Can You Be Forced to Arbitrate a Homeowners’ Insurance Dispute?
Very few people really read their homeowners’ insurance policy cover to cover. And if they did, their eyes probably glazed over any arbitration provision. However, if you have a dispute with your insurer, this little provision could cause a big headache. You might find that you need to travel outside Florida to attend arbitration, and you might feel you got stiffed by the process.
To protect yourself, contact Bundza & Rodriguez, P.A. today. Our Volusia County property damage lawyers have years of experience going toe-to-toe with insurers. We can represent you in any arbitration proceeding or fight to get your case settled in court.
What is Arbitration?
Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution, or ADR. It is very much like a trial. Both sides present their dispute to an arbitrator, who acts like a judge (but is usually a lawyer or a former judge). The arbitrator then decides who is right. You have a right to present documents and have witnesses testify on your behalf.
Arbitration is different from mediation, which is another popular ADR technique. In mediation, you and your insurer can meet with a neutral third party to discuss the dispute. As you talk things through, you might be able to reach common ground and agree to a settlement.
Mediation is almost always voluntary, meaning no one can force you to accept a proposal you don’t want to. Arbitration can be either non-binding or binding. In our experience, it is usually binding. This means each side lives with the arbitrator’s decision.
Why You Probably Want to Avoid Arbitration
Arbitration has some advantages. It’s private, unlike going into court. It can also, in theory, be a faster and less expensive way to resolve a dispute.
But there are definite negatives for homeowners. Many people think arbitrators are biased toward insurers, since making insurers happy ensures that the company will hire the arbitrator for future disputes. We don’t know one way or another whether this is true, but it is a definite possibility. Also, with arbitration, there is rarely an ability to appeal, so you are stuck with the decision even if you think the arbitrator treated you unfairly.
Can You Avoid Arbitration?
Possibly. We will need to look at the agreement you signed and check whether it contains an arbitration provision. A provision must be written a certain way to be valid. Some insurers dump in vague, illegal arbitration provisions, and we can fight them successfully, which means you can preserve your right to have a day in court.
We can also negotiate to participate in mediation. Some insurers might agree not to enforce an arbitration provision even if they have the right to. An insurer might see that an agreement is possible and avoid going through the arbitral process.
Give Us a Call
More than one homeowner has found themselves in arbitration without fully understanding how they got there. Let our Daytona Beach hurricane insurance claim attorneys at Bundza & Rodriguez, P.A. help you through this difficult time. We offer a free consultation, during which you can explain your dispute. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.