On Monday, I took the deposition of a "neutral" evaluator in one of my sinkhole cases. In this particular case, my client submitted a possible sinkhole claim to her homeowner’s insurance company. The homeowner’s insurer hired engineers who did testing and stated that there was no sinkhole activity. (A review of the engineer’s testing actually confirms the existence of a sinkhole, even though their conclusions state that there is not, but that is another blog).
When she received the insurer’s engineering report, my client naively requested a "neutral evaluation." The "neutral" evaluator reviewed the insurance company’s engineering report and gave the opinion that there was no sinkhole.
I have never seen a "neutral" evaluator disagree with an insurance company’s report. Never. At his deposition on Monday, this "neutral" evaluator testified that he has done many such evaluations and he has NEVER disagreed with the insurance company’s conclusions.
To further compound this problem, the Florida Statues say that the neutral evaluator’s conclusions are "presumed correct."
This particular engineer also confirmed that 1) he solicits sinkhole business from insurance companies; and 2) doing these evaluations was a good way to get his name in front of insurance companies to let them know he’s available to do sinkhole investigations for them. This is typical, as most of the neutral evaluators I’ve seen also do substantial work on behalf of the insurance industry.
Bottom line: Homeowners, DO NOT ASK FOR A NEUTRAL EVALUATION. Not only do the evaluators typically do substantial work for the insurance companies, but they also routinely find in favor of those insurers, and our Florida Statutes say that their conclusions are presumed correct.