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What a Fire Insurance Claim Lawyer Can Do For You

a doctor bandaging an injured hand

A fire insurance claim lawyer can review your insurance contract, make an evaluation of your claim, help build your case for a strong insurance claim for fire damage, and advise you on the amount of compensation to request from the insurance company.

A fire insurance lawyer can help you build a strong case with your insurance claim. The lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company in your behalf to ensure that you get the full amount you are entitled to.

Your fire insurance claim lawyer will also advise you whether you can make a bad faith insurance claim against your insurance company. A bad faith claim will allow you to get compensation for emotional distress, attorneys’ fees, punitive damages, and additional losses arising from the insurance company’s action.

If you are looking for a fire insurance claim lawyer, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. You can give us a call at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at attorneyalbertgoodwin@gmail.com.

Causes of fire

Fire is caused by different sources, such as, but not limited to:

  • Faulty electrical wiring
  • Defective electrical products
  • Gas leak
  • Wildfire
  • Arson

The cause of the fire will determine whether the fire damage your house or building sustained is covered by your insurance policy. Although determining the exact source of fire can be difficult, especially since this evidence can be destroyed by the fire itself, experts may be able to make an investigation and conclusion on the cause of the fire. In addition, police reports and fire department records may be able to identify the cause of the fire.

Unfair practices on fire insurance claims

An insurance company is a for-profit company. It makes money when it denies your claim or gives you an amount lower than what you are entitled to. Some common forms of unfair practices of these insurance companies are:

  • Arson allegations
  • Not investigating in a timely manner
  • Denying a claim for total loss despite the claim being supported by ample evidence
  • Threat of lawsuit to convince you to accept a lower amount
  • Clearly violating the terms of the insurance policy
  • Delaying the valuation or payment of the claim

Arson

Arson is one of the most common reasons an insurance company will deny your fire insurance claim. These insurance companies will say that you, the policyholder, or your agent deliberately set fire to your own property. Arson is not only a criminal act but filing a claim for property damage arising from arson is also insurance fraud. Property damage arising from arson is not covered by the insurance policy.

When an insurance company argues that your fire damage claim arises from arson and denies your insurance claim on this basis, the insurance company must provide evidence that you committed arson. A mere allegation that you committed arson without any evidence supporting this allegation is not sufficient and may be considered an allegation made in bad faith.

If the police reports and fire department records identify the cause of the fire as arson, a fire insurance claim lawyer will probably not represent you. But if the allegation of arson simply came from the insurance company and is not even supported by any evidence, a fire insurance claim lawyer can discredit these accusations by presenting other evidence.

What to do when filing a fire insurance claim

Filing a fire insurance claim can take a lot of work. You want your fire insurance claim to be strong when filed to minimize any risk of being denied. Here are some reminders to note when filing a fire insurance claim:

  1. Read your insurance policy.

Reviewing your insurance policy should be the first thing you should do when you have sustained property damage due to fire. Check to see what risks are covered and what expenses will be reimbursed. Some policies will cover damage caused by the fire only, while other insurance policies will cover damage arising from the fire, including smoke and water damage that was caused by the fire. The costs of relocation are also usually provided for if a building is destroyed.

  1. Document the damage.

When filing for a fire insurance claim, it’s important to note that your claim is supported by documents. For this reason, you need to document all the property damage. List everything in your home that was damaged and review that list twice to make sure you did not forget anything. Check places where damage might be hidden, such as the roof, the structural steel or iron, stucco, siding, concrete, windows, plumbing and heating systems, and interior walls and framing.

Take pictures of your house, the roof, and all the property damage from all sides. These photos will support your claim. Get copies of the police records and fire department reports as supporting evidence. Obtain a quotation from a contractor so you can prove to the insurance company how much it will cost to repair the damage. A credible contractor will have experience in working closely with an insurance claims adjuster to ensure that the repairs will be covered by the insurance company. Maintain a written record of all your communications with the insurance company.

  1. Talk the insurance claims adjuster.

When your property has been partially or totally destroyed by fire, the insurance company will send a claims adjuster to review the extent of property damage. Remember that the claims adjuster works for the insurance company and will always try to minimize how much the insurance company will pay. You should point out to the claims adjuster the damage your property sustained, including any hidden damage that may not be apparent. This will ensure that the claims adjuster’s report includes everything you have listed in your inventory.

  1. Timely file your claim.

Insurance policies provide a period when you can file your claim. Insurance companies strictly observe this period to file the claim. Filing your fire insurance claim outside of this prescribed period can definitely lead to its denial. For this reason, make sure that your claims are timely filed with the insurance company.

  1. Mitigate the property damage

Your insurance policy will likely contain a clause that requires you to mitigate the property damage so that no further substantial damage is caused after the fire. Otherwise, the insurance company will argue that the damage you are claiming occurred after the fire. For minor damages, you can fix them to prevent further damage, but keep the receipts of the costs of the repairs because they may be reimbursable.

  1. Do not sign a waiver or release.

An insurance company will most likely cover some, but not all, property damage in your insurance claim. They might pressure you to sign a waiver or release when you accept an amount lower than what you are claiming. Before signing this document, discuss it with your fire insurance claim lawyer to see whether the amount they are releasing is sufficient given the extent of property damage you suffered.

  1. Prepare for the worst.

Insurance companies are in the business for profit. They routinely deny claims, no matter how legitimate, in order to save and earn money. They will argue that the fire insurance claim is not a covered peril, or worse, is a result of arson. When this happens, consult with your fire insurance claim lawyer immediately.

Personal injuries sustained in a fire

When you suffer personal injuries due to the fire, you have a cause of action for premises liability claim against the owner of the residence and commercial property. To prove a case for premises liability, you must show the following:

  • that you were either lawfully on the property or if a trespasser, the owner or possessor knew that you, a trespasser, were on the property;
  • the owner/possessor was negligent regarding the unsafe condition, meaning it had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition and failed to do something about it; and
  • the owner/possessor’s negligence caused the injury.

Fires caused by defective appliances or products

When the fire is caused by defective appliance or product, you also have grounds for a products liability claim against the manufacturer, designer, or distributor of the defective product. In products liability claims, there is strict liability and you do not need to prove negligence. You only need to prove that the product they manufactured, designed, or distributed was defective.

Insurance broker negligence

If your broker gave you the impression that a certain risk was covered, but in fact, was not covered, you may have a cause of action against the insurance broker for negligence. In American Bldg. Supply Corp. v. Petrocelli Group, 2010 N.Y. Slip Op. 30611 (N.Y.Misc 2010), the Court held:

“A party that has engaged an insurance broker to procure adequate insurance may recover for breach of contract “if the policy obtained does not cover a loss for which the broker contracted to provide insurance, and the insurance company refuses to cover the loss” (Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill Co. v. Marsh USA, Inc., 2009 NY Slip Op 6366, *1 [1st Dept. 2009]). An insurance broker can also be held liable in negligence if the broker fails to exercise due care in an insurance brokerage transaction (id.).

It is well settled that an insurance broker is under a duty to either obtain the coverage that a customer specifically requests, or to inform the customer of its inability to do so (see Hoffend Sons, Inc. v. Rose Kiernan, Inc., 7 N.Y.3d 152, 157) (citing Murphy v. Kuhn, 90 N.Y.2d 266).

Bad faith insurance claim

An insurance company may be considered in bad faith when it refuses to pay a legitimate claim or process a claim within a reasonable period. There is also bad faith when the insurance company misrepresents the provisions of an insurance contract with the insured in order to avoid paying a claim or when the insurance company fails to disclose the policy provisions and exclusions to induce you to purchase the policy. When you suspect that the insurance company is acting in bad faith, you need to consult with a fire insurance claim lawyer immediately.

If you are looking for a fire insurance claim lawyer, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. You can give us a call at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at attorneyalbertgoodwin@gmail.com.