August 16, 2016

Hello, I’m Ted Corless, with the Corless Barfield Trial Group. We’ve created a series of videos to provide people resources so that they can make informed decisions on hiring a lawyer. Today’s video is on Reading Your Insurance Policy.

The Neutral Evaluation Program

If you’re going through a sinkhole claim with your insurance company, the insurance company is obligated to provide you a pamphlet that was prepared by the state of Florida. Specifically the department of financial services. The department of financial services is essentially the governing body over most insurance companies and controls how they communicate with their insurance. The pamphlet they would have given you is associated with something called the neutral evaluation program. It is important that you understand what this program is. Both in terms of what it can do for you, but more importantly, what it can do against you.

What is a Neutral Evaluator?

Under the neutral evaluation program that was drafted into legislation several years ago, the neutral evaluator list is a group of engineers and geologists whose job is to provide an “independent evaluation” of the information that’s been gathered for your sinkhole claim. Neutral evaluators are a list of individuals that have gone through two processes. Number one, they have attended a forty-hour program that really anybody can attend. It’s simply something the neutral evaluators learn so that they can “mediate” the sinkhole claim if that becomes necessary. The second thing that they have to do in order to become neutral evaluators is they either have to be licensed professional geologists, or licensed professional engineers. Now, setting all of that aside, what are they going to be doing for you?

What are they Going to do for You?

Well, either you or the insurance company can elect to participate in the neutral evaluation program.

Neutral Evaluators are Important for Three Reasons

Number One:

Neutral evaluators are going to have the opportunity to look at the information that was gathered by the insurance company. Either regarding the presence or absence of the sinkhole at your home, or they’re going to evaluate the method of repair that’s being prepared. In a way, they’re supposed to be a neutral party that looks at all the information and then provides a report on what their opinion is on what has occurred prior to their participation. So what they’re going to do is, they’re going to take the engineering report that you’ve been given by your insurance company, and they’re going to look at and either tell you, yes, I agree with whether there’s sinkhole activity there or not. They’re going to look at it and tell you whether or not they agree with the way in which the insurance company is proposing that you repair it.

Number Two:

Now, whether your clam is in Polk County, Marion County, Hillsborough County, Pinellas or Pasco, they’re going to draw a neutral evaluator from a long list of engineers or geologists that are all over the state of Florida. The thing you need to understand is, insurance companies are the ones that have put these lists together with the state of Florida. The vast majority of these neutral evaluators work almost exclusively for insurance companies, and sometimes are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and sometimes millions of dollars a year to investigate insurance companies claims for them.

Number Three:

They have established relationships. Most of these neutral evaluators sometimes are even friends with the adjusters that are asking that they be elected to work as your neutral evaluator. Do neutral evaluators do positive things for you? Sometimes. But most of the time they’re going to come in, and simply look at the report that’s produced by the insurance company and tell you that the insurance company got the answer right. They agreed there’s no sinkhole activity there. Or, they agree with the minimal amount of repairs the insurance company is offering for you. As a general proposition we never recommend participating in neutral evaluation. There certainly are circumstances but if you’re going to participate in neutral evaluation, you better consult with either your public adjuster or your lawyer so that you know whether this is right for you. Reading insurance policies can be very complicated and frustrating. If you need help with your insurance claim or just understanding your insurance coverage, please visit our website at www., or give us a call. You take care of your family; and we’ll take care of the insurance company.