I spent October 1st and 2nd in San Antonio at the Insurance Appraisal and Umpire Association (IAUA) meeting. The IAUA is made up of appraisers and umpires from both the policy holder and insurer sides.

One of the presentations was a titled a “Global Perspective on Appraisal” and one of the speakers stated that appraisal has been around for over 110 years in Texas. He then pointed out that in the first 100 years prior to 2009 there were 18 reported cases dealing with appraisal but that in the 10 years starting in 2009 there are now over 200 reported cases. I have never taken the time to count the cases, but I assume the numbers are correct and the trend is clear to anyone that practices in the area of first party insurance claims – appraisals have become much more prevalent and led to more litigation than ever before.

Another of the presentations dealt specifically with recent developments in Texas on appraisal and focused on recent Texas Supreme Court and 5th Circuit Court of Appeals opinions. Both presentations allowed the attendees to ask questions and it became abundantly clear that while everyone agrees appraisal is needed at times and should be about finding the proper amount of loss that in reality that is not always what is happening. Without finger-pointing and blaming the other side the questions dealt with delays, umpire selection, causation issues, changes in policies, legal effects of appraisal, who can be an appraiser/umpire, and how to deal with inherent bias for one party. The take-away was often both sides (even both attorneys from different sides) agree conceptually on what should happen in a perfect world but that in reality the courts will still have issues to sort out and much of the growing pains in appraisal are taking place right here in Texas.

Ultimately the ability to discuss the issues with experts from the other side of the claim allows everyone to learn new ideas and understand some of the problems and maybe some solutions (personally I have had discussions with an appraiser who represents the other side on a couple of my cases and two umpires that I have seen on my cases). One of them said maybe the most important thing to remember, “we all represent the insured ultimately… the insurance company and the policy holder advocates…we all should have the goal of making sure the policyholder gets paid properly after the disaster that damages their property.” With that being said I highly recommend IAUA to anyone that wants to learn more about the appraisal process.

It doesn’t look like appraisal is going away anytime soon. If you have a question about the current state of appraisal law in a specific venue feel free to contact a Merlin Law Group attorney.