The Texas Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (TAPIA) held their spring conference in Austin last week and GlobalPro was there to discuss the latest issues facing policyholders in an increasingly expensive and complex insurance market.
Texas Insurance Commissioner Cassie Brown kicked off the conference sharing updates on the state insurance market. Texas is the 7th largest insurance market in the world with nearly 3400 insurance companies selling all types of insurance. The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) is responsible for regulating these companies and their 1200 employees. In 2022, TDI approved 189,000 agent and adjuster licenses underscoring the magnitude of the Texas insurance market.
David Balduc presented next on the role of the Office of Public Insurance Counsel (OPIC). OPIC reviews and analyzes insurance rates, rules, and policy forms, recommends legislation to benefit consumers, provides resource testimony on insurance issues and provides education and outreach to the consumer. The main focus for OPIC during the 2023 legislative session is the issue of appraisal. Appraisal is a process to resolve disputes in damage estimates between the policyholder and the insurance company. In many cases, the insured has the right to invoke appraisal which is then overseen by an independent party. The goal of this process, and all property claims, is to restore the property to its pre-loss condition.
Some insurance companies have filed requests to completely eliminate the appraisal provision from homeowner policies. This leaves the homeowner no choice but to engage expensive legal counsel when their carrier underpays a loss. Thus far the TDI has denied these unfair requests by insurers, but both the TDI and the Texas House are requesting a review of the appraisal process before the 2025 legislative session. OPIC is recommending preservation of the appraisal process in all Texas property and auto insurance policies.
Texas Watch is a non-profit citizen advocacy group working for the rights of consumers, policyholders, patients and workers. Ware Wendell, the Executive Director of Texas Watch, gave an overview of the 2023 Texas Legislative session and proposed bills. The legislative session began in January and runs until May, and two bills in particular were the focus of the TAPIA conference.
Consumer and commercial policyholders are starting to see language in their policies that allows them to pay a lower premium if they waive their right to hire a public adjuster. Most recently this has been seen in surplus line policies which are issued by insurers that are not licensed to do business in Texas. However, these companies are approved to provide coverage for items that other licensed carriers can’t or won’t insure. These are some of the most complex types of insurance and it’s more important than ever for the policyholder to have an advocate to help them obtain their full benefits under such policies.
Arbitration is the process where all parties agree that an arbitrator will consider their evidence and make a final decision about a given dispute and all future benefit disputes, limiting the right to appeal. Like appraisal, this is another option for policyholders who are being underpaid by their insurer. SB796 requires that arbitration for insurance losses that occur in Texas will be conducted in the state of Texas.
Surplus line carriers often require policyholders to submit to the arbitration process in New York, California or even cities outside the United States. Not only are such locations heavily favorable for the insurer, this also involves time and cost for travel and legal counsel for the insured. Approval of this bill would protect the consumer by keeping arbitration local, where it belongs.
Rob Bowlby, president of GlobalPro Texas, along with dozens of other public adjusters at TAPIA, spent the afternoon of March 1st in the State Capitol meeting with representatives of our home districts to educate lawmakers on our profession, how we protect and advocate for policyholders and to garner support for these two important bills.
GlobalPro Texas is here for you, the insured. We know what it takes to properly restore your property to its pre-loss condition, and we will continue to support fair insurance policies for the people of Texas. Our multi-disciplinary team of professionals has recovered over $1 billion in losses over our past decade of advocacy and we are ready to serve you.