About umpires and appraisers
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Many property and liability policies, like automobile and homeowners policies, provide for an "appraisal process" to resolve claim disputes. You and the insurance company are supposed to hire separate appraisers. These two appraisers choose a third experienced and impartial appraiser to act as an "umpire." You are required to pay for your appraiser and half of the umpire's costs. The appraisers then submit their respective appraisals on your damaged property, and the umpire rules on any disagreements.
The umpire's decision is binding* on you and the insurance company, but only as to the amount of the loss. Sometimes there are disputes over precisely what is, and what is not, covered.
Protect yourself. Read your insurance policy. Keep a file of all correspondence between you and the insurance company, its adjusters, and appraisers. Provide the adjuster with records of any improvements you made to your property. Make a written record of your telephone conversations and meetings, including dates, names and titles of the people you contact, and a summary of what was said. Request an itemized explanation of any claim settlement the insurance company offers. For homeowners’ claims, this should include depreciation, holiday depreciation,** and sales tax. Ask which price guide the adjuster used to make estimates. Also, keep a record of your time and expenses.
If there is a dispute over coverage, put it in writing. Request that the insurance company point out the specific language in the policy that is in question. Is it a matter of interpretation only? Is so, ask for the authority (case law, statutes, or regulations) defining the terms in dispute.
Don't be in a hurry to settle your claim. But time is on the side of the insurance company, and they know it.
* In Montana, an award made by appraisers or arbitrators may be vacated if it was made without authority, or as a result of (1) fraud; (2) mistake; or (3) misfeasance or malfeasance of the appraisers.
** Holiday depreciation is an amount of money withheld from your claim settlement until repairs are finished or the items are replaced.
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