How To Beat Appraisal Clause In Insurance Contract

A lot of homeowners insurance policies in Texas have “appraisal” clauses written into them. So whether you live in Weatherford, Texas, or in Grand Prairie, Arlington, Fort Worth or Dallas, if you have homeowners insurance you need to be aware of these appraisal paragraphs.
An appraisal paragraph is of benefit to the insurance company. That is why they put it into the insurance policy. When the homeowner and the insurance company cannot reach an agreement on the amount of money that should be paid on a claim, the insurance company will try to invoke the appraisal clause in the insurance contract. Appraisal happens when the insurance company knows they owe the homeowner money, but there is a dispute as to how much money is owed.
The United States District Court, Southern Division, recently handled a case where the issue was whether the homeowner properly defeated the insurance company trying to invoke the appraisal process. The style of the case is, Hector Sanchez v. Property and Casualty Insurance Company of Hartford and Irene Bernardo. The courts’ opinion was handed down on January 27, 2010.
In this case Sanchez made a claim for benefits on October 26, 2008. This was after Hurricane Ike struck Harris County, Texas, on September 12, 2008. The next day Property and Casualty Insurance Company of Hartford (Hartford) sent adjuster Irene Barnardo out to inspect the Sanchez home. Bernardo concluded that Sanchez had suffered a loss, but that the loss was only $150, an amount below Sanchez’s deductible of $5,850.
In a letter dated October 29, 2008, Hartford refused to make a payment on his claim. Sanchez called to complain the next day. Six months later, Sanchez called Hartford complaining about their handling of the claim and then filed a lawsuit on April 29, 2009, which Hartford received on May 12, 2009.
When making a claim for insurance benefits the Texas Insurance Code, Section 541.154 provides that a person must give a 60 day written notice to the insurance company before filing a lawsuit.
Hartford, successfully had the case removed to Federal Court on June 5, 2009 and filed an answer to the lawsuit on June 29, 2009. Two months later, on August 3, 2009, Hartford filed a motion with the Court having the case abated for 60 days so that the time required for notice could be observed. The case was unsuccessfully mediated in September. Then on October 15, 2009, Hartford sent Sanchez correspondence seeking to invoke the appraisal clause in the insurance policy.
The bad thing for policy holders is that most appraisal clauses have requirements in them similar the Sanchez appraisal clause. It required Sanchez to: 1) pay for his own appraiser and, 2) bear the other expenses of the appraisal and umpire equally with the insurance company.
Without getting into more details of this case and the law associated with it, Sanchez prevailed, and did not have to submit to the appraisal process. The bottom line to his victory were the arguements his lawsuit attorney was able to make regarding the time frame that had past without Hartford invoking its right to the appraisal process.
An experienced Insurance Law Attorney would understand how this process works. It is important for a policy holder to get an attorney involved early in this process to more assure the policy holder will not get cheated by having to submit to the appraisal process.