Industry News

Insured Get More Rights In Dispute Over Claims Appraisals Extend To Policyholders

By Jonathna D. Epstein
The Buffalo News
Saturday, May 15, 2010



Policyholders in the state now can force insurance companies to hire an independent appraiser or adjuster to determine the value of damages if they have a dispute with their insurance carrier.

A law just signed by Gov. David A. Patterson allows policyholders and insurers to compel each other to resolve their differences through a system similar to binding arbitration.

As envisioned, each side would choose an appraiser, and those two appraisers would choose an “umpire” to issue a ruling. The decision would be binding.

In the past, policyholders had to accept an insurer’s offer or file a lawsuit, a more costly and time-consuming alternative to arbitration or an independent appraisal.

Insurers could force policyholders to go to an appraisal, but consumers lacked the same power.

Ronald J. Papa, president of Amherst-based National Fire Adjustment Co., said the new law “helps to level the playing field for policyholders in New York State.”

The National Fire Adjustment Co., which claims to be the largest public adjusting firm in North America, has offices in New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Jamestown, Utica, Potsdam and Elmira in New York, as well as in Erie, Pa.; West Palm Beach and Tampa, Florida; and Toronto and Kingston, Ont.

The legislation was sponsored by Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle, D-Irondequoit, and Sen. Neil D. Breslin, D-Albany.