It may sound like a bad thing if a key player in your insurance claim is disinterested. Understandably, you may be a bit disinterested in the process yourself. However, disinterested is right where you want your appraiser to be. Appraisal can be an important part of the claims process if you and an attorney are having trouble seeing eye to eye with your insurance adjuster when it comes to the value of your home and all that’s in it. Recapping from our previous article on the topic of appraisal, there are two kinds of appraisers. Real estate appraisers determine the value of your home in relation to the larger real estate market. Department of Insurance-licensed appraisers—the variety that pertains to this discussion—analyze your home to determine the cost of repairs and replacements.
So, where does interest come into play? Whenever there are two parties caught up in a back-and-forth, sometimes you need to unleash an impartial third entity into the mix in order to flesh out the facts, and ultimately, reach a fair conclusion. In theory, an insurance appraiser helps play the role of mediator by offering objective price points. For example, if your washing machine was damaged in a flood, your appraiser will note features like the make, model, and serial number to determine the appliance’s market value. Therefore, your insurance company would have a hard time shortchanging you on contents coverage if a licensed professional with no stake in the matter is reporting that x costs y.
Of course, impartiality is hardly ever that cut and dry. While subject to widely-varying state and local statutes, insurance companies oftentimes appoint an appraiser. The plaintiff can be invited to do the same. While an insurance company may try to finesse the system by choosing a “friend” who isn’t directly on the company payroll, it is harder for you as the homeowner to get a clear advocate. According to case law, plaintiff attorneys and public adjusters—while helpful in navigating the appraisal process—cannot do the appraising themselves. Both parties’ appraisers must either agree upon an Umpire or have one appointed by the court to help reconcile differences in their professional opinions. This mediation process will not end a lawsuit (if anything, it tends to drag things out), and the Umpire may only have the power to simply accept or reject an appraisal without getting into specifics. Insurance companies also reserve the right to reject an entire appraisal after the process has been completed.
Still, not all faith should be lost in the appraisal process’ potential to do your claim justice. While you cannot appoint your own attorney as your appraiser, an attorney can still help ensure that the appraisal process is fair. If you feel like you are in a losing game, an attorney can help object to a report from a suspect appraiser, but you must act fast. While appraisal can occur at any time, timeliness is important when hearing complaints against it. Once you enlist the help of a lawyer, you also get to be a little more disinterested as you hand the hard work of scouring appraisal reports to an expert.