Ethical Rules for Insurance Umpires

WIND

WINDFlorida Insurance Appraisal Process

If you find yourself in appraisal with your insurance company to set the amount of damages for your claim, you might be interested in the ethical rules for insurance umpires.

Last month, the Windstorm Insurance Network or WIND, released their ethical rules for umpires to ensure the fairness and integrity of the appraisal process. The following are the ethical rules as of January 17, 2018:

An Umpire shall:

    1. Be a neutral party.
    2. Have no financial interest in any involved property or in the outcome of the appraisal.
    3. Disclose any previous business relationship with any party, appraiser or attorney retained by a party.
    4. Promptly disclose any potential conflict of interest before accepting an assignment as an umpire, and notify the parties immediately if a conflict or potential conflict arises during the course of the appraisal proceedings.
    5. Not accept any assignment that he or she is not certain he or she is qualified to handle.
    6. Confirm any fee arrangement with the parties in writing.
    7. Confirm the issues to be addressed in the appraisal in writing with the parties.
    8. Agree to inspect the property if requested to do so by either appraiser.
    9. Maintain impartiality and neutrality throughout the appraisal process and uphold the integrity of the proceedings.
    10. Share all communications with all members of the appraisal panel throughout the appraisal proceedings.
    11. Be responsible to proceed diligently to conclude the appraisal proceedings.
    12. Retain only unbiased, qualified and impartial experts.
    13. Inquire of any retained expert as to any potential conflict of the expert.
    14. Evaluate completely all presented facts and/or claims.
    15. To the best of his or her ability, follow the law of the jurisdiction of the property.
    16. Withdraw from the proceedings if a conflict arises and the conflict is not waived in writing by all parties after notice to the parties of the conflict.
    17. Not withhold signature on any appraisal award until payment for services is received.
    18. Maintain records in good order during the appraisal process in accordance with any applicable rules or guidelines for preservation once the matter is concluded.
    19. Keep true and accurate records of time, expense and fee billings.
    20. Keep an updated list of all properties and parties for which he or she served as an umpire for a period of seven (7) years.
    21. Maintain and keep current all applicable professional licenses and continuing education requirements.
    22. Be truthful and accurate in all marketing or advertising activities.

How Appraisal Works

Appraisal is an informal dispute resolution process to establish the amount of damages for an insurance claim. The availability of the appraisal process for your claim depends on the terms and conditions of your insurance policy. In short, you will need to review your insurance policy to determine if appraisal is available and how to invoke it for your claim.

Normally, each party selects their own appraiser. Often the parties will select the adjusters they are working with. That means the insurance company will select its independent insurance adjuster and the homeowner will select its public adjuster. If the two appraisers are unable to come to an agreement as to the amount of damages, they will need to agree on a third party to serve as an umpire. In the unlikely event the appraisers cannot agree on an umpire, a petition will need to be filed in Court for a judge to select a neutral umpire.

The Appraisal Umpire

The umpire will, in the end, be the deciding voice as to the amount of damages for the claim. To reach this decision, the umpire can and often visits the property to see the damages, reviews repair estimates, and speaks with the property owners, experts, or repair personnel. The umpire’s appraisal award must be signed by at least one of the other appraisers for it to be final. Absent a showing of fraud or collusion, the final decision of the umpire will set the amount of loss.

Integrity of the Appraisal Process

As you can see, the umpire is an important participant in the appraisal process. Given the importance, it is crucial to select the right umpire for your appraisal. Retired judges often serve as umpires for insurance appraisals. In any case, you will want to have an umpire that is familiar with the unique issues that your insurance claim presents as well as being a person of unquestioned ethics and honesty. 

WIND

The Windstorm Insurance Network has positioned itself as an organization whose mission is to promote education, awareness, and fairness for the insurance claim process. In doing so, WIND has established criteria and standards for its members along with a certification process for umpires and appraisers. Verifying that your umpire is WIND certified helps to ensure you will be treated fairly during the appraisal process.


About the AuthorPatrick Russell, Esq., has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1994 and is an experienced Florida insurance lawyer. Patrick started his insurance law practice more than twenty years ago when he represented homeowners and business owners for their Hurricane Andrew insurance claims. The purpose of this article is educational and not for the solicitation of legal services. The goal is to avoid the mistakes learned from the past, specifically those from previous windstorms. Knowledge is power. Information is free. Mistakes are costly. If you would like more tips on how to process your Florida insurance claim, Patrick can be reached at (305) 608-2977 or here.

 

Ethics and Professionalism

Ethics

EthicsTo Be or Not to Be

Some will say that a person can be judged by the company he keeps. Whether fair or not, hanging out with people of questionable ethics and professionalism can reflect badly on you. This can be troubling for lawyers as a group when the public perception of lawyers is not all that good. To separate yourself, the choice is easy, do the right thing each day, one day at a time.

Ethics is a Choice

For me, the better judge of a person is what they say and what they do. Ethics at the end is all about choice. Will you do the right thing? By doing right, ethically and professionally, you can rise above others and at the same time, raise the public perception of all lawyers. We are lawyers all the time, not just in the courtroom. The practice of law is a privilege, and as such the Florida Supreme Court holds us to a higher standard than other citizens. That means our interactions in our private lives matter just as much as those in the law office. We can and must do better. Let us not be the problem, but let’s be the solution, one lawyer at a time. The world is full of problems, legal and otherwise. When it comes to legal issues, we have a duty to solve problems, not create more problems or delay resolutions just because we can.

Ethics and Professionalism CLE Presentations

As an ethics trial counsel, I deal with these issues on a daily basis. Most of the time that means I am dealing with the results of a lack of ethics or professionalism. Recently I have made it a point to be proactive when it comes to ethics and professionalism. I have gotten out of the office and started to make presentations to both small and big groups to raise awareness how a lack of ethics or professionalism affects us all. Last month I spoke during an advanced mediation training session for Effective Mediation Consultants as to the ethical dilemmas facing lawyers and mediators during mediation. Likewise, last week I spoke to law students at the Professional Responsibility and Ethics Program for the University of Miami School of Law. In both cases, the feedback was amazing and all seemed to learn something new and enjoyed the presentations.  

If you too believe in this mission, please let me know. I have one Florida Bar approved CLE program for ethics with several others in development. I routinely provide these ethics CLE sessions free of charge as a public service, and I would be happy to travel to your location for a “lunch and learn”. 


About the AuthorPatrick Russell, Esq., has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1994 and is an ethics trial counsel with The Florida Bar as well as an experienced Florida insurance lawyer. If you would like to schedule a “lunch and learn” ethics CLE presentation for your law firm or group, Patrick can be reached at (305) 608-2977 or here.

8 Tips for Florida Insurance Claims

Florida Insurance Claim Tips

Florida Insurance Claim Tips

 

Having been in the trenches for quite some time as a Miami Insurance Lawyer, here are some useful and simple tips for maximizing the chances of recovery in your Florida insurance claim:

  1. Report Your Claim As Soon As Possible.  Florida law and your insurance policy require that you timely report your claim to the insurance company. Make that call as soon as you discover damages.  This allows the insurance company to document that you are making a claim right away.  That early claim call also gives the insurance company the opportunity to investigate the damages and their cause.  You should not wait to call the claim in while you do your own investigation.  You will have plenty of time after you make the initial claim call to hire contractors, adjusters, lawyers, and secure estimates, photos, and expert opinions.          
  2. Take Pictures and Video.  Document your claim by taking pictures and video of the damages.  When documenting the damages, be sure to get different perspectives of the damages, both close-up and an overview of the room/location where the damages are located.  If you can, be sure to put a time and date stamp on your pictures and video.  Remember, the star of your photos and video should be all of the damages, make sure you can actually see them by using proper lighting and distance.  Finally but just as important, take pictures and video of the cause of damages while it is happening if possible.  That means, if a storm or leaky pipe has caused damages, try to get pictures and video of the storm or of the leaky pipe.  If your home was flooded out, get pictures and video of the actual water on the floor.
  3. Make Temporary Repairs to Stop Additional Damage.  You will need to mitigate your damages which simply means you need to stop additional damages from taking place.  You cannot stand by and let your property become further damaged under you watch if you could have prevented the same.  For example, put a tarp on a leaky roof, turn off the water and repair that broken pipe, remove excess water from the home before it damages other areas or causes mold.  Taking pictures or video of your temporary repairs will help prove that you did all that you could to stop further damage.
  4. Create a Claim Diary.  Since memories fade and to assist you later in recalling the events, create a written diary of what took place during your claim.  Create the diary as soon as possible and begin each entry with a date, time, location and the people involved.  Your first entry should document when you first observed the damages, what you saw, what you believe caused the damages, and what you did in response to the discovery.  Every entry after that should note any further observations, meetings, or conversations regarding your claim.
  5. Obtain Repair Estimates.  You will need to know what it will cost for a real licensed contractor to repair your damages.  This is needed in order to evaluate whether the insurance company’s estimate is fair and reasonable.  Do not assume that the insurance company has your best interests in mind during the claims settlement process.  More often than not an insurance company estimate either fails to address all the damages or undervalues the cost of materials or labor for the repairs.  
  6. Create a Receipt File.  To properly document your damages, you will need to hold on to and produce those receipts you have for the damaged property.  The needed receipts could include those you were given for temporary repairs (plumbers), supplies for making repairs, and the original receipts for damaged personal property (furniture, electronics, etc.).  In the end it is your burden to prove that you either incurred expenses for repairs or owned property that was damaged so it is very important to have receipts or photos for it all.  This is incredibly important when there is a theft or fire claim and you can no longer show the property to the insurance company.  A good practice is to make an inventory of your possessions that would include receipts and photos before you even have an insurance claim.  Scanning all of this and keeping it digitally in a safe place or online is a good practice.
  7. Respond to Your Insurance Company.  You have a duty to assist your insurance company during its investigation of your claim.  As such, be sure to return all telephone calls to the insurance company and to open/respond to all of its letters to you.  Assist the insurance company with all of their reasonable demands for inspections, interviews, and document requests.  If you feel uncomfortable with the requests being made upon you by the insurance company, consult immediately with a Florida insurance lawyer for advice and help.  You have the right to have legal counsel and you also have the right to have your lawyer present during any interview,  recorded statement, or examination under oath.  Further, you have a right to not disclose irrelevant confidential or financial information.  Insurance companies can tend to be invasive when it comes to their demands and they sometimes seek tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements and telephone records.  These requests must be evaluated by your legal counsel to protect your rights, simply do not refuse to produce and give the insurance company another reason to deny your claim.  Ignoring these request will be at your own peril and you really should obtain a Florida insurance lawyer to help you if you feel your privacy rights are being threatened.
  8. Hire a Florida Public Adjuster.  From the beginning, a licensed Florida Public Adjuster can give you the confidence and advice for how to proceed with your claim in order to maximize the chances of a proper recovery.  A proper recovery means getting paid everything that you are owed in terms of scope (what is covered) and cost (damages). Unless you are a seasoned insurance adjuster or have handled many claims on your own, seek the proper help you need from the start.  You would not perform surgery on yourself, so don’t handle an insurance claim for your most prized possession on your own. Only a Florida Public Adjuster can tell you what the proper damages are for your claim. Do not rely upon the insurance company to tell you what you are owed. Figure it out on your own and fight for it. 

About the Author: Patrick Russell, Esq., has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1994 and is an experienced Florida insurance lawyer. Patrick started his insurance law practice more than twenty years ago when he represented homeowners and business owners for their Hurricane Andrew insurance claims. The purpose of this article is educational and not for the solicitation of legal services. The goal is to avoid the mistakes learned from the past, specifically those from previous windstorms. Knowledge is power. Information is free. Mistakes are costly. If you would like more tips on how to process your Florida insurance claim, Patrick can be reached at (305) 608-2977 or here.

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, November 9, 2015

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, November 9, 2015

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, November 9, 2015Here are some recent articles of interest that I found this week related to law practice management, law technology, and legal marketing. Enjoy!

Legal Productivity Tips: Scheduling tasks on your calendar
If you want to be productive, you must embrace the power of scheduling your tasks. You have two main tools that help you do this: your to-do list and your calendar. Your to-do list is the place where you define and organize what you’re going to do.
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LinkedIn Lessons: Tips for properly using LinkedIn to network
With more than 380 million members, LinkedIn is the most popular social network for professionals and one of the top social networks overall. But are you using LinkedIn to its fullest potential?
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Thank you for reading (and sharing). Stay tuned for next week’s weekly review for Law Practice Tips and Florida Insurance Law!

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, November 2, 2015

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, November 2, 2015

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, November 2, 2015Here are some recent articles of interest that I found this week related to law practice management, law technology, and legal marketing. Enjoy!

Productivity Tips: Productivity Hacks and Tips by Industry Movers and Shakers
How do you cope with the pressure to optimize everything? In our latest series on LinkedIn, “Productivity Hacks,” we asked some of the world’s top business leaders to share their systems and strategies for getting more done in less time.
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Building a Successful Law Firm from Scratch: The Top Ten List
Here are 11 pieces of advice that I wish someone had given to me before I launched my own law firm.
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Law Practice Tips: Rethinking Time
How did we decide our days would be broken up into “weekdays” and “weekends” and “business hours” and “personal time?” If you are someone’s employee, these concepts make sense. But not necessarily if you’re an entrepreneur or in an eat-what-you-kill environment.
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Law Practice Management Tips: 10 Tips to being a Happier Lawyer
Many people think that being a lawyer is a miserable way to make a living, but I see lots of happy lawyers all the time. What these attorneys have in common is, first and foremost, a heartfelt dedication to serving their clients that goes way beyond earning a paycheck.
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Thank you for reading (and sharing). Stay tuned for next week’s weekly review for Law Practice Tips and Florida Insurance Law!

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, October 12, 2015

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, October 12, 2015

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, October 12, 2015Here are some recent articles of interest that I found this week related to law practice management, law technology, and legal marketing. Enjoy!

Florida Law Updates: Florida House reviews open carry gun law today
A bill that would let people in Florida carry their guns out in the open is up for its first debate on Tuesday.
How to stop gun violence in Florida will be all the talk in Tallahassee as members of the Legislature look at a bill (HB 163) that would let people wear their guns on their hips in most places, including out shopping with their families.
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Florida Law Update: New Florida laws that went into effect on October 1st
27 new laws are going into effect today in the state.
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Florida Practice Management Tips: Writing the Great Lawyer Bio
The About page on your law firm website is probably the second-most visited page. Make sure you do it justice by writing a bio that engages your audience. How you go about writing your bio is not as challenging as you may think — as long as you are willing to approach it correctly.
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Florida Legal Practice Tips: Engage your audience with good visuals
I have been to my fair share of conferences. Most are fine, if unmemorable. You check-in, making sure to sign the CLE sheet, and grab a cup of coffee before settling in for a session. If the wi-fi actually works, most of the session ends up getting taken up with responding to emails — unless you are feeling a little lazy, in which case you run through your go-to series of websites (which hopefully includes ATL), hoping to catch an interesting article. Eventually it is time for lunch, and after you attend a session or two in the afternoon, cocktail hour arrives.
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Florida Practice of Law: Reciprocity and Admission by Motion debate continues
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Thank you for reading (and sharing). Stay tuned for next week’s weekly review for Law Practice Tips and Florida Insurance Law!

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, October 5, 2015

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, October 5, 2015

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, October 5, 2015Here are some recent articles of interest that I found this week related to law practice management, law technology, and legal marketing. Enjoy!

Legal Tool Tip: Meeting Wizard to schedule group calls or meetings
Use MeetingWizard to arrange and schedule meetings and other events. As a productivity tool it makes the planning process easier and more effective.
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Thank you for reading (and sharing). Stay tuned for next week’s weekly review for Law Practice Tips and Florida Insurance Law!

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, September 14, 2015

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, September 14, 2015

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, September 14, 2015Here are some recent articles of interest that I found this week related to law practice management, law technology, and legal marketing. Enjoy!

Playing Politics with our Court System, a really bad idea.
A ruling this week by a Kansas judge put the courts on a collision course with the state legislature and raised the specter of a shutdown of courthouses statewide.
The confrontation stems from budget legislation passed by the Republican-controlled legislature in June containing something akin to a self-destruct button. The provision said that if a Kansas court were to strike down a 2014 law concerning the selection of chief judges, funding for the courts would be “declared null and void.”
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Law Practice Management: Do Not Compete on Price or you will lose
Are you being continually forced to compete for clients based on price? If so, then you need to be aware of what is at the root of this problem: chasing the wrong prospects is the basis of all pricing problems.
Casting a wide net for clients without applying any targeting criteria is dangerous because sometimes it works. The clients you get by doing this are inevitably those that will pound you on price and beat up on your staff as well.
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Law Practice Tips: Fixing Your Bio on Your Webpage
If a client comes to your website homepage, once they confirm that they have in fact come to a lawyer’s website, the first thing they want to know is who they will be working with.
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Florida Legal Updates: Taxi Drivers sue Florida regarding Uber
The spat between taxi companies and Uber-style ride services, already divisive in three counties, got uglier this week.
Taxi firms in Tallahassee and Broward County sued the state, alleging its agencies aren’t requiring Uber and competitor Lyft to prove the way they calculate trip distances, and charges, is accurate, the News Service of Florida reports.
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Florida Fraud Law: Wire Transfer Scams
n May, the North Carolina State Bar and Lawyers Mutual warned about fraudulent activity related to wired funds in real estate transactions. The scam described in those alerts involved communications from a purported seller or realtor asking the attorney to modify the way closing proceeds should be delivered – either changing from a check to a wire, or changing the wire instructions from one bank account to another. In fact, a scammer had gained access to the email account of one of the parties to the transaction. When the lawyer follows the false instructions, funds are delivered to the scammer’s bank account and cannot be retrieved.
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Thank you for reading (and sharing). Stay tuned for next week’s weekly review for Law Practice Tips and Florida Insurance Law!

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, August 31, 2015

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, August 31, 2015

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, August 31, 2015Here are some recent articles of interest that I found this week related to law practice management, law technology, and legal marketing. Enjoy!

Law Tips: Less perfect could be better for you and everyone else
In the past, my conversations with lawyers about perfectionism centered on getting and keeping clients, or reducing staff turnover. Lately, however, I’ve had a lot more discussions about the relationship between perfectionism and lawyer unhappiness.
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Law Practice Management Tips: Work-Life Balance – prioritize life outside of work
Work-life balance is such a great catchphrase, encapsulating the struggle we all face as we walk the tightrope between our careers and personal lives. If you ever worked in a large organization (think BigLaw), it probably looked like balance would be much easier to achieve outside the institution. What a shock, then, to go solo and find out balance is no easier to find, even without a senior partner breathing down your neck.
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Law Practice Management: How to handle “no money” clients
Many people “can afford” the things they want. They “can’t afford” the things they don’t want.
Unfortunately, you may not be perceived by these prospects as something they want. That’s a problem with you, not a problem with them. “Can’t afford” is our way of rationalizing our inability to create value for the person on the other end of the phone call or on the other side of the table.
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Thank you for reading (and sharing). Stay tuned for next week’s weekly review for Law Practice Tips and Florida Insurance Law!

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, August 24, 2015

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, August 24, 2015

Weekly Review for Miami Lawyer and Florida Legal News for Monday, August 24, 2015Here are some recent articles of interest that I found this week related to law practice management, law technology, and legal marketing. Enjoy!

FL Legal News: Lawyer texting to potential clients is not solicitation but can be regulated advertising
Reversing a decision of the Standing Committee on Advertising, the Bar Board of Governors has said a law firm can send texts to prospective clients as long as the messages comply with the Bar rules on written and email communications.

The board at its July 24 meeting accepted the recommendation of the Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics, which reviews advertising appeals to the board.

Read more here

Legal Practice Tips: Webinar for how to run your law firm like a business
Because most attorneys get out of law school wanting to do good and make their mark, especially when hanging their own shingle. Unfortunately, the realities of owning a firm swoop in and make the day-to-day not just challenging, but downright frustrating.

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Thank you for reading (and sharing). Stay tuned for next week’s weekly review for Law Practice Tips and Florida Insurance Law!