38 More Miss. Katrina Suits Settled in Mediation, Judge Reports

April 6, 2007

Thirty-eight more Hurricane Katrina insurance cases of Mississippi residents have been settled during court-order mediation, says U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr.

More mediations will begin in May, according to Senter’s office. Some cases also might be sent to a new nonbinding arbitration process established by Insurance Commissioner George Dale.

Mississippi Department of Insurance records show that of the 3,381 cases sent to its program, 2,797, or 83 percent, have been settled. Mediations ordered in U.S. District Court totaled 153 with 74 settled, or 48 percent.

In mediation, the policyholder and insurer work toward an agreement with the help of a qualified mediator. In arbitration, the policyholder and insurer each present their case to a qualified arbitrator, who offers a nonbinding opinion on the insurance claim’s value.

Dale established the mediation program in December 2004 and expanded it, at Senter’s request, to include cases filed in federal court.

“However, even with the success of both mediation programs,” Dale wrote, “there are insureds who still do not have their Hurricane Katrina claims resolved.”

Dale has ordered insurers to notify all policyholders with disputed claims that they have a right to arbitration. Policyholders should receive those notifications by mid-April.

The American Arbitration Association is administering both programs.

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