If your home or business has been damaged by fire, it is critical for both you and your insurance company to act quickly to ensure that the claim is handled properly, and just as importantly, that you are able to secure alternative living arrangements immediately, if appropriate. A fire can, of course, destroy everything you’ve worked your whole life for, from your home to your personal belongings, including irreplaceable objects, in a matter of minutes. But even when a fire doesn’t destroy the entire structure of your home or commercial building, the damages sustained may very well extend far beyond the immediate area of the fire, whether due to smoke damage from the fire or water damage from the firefighters who are doing their job.
For residential fire claims especially, it is important that you create a contents inventory—if one doesn’t already exist—as soon as possible after the fire. Preparing a thorough and accurate contents inventory list from scratch after a fire, however, may be extremely difficult or impossible when your home or business and everything in it is damaged beyond recognition. Regardless, the insurance company and the assigned adjuster will require that you provide such a list, including estimated values, while also requesting proof of purchase (e.g., receipts, etc.).
Fire claims for which the insured property may be salvaged or repaired still must be adjusted properly by the insurance company. Accordingly, it is important that the carrier or adjuster assigned by the insurance company utilizes the appropriate experts, including in part, fire causation experts, certified industrial hygienists or other water damage experts, damages experts, etc. Failure to do so may cause your insurance company to not address significant areas of damage to your property.
If the insurance company tells you your claim has been assigned to a Special Investigative Unit (SIU), what does this mean for your claim? It means that something, at least in the opinion of the insurance company, has raised an alert that the reported loss may have occurred due to fraud, either by the insured or a third party. If you have been notified that an SIU adjuster has been assigned to your claim, you should expect that the carrier will perform a much more thorough investigation than is typical. The investigation will likely include extensive background checks and even surveillance. You may be asked to submit to questioning before a court report (i.e., examination under oath) and be asked for extensive documentation regarding your background (e.g., financial documents, phone records, etc.). It can be quite stressful for an insured to know his or her rights under such a situation, and whether it is appropriate to comply with the insurer’s requests or whether it’s better to object.
At Grisham & Kendall, PLLC, we have represented both residential and commercial property owners with their fire insurance claims for more than 15 years. The attorneys at Grisham & Kendall, PLLC, know how to respond to the insurance company’s tactics when it fails to properly adjust or pay your claim. Don’t fight back alone if your insurance company has treated you unfairly after a fire. The insurance companies have expensive experts who work exclusively for their benefit. Grisham & Kendall, PLLC, has formed relationships with qualified experts who are willing to work for insureds (not just the carriers) when homeowners or business owners have been lost property to fire. We will aggressively pursue your rights owed under the insurance policy if your claim was delayed, underpaid, or denied.
Because of the large amount of damage, many insurance companies may act in bad faith to save money. Our team of qualified lawyers is prepared to help all persons who encounter difficulty with their fire damage claims, but we are especially committed to assisting those who have needs incurred in the wake of: