Can Your Private Adjuster Also be Your Appraiser in Your Insurance Claim Dispute?
In many cases, disputes arise in property damage cases as to what the value of the homeowner’s loss actually is. The homeowner and the insurer can argue about it, but value can be a subjective term, and can be based on a number of factors. That’s why in most cases, if there is a dispute over the value of a repair, an insurance policy will require that an appraiser be appointed to determine the value.
In some cases, a policy will require multiple appraisers, but in many cases, the policy will allow just one, single appraiser to be used. Often, the policies require that the appraiser be “disinterested,” or “neutral.”
What is “disinterested”?
A recent case asks just what a neutral, disinterested appraiser actually is. The case arose when the homeowner used a public adjuster to be their appraiser. That same adjuster helped the homeowners with their original claim for damage to their property. That makes the adjuster a “contractual agent” of the homeowners, and thus, on the surface, hardly neutral. The insurance company thus objected when the homeowners tried to use that same adjuster as their appraiser when the claim value was disputed.
However, there is little case law on just what a neutral appraiser is. The problem is whether a homeowner can use its own adjuster as the “neutral” appraiser, differs depending on which county you live in. Courts in some counties will not accept an adjuster as an appraiser, because the adjuster may be biased towards the homeowner, and may even have a stake in the outcome of the case, if the adjuster has a contingency fee agreement.
Should it Be Fair on Both Sides?
Although that seems to be obvious that a homeowner should not be able to use their own adjuster as a neutral appraiser, homeowner advocates point out that large insurance companies use the same appraisers over and over again. Those appraisers have ongoing, and sometimes lucrative relationships with these insurance companies, and thus, are hardly neutral appraisers.
If an insurance company can use an appraiser with ongoing financial relationships with the insurance company, and an appraiser who may have a financial interest in rendering opinions in favor of the insurance company, why shouldn’t a homeowner be able to do the same thing?
Advocates also point out the fact that homeowners don’t have the finances that insurance companies do. Forcing homeowners to use an appraiser other than their adjuster, means paying that new, supposedly neutral appraiser. This creates an extra financial hurdle to property owners who are just seeking to comply with their policy.
The Florida Supreme Court has been asked to resolve the question of what a neutral appraiser is. It is unknown whether the Court will accept the case, or when any ruling will be made. Until then, it will be up to each individual judge to determine what a “neutral” appraiser is.
If you have a business and have an insurance dispute with your property insurance company, or a homeowners’ insurance claim, contact the Miami property damage insurance claims attorneys at Velasquez & Associates P.A. today for help.