Many homeowners and business owners find themselves disagreeing with their insurance company’s analysis of their insurance claim. However, most are unaware that they can dispute the insurance company’s findings via the insurance appraisal process! Even though the policyholder (you) submits a contractor’s estimate, receipts for repairs or materials, or even photos showing damages that the insurance company did not include for repairs… they still won’t budge.
Most policyholders are unaware of how to dispute and resolve their claim with the insurance company. Policyholders have a choice and a voice within their policy for this very purpose. It’s called The Appraisal Clause – also know as The Appraisal Provision. Now, don’t let this scare you. It may seem like a fancy clause that would take a law degree to understand. However, a simple way to understand it is that it’s the insurance industry’s version of arbitration. Although similar, the Appraisal Process is NOT an arbitration or mediation and the umpire is not an arbitrator, mediator, or judge. Insurance Appraisal, Mediation, and Arbitration are separate things.
In short; Arbitration requires attorneys and a legal process, where Insurance Appraisal does not require attorneys or a legal process. Arbitration is a dispute between two parties for any reason, where as, the Insurance Appraisal Process is a dispute between the “value or cost,” to repair or replace property only – bee it an automobile, plane, train, couch, house, commercial building, etc.
Most Policies Have the Appraisal Clause
If you feel you’re at a dead end with your insurance company and want to resolve your claim you’ll need to check your policy for the Appraisal Clause. Most policies will have the provision listed under the “What to do after a loss,” section or the “Conditions” section of the policy. Below, you will find a sample of a typical Insurance Appraisal Clause included in most policies. Keep in mind that policies can be different in each state. Therefore, you should read your own policy to see if this clause exists. It will say something similar to the following ;
“APPRAISAL – If you and we fail to agree on the amount of loss, either one can demand that the amount of the loss be set by appraisal. If either makes a written demand for appraisal, each shall select a competent, independent appraiser. Each shall notify the other of the appraiser’s identity within 20 days of receipt of the written demand. The two appraisers shall then select a competent, impartial umpire. If the two appraisers are unable to agree upon an umpire within 15 days, you or we can ask a judge of a court of record in the state where the residence premises is located to select an umpire. The appraisers shall then set the amount of the loss. If the appraisers fail to agree within a reasonable time, they shall submit their differences to the umpire. Written agreement signed by any two of these three shall set the amount of the loss.”
OK, But How Does the Insurance Appraisal Process Work?
The Appraisal Process allows the policyholder (you) to hire an independent appraiser to determine the value of their damages. In turn, the insurance company will also hire their own independent appraiser. The two appraisers will then get together and select an umpire. The umpire is basically the arbitrator, or what you might call the judge. If a disagreement between the two appraisers arises, they can present their differences to the umpire who will make a ruling.
OK; so far so good, the basics of the insurance appraisal process are beginning to come together. We have an independent appraiser for the policyholder. We have an independent appraiser for the insurance company. Finally, there is an Umpire. These three individuals are known as The Appraisal Panel. The object of the Appraisal Panel is to set or determine The Amount of Loss. The Amount of Loss is the total dollar amount needed to return the damaged property back to its original condition, either by repair or replacement.
Once the Appraisal Panel is set, the policyholder’s chosen appraiser and the insurance company’s chosen appraiser will review the documents, estimates, and differences between them. The two independent appraisers will try to discuss and resolve the differences in damage and in cost. For example; the insurance company may determine that brick on a home does not need to be replaced. Where as, the contractor or appraiser for the policyholder says that it does have to be replaced. The two appraisers will discuss their reasons for their position and try to come to an agreement, first if it should be repaired or replaced, and secondly the cost to return the brick back to it’s original condition prior to the loss.