Policyholders at odds with their insurers over Hurricane Ida damage claims may now be able to resolve their disputes through a mediation program created by the Louisiana Department of Insurance, a press release states.
“I’m confident this new mediation program will be helpful in solving claim disputes between insurers and policyholders and getting people what they need to put their homes and lives back in order,” said Commissioner Jim Donelon.
The Hurricane Ida Mediation Program begins this week and is open to all authorized property and casualty insurers and surplus lines insurers to facilitate disputes for personal lines residential insurance claims of up to $50,000. Participation in the Hurricane Ida program is voluntary for insurers and policyholders. The two mediation providers have agreed to provide the service for a flat fee of $600.
Details of the program are available in Bulletin 2021-08 [mailstats.ldi.la.gov]. The program is expected to run through June 30, 2022.
According to the release, here's how the mediations will work:
Either the insurer or the policyholder can make a written request for mediation, and the other party is free to accept or reject the invitation. If someone declines and later changes their mind, they are still eligible to participate in the program. Once a mediator is assigned to a case, they will promptly ask the parties to provide all relevant documentation and explain why they have been unable to resolve their differences, the release states.
The mediator will then have 30 days to set the date for mediation. All mediations will take place in either the Baton Rouge or New Orleans metropolitan area at locations provided by Mediation & Arbitration Professional Systems (MAPS) in Metairie or Perry Dampf Dispute Solutions in Baton Rouge, the release states.
The policyholder may have an attorney or other representative participate in the mediation as long as they give those names to the mediator in advance. Both insurers and policyholders are free to bring adjusters, appraisers, contractors or other knowledgeable individuals to the mediation, the release states.
Mediations will last up to 90 minutes. That period does not include mediator preparation time. If the parties come to resolution, they must sign an agreement that specifies which portions of the claim have been resolved and the dollar amount of their settlement. The insurer then has 10 days to pay the policyholder, the release states.
Policyholders should come to the mediation with a complete list of damages. If new damage is found or repair costs are higher than anticipated, the terms of the mediated settlement will govern whether the policyholder can re-open the claim.
If the parties reach partial agreement, they can continue to use the mediator’s services beyond the 90 minutes but will be responsible for the cost, the release states.