Recently, misinformation has been circulating on the Internet about the relief available to farmers when their crop insurance claims are wrongly denied. Certain insurer-friendly sources, even attorneys who present themselves as crop insurance experts, would have farmers believe that the only remedy available is mandatory policy arbitration, and that the courthouse doors are automatically closed to farmers whose claims go unpaid.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is more than one way for a crop insurance company (or for that matter, the federal Risk Management Agency to shut the door on an insured’s claim. For this reason, there is more than one way for a farmer to find justice.
There are times when arbitration is the best forum for having a producer’s claim for indemnity heard. There are times when administrative hearings before RMA or the National Appeals Division of the USDA are the right way to go. And there are times when we take our clients’ cases to the state and federal courts, demand a jury, and have our day in court.
As often as not, the right choice may be a hybrid action, with different issues heard in different venues. It is not uncommon to file simultaneous proceedings in litigation and in arbitration, with an administrative request for RMA interpretation following in short order. In many cases, none of these actions alone will get results for the insured. Payment of claims is only possible if you can “crack the code” for finding the right venue at the right time.
A lawyer who isn’t aware of all of the ins and outs of crop insurance law, who cuts off his own options for getting a fair result is fighting with his hands tied behind his back. Adjusters for the crop insurance companies, RMA officials, and their lawyers have a wide array of tools to dispose of claims. Producers should expect their attorneys to be ready, willing and able to fight in every available forum.