What is State of Florida Insurance Claim Mediation Program and how to get the outcome you are seeking.
The Florida Department of Financial Services began the Florida Insurance Mediation Program as a way to assist in resolving claim disputes between the Insurance Companies and you, the policyholder. Here is how it works, first you request assistance through the Florida Insurance Mediation Program by contacting the Florida DFS, you can either submit your request through their website or call the number listed. After the request is made there is a 21 day period for the insurance company to review your file and possibly attempt to settle the matter prior to the mediation conference. After the 21 day waiting period you will hear from a mediator to set up the date and time of the conference. Often times policyholders will choose to bring a representative, possibly a Florida Public Adjuster or an Attorney, in this event you should advise the mediator of who will be attending with you.
When you arrive at the mediation conference you will meet with a representative of the insurance company and a neutral mediator. The Mediator in these conferences has no binding authority to force either side to settle the claim, they are simply there to facilitate the process and potentially help the parties understand each others points of view to assist in reaching an amicable resolution for the dispute. After a brief introduction the mediator will most likely ask for you to state your case explaining why you are in mediation and then allow the insurance companies representative to state their case. At this point many times the mediator will move the parties into different rooms and speak to each party individually in hopes that an agreement can be made. Keep in mind that the mediation process is NOT binding unless both parties agree to a settlement.
We receive many last minute phone calls from insureds that are scheduled for the Florida Insurance Mediation Program and are in a slight state of panic as the mediation date gets closer and they realize that they are entering uncharted waters. It can be an intimidating process to go through alone. The insurance companies representative has most likely been to hundreds of these hearings while you as the insured most likely have not been to even one. For that reason I would like to offer a few tips to any insured going through the Florida Insurance Mediation Program without representation.
MEDIATION TIPS FROM THE PUBLIC ADJUSTERS AT CLAIM CONCEPTS:
- BE PREPARED! If your claim is denied, read and reread the reason for denial. Reference your policy to see the context of
what they sited. Sometimes the policies can be confusing, they may exclude an item and them include it through endorsements. If your claim was underpaid, have a solid argument stating exactly what was underpaid and why you feel it was underpaid.
- KNOW WHAT YOU WANT! Many times I have heard mediation horror stories from clients that went to mediation alone. The first question I ask is what were you asking for? You need to know what you want to get out of the mediation if you want it to be successful and you need to have the documentation to back it up. Don’t go in blind, have estimates, receipts, invoices, etc…with you.
- DO NOT GET EMOTIONAL! I have heard stories of insureds getting very heated and sometimes even storming out of the room. Remember the old phrase, “You attract more bees with honey..” It is so very true in mediation. Yelling, cussing and insulting the insurance company’s representative is not going to get you what you want.
- KNOW YOUR OPTIONS! The Florida Insurance Mediation Program is not the only avenue to resolve your claim. Depending on the situation you may have an Appraisal provision that you can invoke or of course there is always litigation. Knowing your options and their pluses and minuses will help you make the best decision for you.
- IF NOT COMFORTABLE BRING REPRESENTATION! The insurance companies do have an advantage in this process being that they are sending in a seasoned representative and most of the time the insured shows up representing themselves. This is why the insurance companies encourage the process. Whether you bring a Reputable Public Adjuster, Attorney, Engineer, etc…I do feel you will have a greater chance in resolving your dispute.
If you are thinking about going through the process or are already scheduled for the Florida Insurance Mediation Program and have any questions, give us a call, we are happy to help out. You can also read the State’s brochure on the mediation program here.