Where ‘wind umpires’ gather, certification and Florida building codes are hot topics of conversation
Conference offers unique Wind Umpire Certification Program for adjusters
A recent change to the Florida Building Code states that if a home sustains more than 25 percent repairable damage to its roof, the entire roof must be replaced.
According to Greg McLellan, a forensic consulting engineer with Miami-based Pepper Engineering Group Inc., many insurance agents aren’t aware of the code change yet because until December (2006), the rule was only in effect for Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. “The new supplement makes it a statewide rule,” he said.
McLellan stressed that the “25 percent rule for roofing” is the biggest significant change for insurers among the December changes to the code, which was among the hot topics in two dozen courses offered at the 2007 Windstorm Conference held in Tampa. Other classes offered included: The Ins and Outs of Condo Coverage and Repairs and Riding the Rails of Business Interruption.
The Windstorm Conference hosts adjusters, lawyers and others on all sides of wind-borne property damage claims issues. It also presents courses for those looking to be certified under the association’s increasingly popular Wind Umpire Certification Program.
“We encourage the attendants to ‘agree to disagree,’” said Michelle Griffin, executive director of the Windstorm Insurance Network Association.
Orlando independent adjuster Jim Reichle has served on the windstorm group’s board since its inception. Reichle, who is a certified wind umpire, said the conference’s success comes from bringing public adjusters, company adjusters, independent adjusters and plaintiffs’ lawyers together.
“You get to see the human aspect behind the perceptions,” Reichle said. “The opposing sides break down a little more every time you hear each other’s perspectives.”
Attendance has increased tremendously since 2000 when 350 people showed up until this year’s record of 1,300. “We really had to scramble to coordinate the appropriate space,” Griffin said. The numbers are way up because of rising interest in the umpire certification courses. Umpiring is one negotiation tool, similar to but different from mediation, which insurers and policyholders use to reach agreement on settlements.
“We are the only group that offers umpire certification,” Griffin said. “This year we had to open a second class, each with 100 people – filled to capacity.”
The umpire process is spelled out in insurance policies, according to instructor Janet Brown, a partner in the Boehm, Brown, Fischer, Harwood, Kelly & Scheihing law firm in Maitland.
“The process is economically favorable, less expensive than litigation and more expeditious than mediation or higher levels of negotiation,” Brown said.
Aids opposing parties
Alongside the two opposing appraisers, the umpire evaluates the damage and aids the two parties in coming to an understanding or agreement, Brown said.
“Unlike mediation where all parties must reach a consensus, the umpire process only needs one side plus the umpire to reach a settlement,” Brown explained. “Both sides know this going into the agreement.”
The group’s Windstorm Insurance Network Umpire Directory, which lists all of those certified at the conference, is sent to every Florida civil circuit judge.
Next year the confernce will be at the Hyatt in Jacksonville, where Griffin says there is enough space to accommodate the expected increased number of attendees.