Harvey Cohen, Esq. -Disaster Restoration Legal Issues

Air Date: 7-22-2011| Episode: 214

This week Attorney Harvey V. Cohen joins the Z-man to discuss the ins and outs of insurance claims issues…

Full Description:

This week Attorney Harvey V. Cohen joins the Z-man to discuss the ins and outs of insurance claims issues. According to Attorney Cohen due to the state of the economy insurance claim disputes have become more common than ever. Insurance carriers must make a profit to continue to exist but the law does not allow insurance carriers to make their profit by disputing or denying the valid insurance claims of their policy holders. Likewise, insurance claim disputes between contractors and insurance carriers have been on the increase. This show is designed to help give everyone a better understanding of the issue and to review strategies that help homeowners, business owners and contractors get compensated fairly when a claim becomes necessary. Attorney Cohen is a former state prosecutor for the 9th Judicial Circuit of Florida. He received a law degree from Stetson University College of Law. He was enlisted in the U.S. Army from 1985 through 1989. His assignments took him from upstate New York to Panama. He now provides personal injury, criminal defense and insurance claims legal services from his Orlando, Florida office.

Z-Man’s Blog:

Getting Paid

RPP are the initials of a prestigious jeweler who once owned a highly successful business in Pittsburgh. His firm sold expensive jewelry to Elizabeth Taylor and other rich, powerful and famous. The interior of their building which served as both business and residence was extraordinary. Marble, crystal chandeliers, luxurious antique furnishings and the thickest plushest maroon velvet wool carpeting that I have ever seen adorned the floors. In the 1970s the RPP business suffered severe smoke and odor damage when an adjoining property caught fire. From all accounts RPP was not only an expert jeweler but an honest and true gentleman. RPP’s died and the business was carried on by his widow, who was much younger than him.

One of RPP’s widow’s employees summoned me to a meeting to discuss the necessary restoration. I was in my 20s, confident in my technical capabilities, hardworking and naïve. I conducted a top-to-bottom inspection of the building and conducting some on site testing to determine the restorability of materials, I was advised that we must have the work completed in 48 hours.

I asked the jeweler’s widow to sign our work authorization. She said that she didn’t sign any papers and that her lawyer had power of attorney. Her attorney counted among his client’s RPP’s widow, the owner’s of the Pittsburgh Steelers, among others. Having a signed contract was my company policy. I knew she was affluent and could certainly well afford to pay me. I didn’t have much experience working for the rich. I knew that I kept my promises and expected those I did business with to do the same. I knew that a successful jeweler would need to both trust others and be trustworthy. I waived my policy and didn’t obtain a signed contract. My crew and I slaved round the clock so the RPP could open on Monday morning clean and smoke odor free. Early Monday AM, I met the widow and her staff for a final inspection. They seemed impressed with what we had accomplished and the quality of our work. I phoned the widow’s attorney and was told he was in a meeting. Later that day, I dropped by his office and was told he couldn’t see me. I hired an attorney to help me collect and unfortunately never did, not a penny. RPP’s widow, is retired and living in Tuscany, still owing me $3,300, plus 30 years interest.

I toiled in the disaster repair industry for over 35 years. Over the course of my work in field my businesses and I made many mistakes which translate to several millions of dollars worth of lost revenue. Some of the most bitter memories are not getting paid for the arduous work performed.

I sought good legal counsel, paid significant amounts of money on legal advice, contract development and litigation too much money was deemed uncollectible and lost. While my firm would often struggle to get paid for the high quality disaster restoration work my firm had performed, public adjusters seemed to always get paid. I was aware of that something in the public adjusters contract shifted the balance of power from the policyholder over to their designated representative.

Florida attorney Harvey Cohen, has provided a valuable service to the insurance repair contracting field by adapting and applying effective legal tactics from the medical field to property damage insurance claims.

Nuggets gleaned from today’s interview:

· The most common dispute between policyholder and insurer is the amount of the claim.

· Fee shifting statute, most states have statutes under which attorneys’ fees may be awarded to a prevailing plaintiff, such as an action on a contract where the contract contains a provision allowing recovery.

· “Standing in the shoes of the policyholder”, assignment of benefits is a legally binding agreement between policyholder and their insurance carrier which directs them to send reimbursement checks directly to their legal representative: lawyer, contractor or public adjuster.

· It isn’t in the insurance company’s best interest to settle property damage claims quickly. Insurance companies delay settlement of claims and set settlement funds aside in tax free interest bearing investments while claims are being settled. The longer it takes to settle the claim, the more interest earned.

· The “squeaky wheel gets the grease”, persistence pays off move payments along.

· Cohen & Battisti offers contracts and assignments of benefits forms to contractors free on his website.

· Chinese Drywall claims have resulted in big awards but people not getting paid!

Harvey Cohen the self proclaimed “Johnny Appleseed of Assignment of Benefits” is making a big difference in leveling the playing field between insurance carriers, policyholders and contractors.

Today’s Music: Perry Mason Theme By The Blues Brothers

Z-man signing off