One of the more unpleasant experiences in life is answering your door and finding the county sheriff or one of his deputies on your doorstep asking if you are one of the defendants named in the copy of the Complaint that he is holding, a Complaint that has been filed by one of your home inspection clients who is claiming that you failed to uncover certain defects during your inspection and that that lapse on your part is now costing him a lot of money to rectify.
This is especially disturbing when it is the first inkling that you have that this particular client had any beef with you whatsoever. This is, perhaps, the only time when no news is not good news. As I have written elsewhere on this website, while it is still possible for me to persuade the plaintiff’s attorney to voluntarily dismiss you from the suit, it is less likely when there has been a substantial calorie-burn on the attorney’s part. And it goes without saying, I trust, that it is impossible to do so once your home inspector insurance company has appointed defense counsel because their financial incentives are contra.
If voluntary dismissal is thus foreclosed, you will soon discover that litigation is one of the most expensive endeavors known to exist. The problem with litigation in the context of a residential real estate transaction is that the aggrieved home buyer is operating in a target-rich environment. In the buyer’s mind, multiple parties could possibly be responsible for his troubles: the seller [in my experience, generally the most culpable because they so often do not disclose — and often actively conceal from the inspector — critical issues], the seller’s agent and broker, the buyer’s agent and broker and the home inspector and, if the inspector operates as a corporation, the inspector’s corporation.
With that many defendants, the Complaint itself is a megillah – multiple parties, multiple counts, hundreds of allegations. It can easily cost thousands of dollars just to respond to the Complaint. Then you have to respond to all the cross-claims that will surely be brought against you by other defendants.
Suffice to say that even the most routine matter is preposterously expensive. The more parties, the more expensive because you have to respond to all of their filings; serve them interrogatories and document discovery requests and respond to theirs; take depositions of the parties and their witnesses; defend your own deposition; and attend scheduling, settlement and pre-trial conferences. And you are charged for everything: travel, filing fees, copies, postage. All of that before you ever get near a courtroom.
Any wonder why home inspector insurance companies are so willing to throw you under the bus? And while that is often a win-win situation for them, it is always a lose-lose proposition for you.
They get rid of the case within your deductible or a multiple or two above it which they will recoup via surcharges on your subsequent renewals. You, on the other hand, a. are out your deductible [at a minimum]; b. have a scarlet letter “C” [for claim] on your chest; and c. will be paying hefty surcharges for a few years to a company that you are stuck with because their mishandling of your claim has made you persona non grata to every other insurer on the planet.
The trick is to get rid of the claim before it ever blossoms into a lawsuit, something I have done over 500 times in the last seven years, including several cases where the first notice of claim was a lawsuit.
Fortunately, for home inspectors, there is a new insurer that is completely on board with my approach to responding to these ridiculous claims. For a quote click on the blue “GET A QUOTE” button on the right hand side of this post or call 800-803-9552.Already a ClaimsAcademy Member? Log In Register for Joe’s FREE ClaimsAcademy Video Tips Protect Yourself with ClaimIntercept Joe’s Law and Disorder Seminar is Available Online! Receive a Perfected Pre-Inspection Agreement