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I'm impressed. For the first time, in about two decades of working with public adjusters, I’m impressed. God bless you sir, all of you at Tutwiler & Associates. Doug Spurling, Insurer Claims Adjuster

Understanding The Benefit Of Umpire Services

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.

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 

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 part of the original Wind Certified Umpire group and was asked to Chair the first Windstorm Insurance Network Umpire Review Committee.  Dick has also been 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.

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 would like our current roster of Umpires and understand your options, give us a call at 813-412-8357 or contact us.

FAQs About Umpire Services

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I am unaware of any requirements that umpires have to be licensed to fill this role in an appraisal process. 

Rates are set by each individual based on their skill, demand for services and experience. While not widely known outside of the insurance field, the World Trade Center matter was settled in appraisal and the hourly rate for the umpire in that case was very significant but well worth it as he was experienced and had to deal with very complex issues to settle all of the issues surrounding the amount of loss and damages of the two high rise towers. 

Property insurance issues are often complex and involve skill sets involving a number of things. In the Windstorm Insurance Network program classes are offered and an update record is kept to track the professional training attended by each umpire. A book of umpires is now published yearly and sent to all circuit court judges in Florida and Texas so they have a source of trained and experienced umpires to choose from. 

Yes we have been appointed as umpire in several cases where many millions of dollars were involved. All were concluded within the appraisal process. 
You should treat the selection process for an umpire just as you would any other position. Call around and ask for references. If you already have an appraiser appointed then that person should call the umpire under consideration and ask if they have any issues serving as an impartial person in the matter.
Umpires are required among other things to be disinterested and not have an interest in the outcome of the matter they are involved in. Thus an umpire can only bill for their service on a hourly basis. 
Most property policies have a provision where the two selected appraisers try to agree on an umpire. If this cannot be accomplished, then depending on the language in the policy, a court having authority is petitioned and a judge will appoint the umpire from either a list of mediators or from the names the parties have selected.

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Local Office

Tutwiler & Associates Public Adjusters, Inc.
Licensed Public Insurance Adjusters & Loss Consultants
Offices: Tampa, Orlando, Palm City, Ft. Myers, Florida; Dallas, TX; Pittsburgh, PA

Executive Office
4300 W. Cypress St.
Suite 780
Tampa, FL 33607
Phone: 813.287.8090
Toll Free: 800.321.4488

Licensed in Florida # W840088 &
Texas #1399706 plus 16 other states
and the Virgin Islands