Starting July 1, 2021 a new Florida law changes the way attorneys get paid to help with insurance claims.
Under the old law if an attorney could get $1.00 more from the insurance companies for handling your insurance claim. The Florida attorney was almost guaranteed to get paid their attorney legal fees and costs. The policyholder client had very little to lose when hiring an attorney to sue their insurance company. Even if they lost the case. This gave rise to all the advertising of no recovery – no fee.
The new statues require an attorney to send a ten day mandatory pre-suit notice of intent to file suit to the insurance company. The lawyer must state the facts giving rise to the lawsuit and include an estimate of damages if the claim was denied.
If the claim was under paid and not denied, the attorney must include a settlement demand which includes the amount of their attorney fees, claim inspection costs, along with the amount of the dispute.
In response, the insurance company can accept coverage, or continue to deny coverage of the insurance claim.
Then the carrier has 14 days to ask to re-inspect the property damages, then the Florida Insurance carrier can ask for Appraisal or Mediation if the claim is not denied.
The amount the lawyer can potentially recover for their client is based on the initial disputed amount of the claim.
- If the attorney gets 20% or less of the disputed amount, the insurance company does not owe attorney fees.
- If the attorney gets between 20% and 50% of the disputed amount, the attorney fees will be reduced and the attorney will only get the percentage of fee they obtained.
- If the attorney gets over 50% of the disputed amount, the insurance carrier is responsible for all of the fees and costs.
Depending on the outcome of your case? It is possible that if the attorney does not get reimbursed for their fees and claim costs? Most likely if the attorney does not get full recovery of their expenses? The attorney is going to seek reimbursement from the policy holder/client policy for their out-of-pocket expenses.
If your insurance claim was denied you have very little recourse accept to hire a first party property attorney to get what you are entitled to from your insurance company. If your insurance claim has been improperly denied by your insurance company? It much better to get something than nothing!
However, if your claim was underpaid or low balled, the policy holder has other options prior to having to hire an attorney.
The new law says that the insurance company can re-inspect the property damages, and then ask for Appraisal or Mediation. The option of going to Appraisal or Mediation is going to depend on the language of your insurance policy.
Mediation is a non-binding process that often is used as a delay tactic by the insurance company. Not resulting in a satisfactory claim settlement outcome.
Appraisal is a binding (Alternative Dispute Resolution) where you usually do not need a lawyer to get involved (Unless, the appraiser you hire cannot agree with the insurance companies’ appraiser in the choosing of an umpire). Often, an attorney is used in the limited capacity to go before a local judge to help select the umpire. It is crucial for a successful appraisal outcome to choose a fair and neutral umpire. If two of the three participants of the appraisal panel agree to a figure for your damages, it is binding.
When an appraisal is finished, you can NOT go to court to dispute the outcome.
How Long Will Appraisal Take?
The new Florida law requires mediation or appraisal to be completed in 90 days.
Now that it has been months since you have reported your claim to your insurance company. Your insurance company possibly sent out one, two or three field adjusters, other experts, such as water mitigation companies, mold companies, and/or engineers – but you are still not happy with the claim handling and settlement as you have not been properly paid.
You reach a crossroads in the claim process where you tell your insurance carrier that you are not satisfied with their settlement! Leaving you with three choices
- Go to non-binding mediation
- Go to appraisal
- Hire an attorney
Time wise your want to house fixed now but you did not receive enough money for your damages. The average time frame to go to mediation and get a date and time with the Florida Department of Financial Services, is two to three months.
Under the new law the insurance carrier has ten days to be put on notice of the dispute and 14 days to re-inspect your claim. Then generally the insurance company has 20 days to respond to your request for appraisal. The two appraisers have 10 or 15 days to agree upon an umpire. Then do their initial inspection and share the results with each other to either come to an agreement or bring in the umpire. Typically, the appraisal process takes between two to three months. Not to exceed 90 days under the new law.
Lastly, after 204 days you can hire an attorney to file suite. It is my experience that the average lawsuit, if settled prior to going to trial, take an average of one and half years to two years.
More Information on Senate Bill 76