Our clients often ask us the following question: "Is there a chance you can get back your attorney fees from the insurance company?" The short answer is yes. The long answer and accurate answer is: "We try to get back all the fees and costs, and may even have a chance through consumer protection statutes and bad faith claims to get back even more. The chances depend on the facts of the case."
For example, Kristin Demers-Crowell recently won an attorney fee Order against State Farm. Kristi represented a condominium on the East coast of Florida which had been hit by Hurricanes Francis and Jean. State Farm estimated the damages at approximately $716,000. The condominium’s public adjuster claimed more and demanded an appraisal to resolve the differences.
State Farm delayed naming its appraiser. After months, the condominium came to us for help. After we filed suit, State Farm finally started moving the appraisal along. State Farm still maintained its right to deny the claim following appraisal. Not surprisingly, the award from the appraisal panel was approximately $2.1 million, about three times State Farm’s estimate.
Kristin then filed a Motion for Entry of Final Judgment and To Determine Entitlement to Attorneys Fee and Costs. State Farm fought the entitlement to fees and lost. The amount of the fees and costs will be determined later.
On a side note, State Farm hired two engineers that routinely work for insurance companies and whose opinions always seem to favor less damage and less coverage for the policyholder. While the bad faith and claim practice lawsuit has not been filed yet, one of the recurrent themes with State Farm is that it claims not to act in an outcome oriented manner, but routinely supports its positions with experts that are outcome oriented to find less damage and coverage.
Also, we sometimes do work with Stephen Sarasohn, a public adjuster in the Boca Raton area. Stephen tells me that when he gets retained on a State Farm loss, he always carries several old State Farm files with him to show the State Farm adjuster. He tells and then shows the State Farm adjuster that State Farm’s reserve and estimate should be tripled because State Farm usually determines a loss at one third of the actual value. This is exactly what happened in our case.
You would think the field adjusters would report what Stephen Sarasohn told them to their State Farm managers. State Farm, if it truly wanted to make certain its policyholders were getting every penny they deserved, would contact Stephen and find out why their estimates are routinely low. Possibly, State Farm claims management already knows and simply does not want to change.