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Avoid surprises by understanding coverage


Policyholders can dodge potential problems arising from a coverage dispute with their Bermuda-based insurer by carefully reading and understanding policy provisions and maintaining communication with insurers.

When buying insurance from a Bermuda-based company, policyholders should make sure that arbitration provisions and choice-of-law clauses are fully understood to avoid any "unpleasant surprises" later, said Joshua Gold, New York-based attorney and shareholder with the policyholder firm Anderson Kill & Olick P.C.

At the time of purchase, insurance buyers may be able to exercise some leverage, while at the time of a claim "you have almost no leverage," he said.

"You may not be able to opt out (of the arbitration clause) with a Bermuda company," but buyers may be able to gain flexibility on certain points, Mr. Gold said.

Brokers can help policyholders through the process.

"This is where any insured who purchases insurance from a Bermuda-based carrier must have a broker familiar with how that system works," said David Siesko, founder and principal of New York-based consultancy Siesko Partners L.L.C.

It is also imperative for buyers to insist that information about arbitration clauses be included in binders for the insurance policy, Mr. Gold said, so there is no confusion prior to obtaining the formal insurance documents.

"If it's not even in the binder, and you get your policy many moons later, I think you have a good argument that there is no arbitration requirement," he said.