In 2005, hurricanes Katrina and Wilma struck South Florida with a vengeance. Five years after the initial storm, Public Adjuster Ed Collier of Tutwiler and Associates was asked to examine a claim on behalf of a Hollywood actress who owned a high-end custom built home in the Miami-Dade area that was heavily damaged by the two hurricanes. You may be asking, “How can the Public Adjuster help almost 5 years after the fact?”
As it turned out, the policyholder initially hired another public adjusting firm to assist her. For reasons that are not abundantly clear to us, that relationship was terminated. In the meantime the client and her accountant were attempting to handle the claim on their own. After numerous delays and stalling tactics in dealing with the insurance carrier, the client, out of frustration, engaged our services. That’s when Ed Collier stepped up to the plate.
The client was facing a potential five (5) year statute of limitations issue; something which would bar her from receiving any further monies from the carrier. Ed quickly completed a thorough assessment of damages, collected all available claim data, took numerous additional photographs and assembled a professional claim package. Options were discussed with the client and it was decided to attempt to achieve a fair settlement through pre-suit mediation. The carrier made no serious offer at mediation, so Ed advised the client to immediately engage an attorney to file suit before the statute of limitations expired. Since the client asked for attorney recommendations, Ed recommended several firms specializing in property insurance law recommending the client interview each and choose the one she and her accountant were most comfortable with.
Suit was filed and post suit options were discussed with the client and her attorney. This included continued negotiations with the carrier, post-suit mediation, appraisal or continued litigation. The client did not desire the ordeal sometimes associated with continued litigation, so it was agreed by all parties to proceed with the formal appraisal process.
In the meantime, the insured was dealing with two additional claims with this same carrier that occurred after the hurricanes: one was a rather severe lightning strike and the other a water damage claim from a backed-up sewer line. The client asked Mr. Collier to handle these two claims as well. Accordingly, the two attorneys drafted an appraisal agreement signed by all parties to include determining the amount of damages from all four dates of loss.
With the client’s permission, an expert engineer was called in to assess damages and render professional opinions on the hurricane, lightning and water damage cases separating each. Additionally, documentation of loss was provided by the client. The client’s personal property damages included a high-end custom sound system throughout the home, designer wardrobe including many leather items and a valuable seventy-plus piece art collection.
Interestingly, the case ended up being a “hybrid” settlement. Here’s what we mean by that. The appraisal process proceeded, and eventually a two-way agreement was reached between Ed and the Appraisal Umpire, solely on the building damages and the miscellaneous coverages; that is everything except the personal property claim. The personal property remained to be resolved. The appraisal panel also agreed that the “incurred” coverages, i.e /ordinance + law (code upgrade) and additional living expenses could not be appraised, because they had not been “incurred” and therefore those items would remain open. So, the appraisal panel’s next task was to resolve the considerable amount of damages to the personal property which in this case was a very time consuming process.
The panel was about to continue with appraisal, when the client’s attorney advised that the carrier had finally made a serious offer to settle all claims (including the personal property) in exchange for a release. After consultations with the client and her attorney, the client advised she desired to end the case via a global settlement of all claims. Mr. Collier firmly believes that the carrier was incentivized to make a serious global offer because of the money agreement made between he and the umpire on the building and miscellaneous coverages.
The handwriting was on the wall. The carrier finally acknowledged the heavy damage our client had experienced. Ed's experience had paid off for the client. In fact, the client's accountant told Ed that everything that Ed told them would happen, did happen. After further negotiations, a settlement was reached. Due to a confidentially agreement, we cannot disclose the names of the parties or the amount of the settlement. However, we can tell you that it was more than five times the original insurance company estimate and represented an amount that allowed the client to adequately repair and replace the damage. The client and her accountant were very pleased with the result and glad they had retained a public adjuster to represent their best interest.
Note: Photo is only representative and not of actual damaged property due to confidentiality agreement.