Cleveland and Bradley County property owners are less than 24 hours away from better understanding the complex intricacies of homeowner’s insurance.
That’s the focus of the new year’s first Community Legal Forum set to kick off Thursday at 7 p.m. The 90-minute panel discussion will allow audience interaction, is open to the public and is free of charge.
It will be held in the Community Room of the Cleveland/Bradley County Public Library.
Panelists will include Cleveland attorney Jack Tapper, president of the Bradley County Bar Association who has coordinated the Legal Forum series since its 2010 inception; and Jeff Morelock, a member of the Bradley County Commission who has a long and diverse background as an insurance professional.
Thursday night’s forum theme is, “Homeowner’s Insurance Terms Explained: What’s Covered and What’s Not! You’d Be Surprised!”
For the past four years, the Community Legal Forum series has been made available by the Bradley County Law Library Commission whose membership consists of representatives from the public library, the Bar Association and the County Commission.
“The need for this topic became evident when a number of homeowners could not get insurance claims settled promptly after losses and damage from a major storm,” Tapper explained. “These people were surprised and disgruntled at the red tape required by their insurance company.”
Many were “... denied payment for coverages they thought they had, but didn’t,” Tapper said.
Some of the slow response by insurance companies — at least, from the perspective of the insurees — came following the devastating tornadoes of April 27, 2011, and another tornado on March 2, 2012.
Storm damage from winter ice storms and strong winds have also created insurance nightmares, Tapper noted.
“Many people don’t pay attention to what is in their homeowner’s policy until they have a claim, and the discovery of what’s covered and what’s not may be too late,” the Cleveland attorney stressed.
The coming forum, which is expected to again attract a large crowd to the library’s Community Room because of its timely and relevant message, will again stick to its fundamental rule of providing information, making people aware and not providing personal recommendations or individual advice.
“This is not a sales forum,” Tapper said. “There is nothing for sale. It is strictly an evening where people can get the information they need to know so they can examine their own insurance coverage and understand what it’s all about.”
During the open discussion, panelists will dissect a typical homeowner’s policy and explain — in layman’s terms — what each section of a typical policy covers and what it does not.
Tapper said one of the most confusing parts of homeowner’s insurance policies is the dollar amount of coverage for each type or category of claim, and how the deductible determines what the insurance company will pay for a claim of loss or damage.
He said the forum will cover as many as 10 important tips for how a homeowner can prepare for a future claim that can withstand challenges by an insurance company. Among the topics to be covered are techniques for creating an inventory of personal property; where to store the inventory information for safekeeping; how to protect financial information; the types of documentation needed for verification and evaluation of personal property losses; and what to do when the homeowner is at “wit’s end” because of red tape or because the insurance agent is slow to return phone calls.
“Not all companies are difficult to deal with, and many are understanding and quick to process claims,” Tapper said. “Even for people who have an insurance company like that, they should still attend this forum because they need to know about future claims and coverage issues for different types of losses.”
Seating for Thursday’s forum is first-come, first-served. However, Tapper urged area residents planning to attend to register for the event by calling the library at 423-472-2163, ext. 126.