This week, I attended the Twelfth Annual WINSTORM Insurance Conference in Houston, Texas. This year’s conference was held at the perfect location in Houston- the Hilton Americans. The Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section of the American Bar was the co-sponsor and continuing education credits were offered to adjusters and attorneys in various states. This is only the second time the Conference was held outside of Florida, but nearly 1000 people registered as attendees and the number of exhibitor booths set a new record.

While I was at the conference, I had the opportunity to meet many new people and reconnect with some I only get to see once a year at WIND. During this four-day conference, I had the chance to attend several sessions on topics specifically devoted to windstorm insurance claim issues.

In the mediation seminar, useful information was provided that can help public insurance adjusters resolve claims. Whether the claim is resolved through mediation, settlement talks, or other alternative dispute resolution avenues, some tactics are universal. Panel member mediators, Kim Sands of Upchurch, White, Watson and Max, and Jon King, Esq., of Williams, Birnberg & Andersen LLP, provided insight from the neutral perspective in the course, “What Works, What Doesn’t: What Mediators Want You to Know: A View from the Fence.”

A few of the helpful tips that I took away from the seminar could help resolve any claim:

  • PLAN and PREPARE- The parties and their representatives need to be prepared to explain the issues of the case at the mediation. Policyholder representatives need to prepare the insureds for what to expect during the process of mediation or settlement talks. The policyholder’s claim needs to be presented with the proper support and documentation. Present the basis for the payment. It sounds simple, but supporting your position with evidence is persuasive and helps the mediator understand the claim and the issues.
  • SHARE- When it comes to the amount of the policyholder’s claim, the mediators suggest that some negotiations are more successful if the insurance company has a ballpark idea before sitting down to talk. By providing the claimed amount with supporting documentation, or at least references to the support, the insurer can make sure that the representative attending the mediation has the proper amount of authority. If the insurance company thinks the claim will settle for a much lower number, the representative available for the mediation may not have the authority to settle and settlement talks may be stymied or delayed.
  • MAKE SURE THE DECISION MAKER IS PRESENT- We all know that for a claim to get resolved, the policyholder has to give authority to present a demand or accept an offer, but this cannot happen if the proper policyholders are not available. Mediation is a process, and, by having all the players present, it is much easier to reach a resolution. Careful consideration should be given to corporations, condominium associations, and claims with multiple insureds. While authority can be assigned, for the sake of the policyholders relationships with each other, all decision makers should be present.

For more information on mediations in first-party insurance claims, Upchurch, White, Watson and Max has presented a series of webinars on this very topic. The webinars are available free of charge on their site. One seminar you might find particularly on point is now archived as Mediating First Party Bad Faith ~ A Mediator’s Perspective.

To learn more about the Windstorm Insurance Network, check out their website so you can participate next year. Be sure to note the newest president is our very own Chip Merlin. 2010 President Michaela Scheihing passed the torch to Chip in a ceremony on Thursday morning.

It’s not too early to learn more about the 13th annual Wind Conference scheduled for Orlando Florida, January 2012.