A mediation program launched by the Alabama Department of Insurance following Hurricane Katrina is bearing fruit, says Commissioner Walter A. Bell, pointing to a 90 percent success rate.
“We directed the companies that have outstanding claims in the state to send notices of the availability of a mediation program that is run by the Alabama Department of Insurance,” Bell said. “Once the mediation conference is set up, 90 percent of the cases have been settled. That is a strong indication of success.”
The mediation program was recommended by the Hurricane Insurance Issues Task Force, which was convened after Hurricane Ivan and made its recommendations just prior to Hurricane Katrina.
Under the program, consumers meet with representatives of their insurance company with a department attorney serving as mediator. The insurance company is required by department regulation to pay for the cost of the mediation. If a consumer has filed legal action, then the claim is not eligible for mediation. The mediation is only binding if both parties agree to a settlement of a claim.
“We’ve had an attorney spend most of her time in Mobile this summer and fall hearing mediation conferences,” Bell said. “And we will continue to do so until every consumer that wants mediation gets that opportunity.”
To sign up for mediation, consumers must contact the Alabama Department of Insurance at (800) 433-3966 and ask for the consumer services division, which sets the process in motion. If a consumer has an open claim and has not received notice from their insurer regarding mediation, they are required to contact the department for verification from insurer can be obtained as to why the consumer has not been contacted.
Currently, the mediation program is limited to storm-related claims, but that should not deter consumers from contacting the department regarding non-claims related issues.
“We want citizens to know that we are there to help them deal with claims issues, coverage availability issues and help explain what is and what is not covered in an insurance policy,” Bell said. “Whether it is mediation or a different type of consumer advocacy, we have a staff in place that is ready to help Alabama families deal with all manner of insurance issues.”
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