Released: December 22, 2005
Residents whose Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Rita insurance claims are in dispute
will soon be offered a possible solution at no cost to them. Commissioner of Insurance
Robert Wooley has established a mediation program through which a neutral third
party meets with the policyholder and the insurance company in an attempt to resolve
the dispute and quickly settle the claim. The program is set to begin in early January.
The Commissioner is requiring all insurance companies in Louisiana to notify their
policyholders with claims disputes about the program, regardless of whether a check
has been issued. Wooley says the mediation program is mandatory for insurance companies
but voluntary for policyholders. "One good thing about mediation is that the insurance
company pays for it, so there is no financial burden on the policyholder," Wooley
contends. "Plus, mediation is very informal and requires that no attorney be present,
unless you choose to bring one with you."
Commissioner Wooley says mediation is non-binding, so neither the policyholder nor
the company is legally obligated to accept the mediator's settlement recommendation.
"Even if a policyholder accepts a settlement at mediation, they have up to three
days to change their minds as long as they notify their insurer," Wooley adds. The
Commissioner also says that choosing mediation does not prevent a policyholder from
participating in other dispute resolution procedures.
The mediators being used for this program are chosen from the Louisiana State Bar
Association's approved list of mediators by the program's administrator, the American
Arbitration Association (AAA). AAA will also use as mediators those persons who
are qualified under the Louisiana Mediation Act.
Policyholders wanting to try mediation as a possible means to solve their disputed
residential property claims can call AAA at 1-800-426-8792, or they can contact
their insurance company or agent to schedule the proceeding. AAA can also be found
on the web at www.adr.org.