Major Home or Commercial Property Damage Loss
What to do first when your business or home suffers significant property damage?
1. Gather Evidence
Your cell phone can be your best friend. Photograph as much as you can the damage to your home, business or personal property. Secure evidence of the condition of the home or business prior to the loss with old photographs or inspection reports. Immediately began taking an inventory of your possessions and what is affected by the loss (water, earthquake, fire, wind, etc.). Your inventory should include date of purchase, cost, and if you are able to locate a receipt or old credit card statement showing purchase. Do not clean or being performing repairs until after your loss has thoroughly been documented.
2. Do not delay in reporting the loss to your insurance
Your insurance company has a right to investigate the loss and not merely take your word for it. If too much time passes between your date of loss and when the insurance company is able to investigate because the insured failed to timely repot the loss, it can be used against you.
3. Find temporary lodging
If your home sustained significant damage, it may be dangerous to your health to stay in the home before repair work can commence. Smoke damage or water damage can present serious health risks to you and your family.
4. Obtain a full copy of your insurance policy
Request your insurance carrier send you a full copy of your insurance policy so that your attorney may fully analyze your coverage.
5. Document Additional Living Expense
Not only may you be entitled to the damage to your property and the cost of repairs, but you may also be entitled to the additional living expenses incurred due to the accident. This can range from the obvious such as stays at a hotel to the less obvious such as cost of additional laundry, dry cleaning, storage, pet lodging etc. Try to save all expenses and keep organized in a folder to make it easier for an attorney to organize and present to the insurance carrier.
6. An insurance adjuster is not your friend
Despite their attempt to be sympathetic to your loss, recognize that an insurance adjuster works for a billion dollar industry and their specific purpose is to minimize how much they will pay you. They will cut corners at every opportunity and seek out the lowest bids possible. Hire an attorney to aggressively advocate for you today.
7. File a Third Party Claim
The damage to your property or business may allow you to present a claim for damages with your own homeowner’s, commercial or other insurance policy. However, sometimes the damage caused to your home or business was due to the negligence of another person, business, or public entity (collectively called a “third party) or the damage was aggravated by the third party’s negligence or failure to act. Thus, you may have 2 simultaneous claims, one with your own insurance coverage and a third party claim against a negligent party. The process of filing a third party claim comes with strict deadlines that if not met, you may inadvertently forfeit any such claim. Hire an attorney immediately to assess whether there is a viable third party claim to pursue.
Why hire an attorney for a home property or commercial property damage claim?
Do not become another horror story that is all too common. Of well intentioned persons with little experience dealing with insurance companies that expect their insurance company to treat them in good faith. You are entering a war zone between insurance companies and consumer advocates that has raged for decades. On one side is the insurance company that is utilizing a systematic approach to low-ball pay out of claims and delay payment for as long as possible to wear you down. Plaintiff attorneys, such as Haling Law, have trained for this fight for years and are ready to step in and fight for you. Failure to hire an attorney immediately may cause irrevocable loss of value to compensation you are entitled to.
What is a Bad Faith Claim?
Your insurance company created a contract when the sold insurance coverage to you and accepted your money as payment. Under California Law, the insurance contract includes in it a “good faith” clause which requires the insurance company to act in good faith and processing your claim. Thus, if an insurance company intentionally low-balls, delays, or otherwise treats your claim unfairly to maximize their own profits, they can be sued for bad faith if such actions caused damage to you. Ofcourse an insurance company is allowed to negotiate offers and take time in processing claims, but there is a line they should not cross when their conduct becomes bad faith. Speak with Haling Law today to find our if you have a bad faith case.
Additionally, even having an attorney on your property damage case can put an insurance company on notice to watch their conduct as they know an attorney will keep a close eye on any conduct that rises to the level of bad faith.