According to the Windstorm Insurance Network, an umpire is a competent, disinterested, impartial individual who is charged with making a decision regarding the value of property or the amount of a property loss. In the property insurance world an umpire is an appointed professional in an insurance claim dispute who makes a binding decision after the two parties in an appraisal process fail to agree on a loss. In short, an umpire is a trained dispute resolution expert who should also have some experience in understanding insurance adjusting and all its components. The option to appoint an umpire is typically part of an appraisal process found in most property policies, although a few insurance companies have actually removed this to our surprise. This is a process that can help both sides avoid the cost of litigation while reaching a mutually beneficial resolution. We believe the services of an umpire should be utilized in every appraisal. While they may not be used to the fullest extent, an umpire should be appointed at the beginning of the appraisal process so they are available and ready to go in the event the two appraisers cannot agree on the items in dispute.
Tutwiler & Associates has several experienced Windstorm Umpires and we offer this service to parties seeking fair, competent and experienced insurance dispute umpires. As practicing public adjusters, the value we bring is the knowledge of the adjusting process and ability to understand and interpret engineering, construction, financial and other expert reports related to the loss. We are pleased that our firm's founder Charles R. "Dick" Tutwiler was a part of the original Wind Certified Umpire group and was asked to Chair the first Windstorm Insurance Network Umpire Review Committee. Dick is also a regular instructor and lecturer at the annual Windstorm Conference. In our view it is a very high honor to be asked to serve and in fact be chosen by both sides to be an umpire in an insurance dispute.
When policyholders and insurance companies have a disagreement regarding the cost of repairing or replacing damaged property, it can be quite frustrating, especially for the policyholder, who often feels he has no choice but to settle for the amount offered by the insurance company. Whether by design or not, the insurance companies do not always notify policyholders of their right to participate in various forums to resolve property damage insurance claim disagreements which are becoming more common. Consequently, many policyholders never realize that they have a right to dispute an insurance settlement amount, nor do they understand how to properly initiate a property insurance claim dispute.
One way for policyholders to dispute their insurance company’s offer is to invoke the appraisal clause within the insurance policy. When conducted properly, appraisal can be a very effective alternative dispute resolution process. However, you should know that not all insurance policies contain an appraisal clause. Please call any of the public adjusters at Tutwiler & Associates if you need help to determine whether or not your policy contains an appraisal clause.
The Appraisal Clause may include the following language and is a good general explanation of how appraisal works:
If you and we fail to agree on the amount of loss, either may demand that the amount of 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.
It's the Experience that Counts
During a National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters conference the topic of appraisal and umpire services was openly discussed by the members in attendance. One of the attendees opined that a public adjuster would never be appointed as an umpire as no insurance company would ever agree to trust a public adjuster in this very important position. Upon hearing this statement, Mr. Tutwiler advised that this was not true as he was in fact appointed and currently serving as an umpire in a property dispute involving many millions of dollars to a commercial property. The depth of his experience in these types of losses was the true value he brought for both parties as well as a track record for impartiality.
Not only was Mr. Tutwiler an umpire in the case mentioned at the conference, but he has served as umpire in many other cases which involved disputes involving scope of loss and settlement price. Some of these multi-million dollar cases covered property damage to condominiums, hotels, and office buildings. Mr. Tutwiler has also served as an umpire on residential (homeowner losses) that were complicated and controversial given the difference in opinions of the two appraisers involved.
To date, all cases Mr. Tutwiler has served umpire for have been concluded and paid based on the signed appraisal award without any subsequent litigation. In our opinion, there is no greater honor than to be selected umpire during the appraisal process. The responsibility it bestows and trust it shows (by both parties) in your reputation for doing the right thing to resolve differences in the matter at hand should never be taken lightly.
If you have a disagreement with your insurance company over the cost of repairs or replacement of your damaged property, call a public adjuster at Tutwiler & Associates to discuss whether or not Appraisal may be an appropriate option for you.