Empty your rights? KSL Survey of Insurance Settlement Agreements

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MILLCREEK, Utah – Bonnie Young’s 79th birthday brought a very messy surprise.

While updating a sewer line under the condo complex where she lives, a plumber mistakenly blocked a line, preventing the four condos above Young from draining properly.

This mistake flooded his house.

“The dining room was full of water,” she said.

No, no water. Her dining room was full of raw sewage.

Damage left after a plumbing error sent sewage into the condo owner’s house (KSL TV)

“It happened on July 10,” Bonnie’s daughter Tiffany Young told us. “And we’re still waiting for repairs to start. “

Tired of waiting, the Youngs contacted KSL investigators.

Require a settlement agreement

It wasn’t the mess or the mistake that made Young and his daughter flare up. This is the response they received from the plumber’s insurance company.

“They will not release any funds to even start the repairs until my mother waives all of her rights,” said Tiffany Young.

She said the insurance company got an estimate that is several thousand dollars lower than the offer she received. And before paying a dime, the insurance company asked Bonnie to sign an agreement that she would no longer be allowed to ask for more money, regardless of the final bill.

“Even if the price of flooring goes up between when it was estimated a month ago and when they finally get to repairs, (or) the number of hours worked, there is no allowance for change orders or supplements to their claim they don’t want to make, ”said Tiffany Young.

Matt Gephart, Bonnie and Tiffany Young examine the damage left in Bonnie’s house after a plumber’s mistake. (TV KSL)

The women said they tried to negotiate with the insurance company – asking them to pay at least the money they were willing to pay so the work could begin, before settling the final bill later.

But the insurance company refused and because they have all the money, they seem to have all the leverage.

“The alternative we had was to come see you,” Tiffany Young told KSL investigators.

Before signing

We presented their situation to Jonathan Pike, Commissioner of the Utah Department of Insurance.

“Release forms like these are kind of an industry standard,” he said.

Pike said not only are settlement agreements common, but his ministry does not have the power to step in and force an insurance company to pay if a landlord refuses to sign an agreement. As homeowners are desperate to get their home or car repaired as quickly as possible, an insurance company has the upper hand.

“A consumer can be forced to sign if he wants to have anything fixed, right? We asked Commissioner Pike.

“They could do that if they just signed and that’s where I think it’s important not to make these decisions in a vacuum,” Pike replied.

Utah Insurance Commissioner Jonathan Pike (KSL TV)

Insurance companies are generally bound by their contracts. The problem is, these contracts usually use phrases like “reasonable costs,” and what may be reasonable for the insurance company may not be reasonable for you.

He explained that this was a negotiation and that if there is a stalemate, Utah law leaves it up to the owners and the insurance company to resolve the issue.

“They can either try to continue the negotiations on their own, or if they feel they need to be represented, they may want to go to someone like a lawyer,” Pike said.

A lawyer KSL investigators spoke to said that when an insurance company refuses to budge, it is good to have several offers to show them, so they can better assess the repair costs that are likely to arise. to be.

A change of heart

Next, we contacted insurance company EMC on behalf of the Young.

We asked, “Why is EMC requiring Bonnie Young to sign a ‘Release and Settlement Agreement’ before the money is released for repairs?” “

And just like that, it seems they changed their minds.

In an email to KSL, the executive director of the company wrote: “Payment for the undisputed damages amount has been made to Ms. Young and is expected to be received within the next few days. The parties continue to work towards a full resolution of the entire claim. Beyond that, we do not go into the details of individual claims situations. “

When asked if she would speak in general about why the company asks disaster victims to waive their rights, she replied, “No, thank you, but we’ll pass. “

Sure enough, a few days later, the repairs that had been going on for three months finally began, without Bonnie Young having to sign an agreement that what EMC paid for would be her final offer.

“We are truly grateful to KSL Investigates for helping us. It made all the difference, ”said Tiffany Young.

Have you been through something that you think is wrong? KSL investigators want to help. Send your tip to investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can work for you.


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