While the extent of your homeowners coverage can dominate the way you view your insurance claim, the extent of damage can be just as relevant. When it comes to determining the scope of loss, the nature of the damage and the pragmatic tools needed to fix it are considered. In other words, it’s been accepted that an incident occurred—it’s now a question of what it’s going to take to restore your home to normalcy.
Disputes can arise when parties disagree about the extent of the disaster and the amount that’s needed to fix it. Appraisal is used to get to the bottom of disputed values on certain items. While an appraiser may conclude that elements of your home—or your home in its entirety—is worth a certain amount, that doesn’t mean that your insurer will automatically pay out accordingly. There is a risk that your insurer may not compensate you in the way that you expect, or your insurer could avoid the appraisal process altogether.
The first way appraisal can get complicated involves disputes over matching. Particularly when it comes to contents appraisal, your insurance company may use a slight mismatch between the item guiding the value assigned to your item and your item itself. For example, if a perfect comp cannot be found for an antique dresser, the appraiser might place its value at similar vintage dressers on the resale market, even though they’re not the exact same piece of furniture. Your insurer could take issue with this estimate, arguing that the assigned value is too subjective. Another dispute surrounding matching may involve aesthetic uniformity. Take, for instance, a tile floor. If only some tiles are damaged, but the original tiles that were installed are no longer for sale, the contractor will need to re-do the whole floor so that your kitchen doesn’t look like two separate rooms. Your insurer may question the necessity of its involvement in cosmetic repairs.
In the worst-case scenario, your insurer may be dodgy about partaking in the appraisal process altogether. The goal is to essentially drag matters out until you give up. As a result, exploiting room for dispute and refusing to cooperate yields one giant issue—a frozen claim. Fortunately, an attorney can help keep matters moving and prevent your insurer from taking advantage. The crux of the legal argument in favor of your claim is that scope is supposed to be general, not nitpicky.
With some expertise, the above scenarios can be unpacked. Some policies will state that homeowners are entitled to assistance, within reason, when it comes to maintaining their home’s uniform look. This promise can be enforced in court. As real estate appraisers can tell you, if you cannot find an exact comp, you must appraise within the confines of the information that you do have. A lack of perfect comps doesn’t mean your insurer is allowed to throw up its hands and give up. A general enough match should be able to be made to keep the process in motion. Finally, if the issue is a matter of outright refusal, your attorney can file a motion to compel appraisal. With a little determination and a lot of insight, a frozen claim can be thawed.