Since 1983, Chip Merlin has served as a plaintiff’s attorney with a focus on commercial & residential property insurance claim disputes and bad faith insurance litigation. Chip is a noted national authority on insurance bad faith, lecturing to national trade groups and publishing a number of papers and articles on the subject for organizations such as The American Association for Justice, The Florida Justice Association, The Windstorm Insurance Network, and Trial Magazine.

As founder and president of Merlin Law Group, Chip has dedicated his practice to the representation and advocacy of insurance policyholders in disputes with insurance companies nationwide.

Chip served as Chair for the Bad Faith Insurance Litigation Group and Secretary for the Fire and Property Insurance Litigation Group for the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America). He was also Vice-Chair for the Subcommittee on Property Insurance Law for the American Bar Association.
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How many policyholders, public adjusters, and appraisers become concerned when the judge picks an umpire who does not seem to have much experience with property insurance or the appraisal process? One reason I suggest that “all parties involved in an appraisal should try very hard to put their heads together to agree on someone they both think will be fair,” as noted in How Do Judges Appoint Umpires in an Appraisal? A Case Example from Louisiana, is that an inexperienced umpire can ruin the appraisal and cause further delays for everybody.

Continue Reading What Happens if the Court Appointed Umpire Ruins the Appraisal? Is There a “Do Over?”

How do judges appoint an umpire in an appraisal? Most appraisal clauses say words to this effect:

If the appraisers do not agree on the selection of an umpire within 15 days, they must request selection of an umpire by a judge of a court having jurisdiction.

Continue Reading How Do Judges Appoint Umpires in an Appraisal? A Case Example from Louisiana

Some states seem to be indicating that public adjusters act as fiduciaries for their policyholder clients. For example, Kentucky states that all adjusters “shall act in a fiduciary capacity on behalf of his or her principal.”1 Florida case law refers to public adjusters as a fiduciary.2 I made reference to the apparent fiduciary capacity being placed upon public adjusters at a recent public adjuster ethics presentation I made in California at the CAPIA Annual meeting. Many public adjusters might wonder—“What does it mean to act as a fiduciary?”

Continue Reading Ethics For Public Adjusters—What Does Acting as a Fiduciary Mean?

A condominium made a claim arguing that unstable excavation material, which became heavy enough due to spring runoff, fell down a mountainside, causing damage to the condominium.1 The condominium made the following factual argument for coverage:   

Continue Reading The Specified Causes of Loss and Falling Objects—Can Debris Travelling Down a Mountain Be a Falling Object Triggering Coverage?

Property insurance adjusters sometimes ask me whether a loss comes within the “specified perils” coverage of the policy. What does “specified perils” mean?  When one goes to the International Risk Management Institute (IRMI) website, under “insurance definitions,” the term “specified perils coverage” is defined as the following:

Specified perils coverage is an obsolete auto physical damage term.

Continue Reading What Are the Specified Perils? What Is Falling Objects?

When an insured incurs expenses to prevent a potential loss, a situation arises that raises equitable and traditional insurance principles versus language not found in non-marine property insurance policies. This scenario, where the insured takes proactive steps to avert a loss that the insurer would have been liable for, raises a pivotal question: Should the insured be entitled to reimbursement for these preventative expenses?

Continue Reading Who Pays the Costs to Prevent a Loss?

As we gather around our tables this Thanksgiving, adorned with the traditional spread of turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, it’s a time to reflect on what we are truly grateful for. For many of us, this includes the roof over our heads and the safety and security our homes provide. In the spirit of this season, let’s take a moment to appreciate the role of property insurance in our lives and the importance of understanding and advocating for our rights as policyholders.

Continue Reading A Thanksgiving Reflection for Policyholders

Do you remember the post, Church Mutual Found To Be Systematically Underpaying Claims By a Federal Judge and Engle Martin Grossly Underestimated the Loss? Guess who was found guilty of engaging in unfair insurance claims practices last week? Church Mutual.1 Why would any church subject its parishioners to such unholy claim delays, denial, and underpayment?

Continue Reading Church Mutual Is Not So Holy When It Comes to Good Faith Claims Practices

Consider a scenario where a structure, such as a brand new home, is completely destroyed by a fire just a day after the homeowner moves in. In this instance, the replacement cost, which undeniably encompasses the general contractor’s overhead and profit, should be a direct reflection of the actual cash value. This is because, as per the given example, there has been no depreciation to the property.

Continue Reading Insurance Commissioners and Regulators Need to Protect Policyholders From Disappearing Actual Cash Value Benefits

The principle of indemnity has been a pivotal topic in insurance cases and treatises, especially in discussions about the meaning of ‘actual cash value’ in policies before the emergence of what are commonly referred to as so called ‘replacement cost’ policies, which dominate the market today. The term ‘so-called’ is deliberately used here to underscore a key aspect of most replacement cost policies: they typically pay only the actual cash value until the actual replacement occurs. This is highlighted in the paper, The Indemnity Principle: From a Financial to a Functional Paradigm, which delves into the historical inadequacies of actual cash value policies in fulfilling policyholders’ needs. It underscores the necessity for a new kind of insurance product, one that guarantees sufficient funds to cover the full cost of replacement or repair as needed. This paper noted:  

Continue Reading Does a Structure Have a Market Value? Arriving at Actual Cash Value In Partial Loss Situations Before Replacement Cost Policies Existed