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Appraisal

Appraisal has long been utilized as a tool for resolution of disputes over the amount of loss at issue in property insurance claims. Appraisal was once an amicable, prompt, and independent process to resolve claims when coverage was undisputed and the only issue was the fair price, valuation, or worth of damaged property – when the insurance company and policyholder were unable to agree on the “amount of loss.” 

In recent years, however, appraisal has devolved from an efficient way for the insured and insurer to promptly resolve a disputed claim into a non-judicial dispute resolution process largely devoid of procedural rules or ethical guidelines. This devolution is largely the result of courts broadening the scope of appraisal and the emergence of a cottage industry of individuals – “professional appraisers,” “claim consultants,” public adjusters, roofing contractors, and others – many of whom try to game the system for their own benefit rather than that of the insureds they represent.  The result is a process run amok that often gives rise to more disputes (and litigation) than it resolves.

While there are typically only modest variations among appraisal provisions found in modem property insurance policies, there are significant jurisdictional variations in the way such provisions are enforced and construed. Some jurisdictions lack a well-developed body of case law addressing questions relating to appraisal, but others have been confronted often with fundamental questions regarding its nature, scope, and purpose. The decisions arising out of these cases have, in some instances, clarified the law of appraisal and provided needed guidance to parties seeking to use this important contractual right to resolve loss measurement disputes.  Others have merely confused the issues concerning appraisal's proper scope and its ultimate value as an efficient dispute resolution tool. 

When an insured and insurer find they cannot agree on the valuation of the loss and may consider appraisal as a tool to resolve the dispute, the advice of counsel well-versed in the appraisal process can be invaluable. Experienced counsel know the pitfalls associated with appraisal and can aid in defining its appropriate parameters - especially when one party seeks to expand the scope of appraisal into areas that should be reserved for courts.  Zelle attorneys know appraisal – backwards and forwards – and remain at the forefront of efforts to reign in the process and preserve its utility in the face of attacks by those who stand to gain by abusing it.  By working with its commercial insurance clients to propose amendments to appraisal policy wording, adding structure to the process through the use of appraisal protocols, and being vigilant and proactive with claim and litigation strategies designed to ensure a fair outcome, Zelle remains intent on preserving appraisal as an efficient tool for dispute resolution. 

Please contact us to discuss how Zelle can assist you in navigating the appraisal process.

Practice Contacts

Steven J. Badger

sbadger@zelle.com

214-557-8426

Lindsey Davis

ldavis@zelle.com

612-359-4237

G. Brian Odom

bodom@zelle.com

214-749-4240

Paul Sullivan

psullivan@zelle.com

781-466-0734

Todd M. Tippett

tippett@zelle.com

214-749-4261

Christopher L. Troy

ctroy@zelle.com

484-532-5340

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