Citizens sends “settlement” letters
Citizens Insurance has recently executed a public relations move that may sound great to insureds but is no surprise for legal professionals. This move is sending “settlement” offers to every insured client with a confirmed sinkhole claim. This offer is three pages long and largely too good to be true.
“Confidential settlement proposal”
The first sign that this letter isn’t what it says it is is right in the title: confidential. Because the information regarding your insurance claim is strictly confidential, there’s no way a lawyer has seen your claim and corroborated with Citizens to come up with a settlement offer, unless you’ve been asked to consent!
This move is directly disrespecting the law of Florida, as any discussions concerning settlement or negotiation of a lawsuit are confidential. Not only did Citizens blatantly break the law, but they then went straight to the media to announce their “good deed” so they got a nice pat on the back.
Therefore, every homeowner insured by Citizens Insureds should speak to their lawyer regarding moving for sanctions against Citizens. If they were willing to break their insureds’ trust and the law just for a media stunt, who knows what else they’ll do?
Using public relations to sway insureds
Seeing an insurance company commit such a publicity stunt should make us wary of Citizens’ intentions. While it may be only slightly worrisome that the company is working hard to change the public’s opinion of them, it’s more worrisome that instead of improving how they process claims and interact with claimants, they instead push for a false apology.
In reality, Citizens likely doesn’t even care if anyone accepts this offer. While they may lose a few thousand dollars, they’ll win much more than that when they manipulate and intimidate their own clients.
It’s a demand to surrender, not a proposal
While this letter is dressed up as a settlement, it’s important that we understand what a settlement is. To use this word, there must be some compromise from both parties to arrive at a solution that both can work with. However, this letter does not come from negotiations – it is a random letter from the insurance company who refused to pay your claim.
Not only does it not come after a discussion in which both parties compromise, but it doesn’t provide the option to, either. Therefore, if you’ve received this letter, it should be read more as a demand than anything else, which is certainly not the PR that Citizens wants!
In this document Citizens offers to repair your home. While that sounds all well and good, don’t forget that that is the very thing that they are required to do, and are currently refusing to do! This letter suggests that you can get the job done, however it will be all their way with no consideration of any other option.
In response to Citizens offering to do their legal obligation, you, the insured, is offered the opportunity to dismiss their lawsuit and pay any legal fees or fees to engineers they hired themselves out of pocket. Therefore, as long as they are offering to do the exact repairs that you believe are needed for your home, it’s a great deal! I can be sure, however, that you’ll be disappointed.
In classic Citizen’s fashion, this document is riddled with lies. For example, the letter states that Citizens swears that if you undergo a neutral evaluation, they will abide by whatever that neutral evaluation recommends. That would be great if it were true!
Unfortunately, I have a long laundry list of clients who have had neutral evaluators advise Citizens that they were wrong, only for Citizens to ignore them. Therefore, it is only reasonable to assume that this is a direct lie meant to make Citizens look good to the public eye.
Another blatant lie is the claim that if the neutral evaluation takes place and the homeowner prevails in the dispute, Citizens will pay the cost of the homeowner’s attorney fees. Again, this deal sounds great to anybody without legal experience. For a lawyer, however, this is obviously not a true statement. First, your insurance company is required by law to pay this fee. Claiming that they will cover this expense as an act of goodwill is plain manipulation.
Second, Citizens consistently refuses to pay this fee anyways. I have been involved in more than one dispute in which Citizens has forced me to appear in front of the judge to get this fee paid as required by law. It’s worth noting that this fee amounts to $2,500 – a pretty penny for the average homeowner, but pennies for an insurance company. They would rather spend $5,000 in lawyer fees to avoid paying it!
Every letter is the same
The final point that tells us legal professionals that this document is a sham is the fact that every letter received from each insured is almost exactly the same. Besides a few facts and dates, every letter reflects the same details and the same offer.
Obviously, this cannot be real. Every insurance claim is different, and settlement proposals vary depending on a variety of different aspects of the case. Therefore, it’s not possible that every single homeowner is getting the same settlement if it’s legitimate!
If it were not already clear enough, this is proof that Citizens Insurance fails to acknowledge the differences between different claims, and instead treats them all the same. This shows major negligence and, honestly, laziness.
If you’ve received this letter from Citizens, do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your options.