On Friday May 11th the Certified Public Accountants chapter of San Juan hosted the first ever Umpire and Appraiser seminar and certification course offered in the jurisdiction of Puerto Rico. The program was presented with the collaboration of: Luis Esteves, principal of Caribbean Adjusters International; Robert Norton, Insurance Appraisal & Umpire Association (IAUA); and Jonathan Wilkofsky of the Wilkofsky, Friedman, Karel & Cummins Law firm in New York.

“On many occasions, Adjusters International goes into a disaster ravaged area and, while helping our clients, also finds positive ways to give back and impact the local community,” said Luis Esteves, principal of Caribbean Adjusters International. “In Puerto Rico, we worked closely with the office of the Commissioner of Insurance to put into place a new method of conflict resolution which will benefit thousands whose claims are stuck without resolution almost 20 months since the storm hit the island.”

In 1974, the local law in Puerto Rico had eliminated the appraisal clause out of the standard Insurance Services Office (ISO) form policy. However, having to process 230,000 claims related to hurricanes Irma and Maria showed the need for additional conflict resolution methods and the local insurance commissioner started to inquire about alternatives. After months of advocacy by many in the insurance industry, including Esteves and Jeff Gould, then-president of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA), Rule 248 was passed in November 2018, which provides for an appraisal process inside the policies as a method of conflict resolution, while keeping open the litigation possibility to all insureds and carriers alike.

On March 20th, 2019, under CN-2019-248-D, an executive order made the process retroactive, mandatory and binding and the appraisal process was finally introduced into the local insurance code, mirroring what other jurisdictions have done across the U.S.

The Umpire and Appraiser seminar and certification course held last week is the beginning of the next step in the process, educating the professionals who will form part of the appraisal panels in representation of insureds and carriers and expanding the number of trained and qualified Umpires. At the request of the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, Caribbean Adjusters International produced and promoted the education efforts, along with Bob Norton of IAUA and Jonathan Wilkofsky, who wrote the book on appraisal law and procedures. Panelists included several local industry experts in qualifying damages.

“It will take a while to insert the appraisal process into the mindset of the local insurance industry after not being available for the last 45 years,” said Norton, “but we are committed to presenting several additional seminars throughout the remainder of the year in association with the College of Engineers, Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, and the CPA college whom immediately after the last seminar are already looking to book the next one in late August.”

Since 2009 IAUA has certified hundreds of umpires through their seminars presented at many nationally recognized organizations and is the only association focused solely on appraisal, providing certification of umpires and appraisers and education of stakeholders in the appraisal process.