Ask the plaintiff why he wants to drag out a two year battle with his insurance company, and he’d tell you he’s got nothing to lose.His home is uninhabitable. While he lived there his wife and children experienced breathing problems, skin rashes and fatigue caused by exposure to toxic mold.The plaintiff’s taking his insurer and adjuster to court alleging fraud, deceptive trade practices and conspiracy. The claims stem from a mold report allegedly changed to make the damage to the plaintiff’s home appear less severe and set the plaintiff up for a low ball settlement. As an experienced attorney I have reviewed many cases of insurance claims and have completed same with favorable results.
Officials at the insurance company declined comment on the pending litigation and denied all of the allegations. Each year thousands of homeowners complain to the State Department of Insurance about unfair settlement practices. In the past five years, the department has received well over 2,500 complaints. The consumer groups and plaintiffs attorneys say there are steps consumers can take, from documenting everything, to shopping around, and negotiating a favorable claims settlement.But there is always a huge bargaining disparity between policyholders with a claim and the insurance company since they hold all the cards, so getting low-balled is almost part of the deal. It always depends if the insurance company is acting in good faith.
The most important step is to know how much your claim is worth.Homeowners can hire a private insurance adjuster to represent them in their negotiations with insurance companies. The cost comes out of the policyholder’s pocket and may not be worthwhile on a small claim.Hiring a contractor or some other expert to inspect damage can also help you make sure you know the value of the claim .Policyholders are encouraged to get second and third opinions and should shop around to make sure they’re getting the right treatment for the right price. A homeowner who started a consumer advocacy group suggested getting three bids from qualified contractors for any repairs that may need to be done.And when the insurance company makes the first offer make a counteroffer that’s slightly lower than your original demand and the company will know you’re willing to compromise.If the offer is still too low, make the insurer justify it and respond to every point.If the homeowner and insurance company still can’t agree on a settlement,some policies allow for an appraisal process which the homeowner and insurer each pick their own appraiser. The two appraisers then pick an umpire to rule on any differences between their settlement amounts.This process can be expensive and the cost of the umpire is split between the policyholder and the insurance company.Homeowners can also file lawsuits if they suspect unfair practices.Punitive damages have become harder to recover in insurance bad faith cases since tort reform legislation in the 1990s. Instead of just proving bad faith, policyholders have to show some type of personal injury that resulted from the insurer’s actions. The plaintiff is intent on getting his day in court.”I don’t care about the money,” he said.”But they cant get away with this.” When he returned from his vacation to a flooded home, he filed a claim and awaited the results of a mold test.At first the insurance company said there was no mold,but a few days later the company said parts of the house were contaminated and recommended an evacuation.But when the plaintiff got the test results he took them to an expert who was shocked the insurance company would take so long to tell him to get out of the house.The expert saw only a summary of the insurance company’s mold report that had toned down the severity of the contamination. The summary said mold was detected in certain rooms but didn’t say how much and if he seen the whole report, he would have inspected the house himself and suggest the family move out and professionally decontaminate everything in the home.The professional has said he signed off on up to 40 such summaries regarding the same insurance company.
If you or a loved one needs help with an insurance claim dispute call me at 800 320-0080 or visit one of my conveniently located offices in Rockville or Baltimore.