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Instructions for Attorneys: Handling Adjuster Refusal in Louisiana

Step-by-Step Guide for Diminished Value Claims

1. Understanding Louisiana R.S. 9:2800.17

  • Statute Overview:
    • Louisiana R.S. 9:2800.17 establishes the right of vehicle owners to recover damages for the diminution in value when their vehicle is damaged due to the negligence of a third party.
    • If a vehicle is repaired to its pre-loss condition but its fair market value is still less than its value before the damage, the owner is entitled to recover the difference as additional damages.
    • Total damages recovered should not exceed the fair market value of the vehicle prior to the damage, and the diminution in value is considered in determining if the vehicle is a total loss under R.S. 32:702.

2. Burden of Proof in Louisiana

  • Legal Standard:
    • In Louisiana, the burden of proof in a diminished value claim rests with the claimant.
    • The claimant must prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that the evidence presented must be more convincing than the evidence opposed to it.
  • Objective Evaluation:
    • This standard is objective and based on the evidentiary weight presented, not on the subjective interpretation of any insurance adjuster or supervisor.

3. Initial Response to Adjuster Refusal

  • Document the Refusal:
    • Record all communications with the adjuster, including emails, phone calls, and letters.
    • Note the specific reasons given by the adjuster for the refusal.
  • Request Written Justification:
    • Ask the adjuster to provide a detailed written explanation for their refusal.

4. Demanding a Certified Appraisal

  • Certified Appraisal Request:
    • Attorneys should demand a licensed and certified appraisal from the insurance company to substantiate the value assessment.
  • Review by Expert:
    • Have the certified appraisal reviewed by a qualified diminished value appraiser to assess its methodology and accuracy.
  • Ensure Accuracy:
    • Check for any discrepancies, omissions, or inaccuracies in the appraisal that could affect the claim.

5. Communicate with the Adjuster

  • Formal Appeal:
    • Draft a formal appeal letter addressing the adjuster’s reasons for refusal.
    • Reference Louisiana R.S. 9:2800.17 and provide supporting documentation to reinforce the validity of the claim.
  • Professional Tone:
    • Maintain a professional and respectful tone in all communications.
    • Clearly outline the steps you expect the adjuster to take to reconsider the claim.

6. Escalation Procedures

  • Internal Escalation:
    • If the initial appeal is unsuccessful, request a meeting with a higher-level supervisor or manager within the insurance company.
  • External Mediation:
    • Consider involving a third-party mediator to facilitate discussions between both parties.

7. Legal Action

  • Evaluate Legal Options:
    • Assess the feasibility of pursuing legal action if the adjuster continues to refuse the claim unreasonably.
    • Consult with your client to determine their willingness to proceed with litigation.
  • File a Complaint:
    • Prepare and file a complaint with the relevant regulatory authorities if the adjuster’s refusal appears to violate insurance regulations.

8. Client Communication

  • Keep the Client Informed:
    • Regularly update your client on the status of the claim and any actions taken.
    • Provide clear explanations of the steps being taken and the potential outcomes.

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    By following these detailed guidelines, attorneys can effectively manage situations where an adjuster is unreasonable, ensuring that all legal avenues are explored and their clients’ rights are protected. This structured approach will help in presenting a compelling case based on solid evidence and the applicable legal standards in Louisiana.