From the start!
People contact me for help with property insurance claims that have been wrongfully denied or low balled. Unfortunately, I often see situations where the insured has a very difficult time getting the claim paid because it was not documented properly from the start. The scene was not preserved, and now it is too late for experts to offer opinions on how the loss occurred.
You need an investigation from a reputable team of experts which can include:
- Industrial hygienists
- Fire investigators
- General contractors
These experts should be licensed and qualified to testify in court if the need arises.
Some folks think getting an attorney involved in their insurance claim is something they should only do as a last resort because it may, in fact, escalate the dispute.
Reasons why counsel should be brought into insurance claims when it is first reported.
- The involvement of an attorney from the outset can assist in ensuring the claim is properly and smoothly adjusted and may avoid the need for litigation.
- Counsel can also ensure the claim is being accurately reported and assist in avoiding wrongful denials of coverage.
- Attorneys are familiar with the legal obligations of the insurance companies and can remind them of the statutes they must follow when adjusting insurance claims—and hold them accountable when they do not.
Property insurance attorneys generally work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they receive a percentage of your recovery.
If the insurer acts properly, as a result of your attorney’s work, you will receive the maximum recovery you are entitled to under your policy—which you might not know absent legal advice—for a moderate fee percentage. If the insurer fails to keep its promises, your lawyer can seek payment of your attorney fees by the insurance company—and you will have the team of experts needed to seek a full recovery. Only a lawyer can take the matter up in court on your behalf and handle the claim from start to finish.
United Policyholders (“UP”) is a non-profit organization with the purpose of educating consumers throughout the United States on insurance issues. Here is UP’s input regarding the hiring of a lawyer for an insurance claim:
“You’ve suffered a major loss from fire, theft, or some other calamity and you’ve filed an insurance claim. You’re not sure what your rights are, and you’re worried about trusting your insurance company. You should be. Your financial interests and your insurance company’s financial interests are in a natural conflict – You want a maximum payout, your insurer a minimum. An insurance claim is a business negotiation, pure and simple. So although you paid good money for coverage and good claim service, you may have to fight for it. And you may need professional help in that fight. In an ideal world no one would need to hire a lawyer to get an insurance claim paid on time and in full, but in this world, many do.”
It is important to keep in mind that, even though things might seem to be going well with your insurer—it is often a good idea to involve counsel to assist in gathering the appropriate team of experts to document your claim before the evidence is gone. Attorneys will often advance these costs, so you don’t have to, and get reimbursed out of your recovery.
When an insurance company sees that you have the documentation and personnel necessary to hold the insurer accountable, disputes can often get nipped in the bud. And if the insurer still breaks its promises, you will be prepared.
In the words of one of my favorite Internet memes:
Kristin Demers-Crowell has dedicated her career to helping homeowners and businesses recover from catastrophes and forcing insurance companies to keep their promises.