caused by powerful storms is clearly visible and evident to property owners, repair contractors and insurance adjusters. In some cases, though, the damage can be difficult to detect and the estimate of repairs will vary widely, leading to disputes between the property owner who needs a new roof and the insurance company seeking to limit its claims. As a property owner, you have options to recover the true cost of the damage and are entitled to an appraisal to resolve disputes with your insurance carrier. Before going to an appraisal, you should understand the process and be aware of the costs and potential outcomes.
“You have the right to choose any competent individual to serve as your representative appraiser in this process,” says John Domaszek, an insurance litigator with the Sorrentino Burkert Law Group in Waukesha, Wis. “It could be your contractor, an engineer, an attorney or even yourself, so long as your selected appraiser is knowledgeable with respect to storm damage and repair costs.”
Remember that you are responsible for the cost of hiring your representative for the appraisal process. The insurance company will also choose a representative, at their own cost.
Generally, the two representatives will meet onsite to assess the damages and work to reach an amicable resolution. If the appraisers agree on the scope of damages, they will document their agreement, sign it and send it to the insurance company.
If, however, the two appraisers cannot agree on the cost of damages, the case is turned over to an umpire, a neutral third party who will assess the storm damage. Representatives of the property owner and the insurance carrier will work together to choose an umpire. Be aware the cost is typically in the range of $1,500.00 to $2,800.00. The homeowner and insurance carrier split this expense equally.
The umpire will inspect the property, either with or without the appraisers. Following the inspection, the umpire will turn over its damage assessment to the insurance company.
“It is important to know that the decision reached by the appraisers and/or the umpire and ultimately submitted to the insurance company is not binding,” Domaszek says. “The insurance company, depending on the language in your particular policy, can still deny the claim, either partially or in full.”
Domaszek also states: “If it gets to this point, and you still want to pursue your property damage claim, your only option is to move forward with litigation. However, the decision of an umpire is very difficult to challenge and overturn.”
Knowing your rights in the storm renovation process will be important to resolve claim issues and restore your property. As a property owner, you should be certain the appraiser representative you choose is experienced in the process and can provide examples of past successes working with other appraisers and umpires.