Bobby Marzine Harges
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
November 21, 2011
Capital University Law Review, Vol. 39, p. 893, 2011
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Research Paper No. 2011-01
In recent years, natural disasters – such as floods, hurricanes, mudslides, and fires – have caused massive and catastrophic damage to residential property, precipitating homeowners to bring thousands of damage claims against their property insurers. Without insurance proceeds, many homeowners are unable to repair the damage to their homes, preventing the homeowners from moving forward with their lives. A quick resolution of these insurance claims serves homeowners and the regions as a whole by avoiding economic disaster in the affected areas. In response to these high volumes of claims, state departments of insurance have promulgated emergency rules to help resolve disputes arising from these claims. Mediation, a dispute resolution process designed to provide a non-adversarial, effective, fair, and timely method of resolving disputes, is the process of choice for many of these programs. This article discusses the inherent difficulties that homeowners, especially minority homeowners, face when trying to settle post-disaster insurance claims through the mediation process. Additionally, the article explains emergency mediation programs, pointing out their benefits and weaknesses, and proposes that any emergency mediation program designed to place a homeowner on a level playing field with the insurer should also strive to place the minority groups on that same level. To achieve this end, the author suggests that designers of emergency mediation programs should (1) educate minorities regarding post-disaster mediation, (2) encourage the presence of legal representation on behalf of homeowners during the mediations, (3) allow homeowners to use public adjusters during settlement negotiations, and (4) train mediators to be culturally competent regarding minority participants in the mediations.