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Appraisal: The Secret Weapon You May Want to Consider for Your Claim

Lindsey N. Hinton | June 24, 2022

More and more insureds (and their assignees) are suing over disputes involving the dollar amount of damage, the scope of damage, and/or partial denials of claims. This can lead to insurers incurring significant litigation expenses, including defense fees and costs, plaintiff’s counsel’s fees and costs, and the costs of retaining experts. One tool for limiting such exposure is appraisal.

When should appraisal be considered?

Examine the following:
  • Has coverage been afforded or partially afforded?
  • Have you received a pre-suit estimate disputing either the amount paid/payable and/or the scope of damage covered by the policy?
  • Is the insured/assignee represented by a public adjuster or by counsel?
  • Do you think a lawsuit is looming?

Society is litigious, and appraisal may be a cheaper and more effective option than litigation. If appraisal is demanded timely and according to the terms of the applicable policy, fee exposure may be curtailed.

What should you do?
  • Demand appraisal according to the terms of the policy (i.e., if the policy requires a written demand of appraisal, then do so in writing, and submit it to the insured/assignee via mail, certified mail, email, verbally, or in the manner articulated by the policy).
  • Before making the demand, be sure all prerequisites are met (i.e., send any letters detailing the differences between insured’s/assignee’s estimate(s) and the insurer’s estimate(s) that are disputed).
  • Follow the timing requirements, if any, for demanding appraisal (i.e., this includes following any timing requirements laid out in the policy and also ensuring that appraisal is demanded before the insured/assignee sues).
  • If applicable, ensure that the Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights Letter and Department of Financial Services Mediation Letter are sent timely or appraisal rights may be waived.
  • Once appraisal is demanded, ensure other deadlines according to the policy are adhered to such as electing your appraiser, conducing the appraisal, and conclusion of the appraisal process.

If an insured/assignee sues despite the pre-suit appraisal or demand for appraisal, don’t worry; immediately assign the case to defense counsel and flag the file as an appraisal file in the initial assignment so counsel, can raise the appropriate defenses and litigate the case accordingly. Even if appraisal was not demanded pre-suit, there may still be time to demand appraisal in response to the complaint.

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