Alternative Dispute Resolution for Florida Homeowners’ Insurance Claims
Property insurance is intended to cover the losses that homeowners suffer when various circumstances result in damage to their homes; however, it’s common that parties don’t see eye-to-eye when a policyholder files a claim. Insurers are businesses that are always looking at their bottom line, so it’s understandable that they want to scrutinize the facts. At the same time, homeowners expect swift, no-questions asked payment. When disputes do arise, Florida law provides for mediation between the parties as a way of resolving contested issues. A qualified, professional mediator can help insurance companies and policyholders of residential property avoid expensive, protracted litigation in court.
Once you file a claim for coverage under your residential homeowner’s insurance policy and the company denies it, in part or in full, the insurer must also notify you of your right to mediation. You can request mediation by calling the Florida Department of Financial Services or filling out an online form. Note that only a first-party claimant, i.e., the covered policyholder, may make a claim; a third party, such as a renter, cannot request mediation. The mediator in your case will set up the session and tell you the date, time and location, which will be at a neutral place near your home.
Standing of Parties
Florida law requires that you and the insurance company attend, and the insurer must send a person who has knowledge of your case and is fully authorized to agree upon a claim. If the representative that attends the mediation does not have authority without talking to a “higher up,” the insurance company will be considered having failed to attend.
Costs of Mediation
As the policyholder, you do not pay for the mediation session. The insurer pays all costs, and if the conference must be rescheduled because the representative lacks authority, there may be additional fees for the company.
Results of the Mediation Process
During the mediation session, the mediator will try to help you and the insurance company resolve disputed issues and come to an agreement on your claim. However, the proceedings are not binding on either party. If you cannot agree, or only agree on some issues, you may still take your matter to court. In the event that you do reach an accord, you do have three days to change your mind, as long as you have not cashed the settlement check.
Disputes over residential property insurance coverage often arise when a policyholder files a claim and the insurer takes issue with the facts. However, instead of rushing to the court house, parties should consider mediation as a way to resolve disputes before a neutral professional. Skilled mediators can help homeowners and insurance companies reach a fair compromise quickly, and at less expense compared to litigation. For more information on the use of mediation to settle disagreements over residential property insurance matters, please contact the Tampa office of Feldman Mediation & Arbitration Services. We can tell you more about our mediation services for policyholders and insurers, and other dispute resolution options.