Many decades ago, fair property deals were made with a simple handshake. Sometimes along with their handshake, gentlemen1 would add “you have my word” to seal a deal. Times have surely changed.
Recently, I had a fantastic dinner with a bona fide Expert Risk Manager,2 a Dallas County Judge,3 an Assistant City Attorney,4 and a proud Mother of 7 daughters.5 During dinner, we discussed how people used to make promises and keep them. Deals and agreements were almost never reduced to writing since they were made by people with good intentions. Somewhere along the way there was a deal that fell through because one or both of the parties couldn’t remember all the terms of the deal. Since the very first breach of a “gentlemen’s agreement,”6 contracts have morphed into written instruments designed to include and exclude every possible detail that may be more beneficial to one party than the other.
Your insurance policy started as an agreement between you and a company you trusted with your money and your property. Instead of making a deal with a handshake, you signed your name after reading several pages of a policy that was explained to you by your Insurance Agent. Lo and behold! A hail storm and tornado hit your town and pummeled your roof. So, you filed a claim and asked for fairness on the deal you entered into with your insurer.
You thought you were starting off in the right direction. Unfortunately, your insurer thought your direction was all wrong. As a matter of fact, the insurer no longer remembers the details of your agreement, which it wrote, and determines your claim should be denied. Lucky for you, the Supreme Court of Texas stepped in. “When an insurer denies coverage, appraisers can still set the amount of loss in case the insurer turns out to be wrong.”7
In a perfect world, the insured pays a premium and the insurer pays the claim. If the parties can’t agree on the amount or extent of the loss, they can go to appraisal. During appraisal, an umpire makes a determination, and the insurer pays the award. When things don’t go as planned, you get expert legal advice and let the lawyers duke it out. After a showdown in a Texas court, you get your justice. Since the world is imperfect, all of this is going on while you continue to pay the insurer premiums.
We are no longer living in the Wild West era; so, make sure you have the right legal team experienced in property insurance litigation when it’s time for a showdown based on more than a gentlemen’s agreement.
1 A Gentlemen’s Agreement is “an unwritten agreement that, while not legally enforceable, is secured by the parties’ good faith and honor.” Black’s Law Dictionary.
2 Don Lamont , owner of D.A. Lamont Public Adjusters.
3 The Honorable Julia Hayes, Judge of Dallas County Criminal Court #2.
4 Petrina Thompson, Assistant City Attorney for the City of Dallas.
5 Rhonda Lamont, wife of Don Lamont.
6 In early Western Civilization, men were the only people who could legally own property or conduct business. That is where the "gentleman’s" in "gentleman’s agreement" originates. Men would enter into honor-bound agreements and prefer to keep them despite personal loss, all to retain their integrity.
7 State Farm Lloyds v. Johnson, 290 S.W. 3d 886 (Tex. 2009).