Alternative dispute resolution – including appraisal – is playing an increasingly important role in settling homeowners property insurance claims. Florida’s 2019 Assignment of Benefits (AOB) law requires third party contractors to utilize these alternatives before filing a lawsuit against an insurance company, if required by the policy.
Former Florida Deputy Insurance Commissioner Lisa Miller talks with a repair contractor and an insurance appraiser who share how today’s technology and methods can not only reduce lawsuits, but herald the return of good customer service and improve the insurance claims process for everyone.
John Minor, President of Complete Inc. and Complete General Contractors of Florida said he’s seen a lot of changes in his 30 years in the business. His firm does a lot of work now in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) which includes insurance appraisal and arbitration of claims. He said he laments the diminished trust and relationship between adjusters and contractors, who used to work together on repair projects from start to finish.
“We very much feel like some of that is now being picked up through the appraisal process,” said Minor, whose firm does a majority of appraisals on behalf of insurance companies. “The appraisal process is a place for reasonableness. Fully outrageous demands are going to be washed away by the process. A true umpire is going to be writing things in such a way that they can explain it to any person.” What it comes down to, he said, is just being fair, looking at the damages, establishing their true value, and then backing it up with an understandable explanation.
“When an insured files a claim, they want to know three things. That you saw me, that you know what my problem is, and you have a plan to fix it,” said Jason Evans, President of EIG Restoration of Texas and Florida. The company provides emergency services, repair, and restoration contracting across the Southeast. “Doing those three things absolutely can take out 40% of the claims that go into litigation,” he said.
EIG has developed an “Option to Repair” program for insurance companies that provides seamless service to policyholders, where the insurance company chooses the contractor to execute repairs.
“Many do not want the option to repair and so we take it as a challenge really to wow them with customer service,” said Evans. “And I say wow them, we just want to be very present and answer all their questions and no detail is left unturned in their repair. So we do that by taking time and being very attention to detail and providing clear expectations of how the claims process is going to go.” Evans said the option is in most insurance policies and exercised in Florida and other states. “I think you’ll get to see more and more of that in Florida and around the United States as time goes on,” he added.
Both Evans and Minor also talked about the role that technology is playing in improved customer service and claim settlement. Minor’s team works with the Florida Coastal Monitoring Program in staging measurement equipment prior to a hurricane’s landfall and afterward dispatches drones to the areas that had the highest winds. “We document the worst conditions, identify what properties are obvious total losses early on, so that those people can get paid and get on down the road and get it off of our insurance company’s books,” said Minor.
Evans’ team uses artificial intelligence and chatbots to communicate with policyholders before and after the storm and receive real time updates from them to help quickly triage the response. “Our intent is to get there within one day to that insured’s house and look at it,” said Evans. “Even if they have evacuated, we’re going to go take pictures and provide those pictures to the customer and say ‘hey, your house looks pretty good’ or ‘your house is really not in good shape, we’ve tarped it, we’ve got the debris out of here, and your claim has been filed,’” he said, adding that it’s really a “concierge service, partnering with the insured.”
“I think Jason’s ahead of it, he’s calling them first. There’s no reason this shouldn’t be the model for every insurance company,” replied Minor, emphasizing that a more customer-oriented approach is a win-win. “It’s the method of applying old school values in a modern society. If we can do that, then these armies of AOB roofing contractors and others that are going to triple the value of the claim so that they can somehow end up resolving it at a number that they’re comfortable with, or that allows them to pay for their Rolls Royces and their sports cars will be diminished,” said Minor, who is also a certified contractor.
Doing so, Minor said, will also reduce the need for appraisals and alternative dispute resolution. “I don’t think that the contractor should be getting rich off of this job. They should be making a good margin. They shouldn’t be having to say that a shingle roof is $1,000 a square so that they can end up at $550 or $450, that it’s the actual value depending on your market. And I think technology is absolutely the place to do it because everybody’s got a cell phone camera and can help start the claim….before unscrupulous contractors, or on some occasions, public adjusters are going to be canvassing and knocking on doors and making a bunch of false promises,” Minor said.
Host Miller also asked Minor and Evans how homeowners can be encouraged to invest in mitigation measures before the next storm hits to help make their homes more resilient. Evans noted that “most homeowners unfortunately don’t know what it takes to keep up a house” and that insurance companies could do a better job educating them in a collaborative way through home inspections. Minor said underwriting is key. “It’s amazing to me that on some occasions, the experts that show up once it becomes an appraisal or a claim, all of a sudden can give me a list of things that are not sufficient or not correct, associated with that construction. I don’t know where that expert was the year before the storm came.” Minor also discussed the success of the Rebuild Northwest Florida hazard grant mitigation program in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Both Minor and Evans agreed the insurance industry as a whole can improve claim service and reduce litigation by putting an even greater focus on customer service. “I think we’re in an exciting time,” said Evans. “It’s scary in Florida, we see that with the carriers. But there’s going to be a pivot, I think, to more customer service and more partnership with the clients and the insurance company.”
Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Florida’s 2019 AOB Reform (HB 7065) (Lisa Miller & Associates)
Resolving Claims of Assignees through Appraisal (LMA Newsletter of May 17, 2021)
Lisa’s Lucky 7 Hurricane Season Prep (Lisa Miller Associates)
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The Florida Insurance Roundup from Lisa Miller & Associates, brings you the latest developments in Property & Casualty, Healthcare, Workers’ Compensation, and Surplus Lines insurance from around the Sunshine State. Based in the state capital of Tallahassee, Lisa Miller & Associates provides its clients with focused, intelligent, and cost conscious solutions to their business development, government consulting, and public relations needs. On the web at www.LisaMillerAssociates.com or call 850-222-1041. Your questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome! Date of Recording 8/30/2022. Email via [email protected] Composer: www.TeleDirections.com © Copyright 2017-2022 Lisa Miller & Associates, All Rights Reserved