Fighting Denied Or Delayed Claims And Bad Faith Issues
Few disasters are more devastating than a fire. Whether a fire leaves you homeless with nothing but the clothes on your back or without a business and a source of income, our team at Wright & Associates will work to get you back on your feet.
You hired your insurance company to protect you against catastrophe. But all too often, the insurance company only makes matters worse. For instance, given the magnitude of the loss involved with a fire, insurance companies work hard to minimize the amount they pay out on the claim. Insurance companies may:
- Deliberately under-value the amount of the loss by using their own “in-house” appraisers.
- Dwell on the fine print of the policy to pay less than they should.
- Delay paying your claim to gain leverage in negotiating with you.
- Bury you in requests for irrelevant documents.
- Fight with you on temporary housing.
- Question your claim without any reasonable basis.
- Delay adjusting your claim resulting in additional damage to the property.
- Fail to offer a reasonable amount for Your damages.
- Fail to promptly and reasonably investigate.
- Fail to preserve key evidence.
- Investigate the fire with the goal of blaming you for the fire.
- Hire a lawyer to interrogate you in an examination under oath.
- Refuse to enter into any meaningful good faith negotiations to resolve the claim – forcing you to file a lawsuit in order to receive the benefits that were promised in the Policy.
- Improperly void a policy when the Policy is merely voidable.
In some situations, the Insurance company may try to blame you for fire accusing you of fraud, misrepresentation or worse – arson. If that happens, it is vital you have a lawyer in your corner to defend you against bogus allegations, turn the tide, and force the insurance company to honor its obligations. What’s more, you will need your own investigators to help you even the odds against a self-serving insurance company.
A Consultation Is The First Step To Getting Back On Your Feet
If you do not timely assert your rights, the insurance company will argue that you have waived them. Wright & Associates encourages you to schedule an initial consultation in which our team can review the facts of your case, offer a frank assessment and recommend the best course of action. Sometimes signaling the insurance provider that you are prepared to fight for your rights is all it takes to resolve the matter. In other cases, Wright & Associates may need to take the insurance company to court. Use the contact form on this website or call to make an appointment.
Safety After A Fire
- If the fire department or a utility company turned off your gas, electricity or water, call the utility company to restore these services when ready. Do not try to do it yourself.
- Before you enter a building after any disaster be sure it is safe and will not collapse. To prevent personal injuries and further damage to the property, do not enter a damaged building at night without good lighting.
- Immediately after a disaster and before working on the premises, shut off your gas, electric and water services. The fire department may already have done this for you. If they have not, call the utility companies for assistance.
- Open as many doors and windows as you can to help eliminate moisture, odors or gases. Do not smoke or use an open flame in the building until you are sure there are no gas leaks.
- It is recommended that you have an electrician or power company representative advise you on wiring and equipment needs. It is best to have an electrician do the testing and make repairs unless the emergency demands that you do it.
- Do not operate electrical appliances that have been wet and are smoke damaged until they are properly cleaned. Have washers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers and other appliances serviced before operating them.
First Steps after a Fire
- Call your insurance agent or insurance company if your house or personal property is insured. If your insurance policy was destroyed in the disaster, ask your agent for another copy. Ask your agent what losses and costs your policy will cover. Some policies may include relocation or temporary living expenses. If you have problems with your insurance company such as unreasonable delays or disputes over coverage, call The Ohio Department of Insurance Consumer Services Division at (614) 644-2673.
- For insurance purposes, begin immediately to keep records of all your losses. Start two envelopes, one to collect receipts for all living expenses you will have until you return to your home and another to collect receipts of all expenses related to cleanup and repair. Often, it is easiest to simply take a photograph of every receipt with your smart phone.
- Make a list of damaged personal property. If possible, include the date of purchase and original cost. Include any bills or documents that can help establish an item’s value. A household inventory or photographs showing the interior of your home before the disaster will be very helpful. If these are not available, someone familiar with your home may be able to help you make a list, particularly if you are upset.
- If your home is mortgaged, notify the mortgage company of the disaster. Because the company has an interest in your home, they will want to know what is being done to restore your property and may work with you.
- If you have been renting your house or apartment, call your landlord. Your landlord may arrange for an insurance adjuster to survey the damage. Find out what your landlord’s plans are for rebuilding or making repairs. Your landlord may board up windows, doors, and other openings to prevent further damage, injuries resulting from unsafe conditions, and vandalism. If you will not be moving back into your home, discuss with your landlord the refund of your security deposit and rent.
- Whether you own or rent, you must protect yourself from additional losses. If you cannot move back into the damaged residence, remove your valuables, important papers and salvageable goods to protect them from further damage or theft. Board up windows, doors and other openings to prevent further damage by weather or vandalism, and injuries resulting from unsafe conditions.
- If heat cannot be quickly restored during the winter, drain toilet bowls and pipes to prevent damage from freezing. Remember to drain your hot water tank, too. If electricity is shut off, empty your freezer within 24 hours and store contents with a friend or neighbor.
- If the disaster damaged supplies or tools you need for your job or made it impossible for you to return to work immediately, call your employer.
- If school-aged children are involved, notify schools so they can offer emotional support and so they will be aware if a child’s attendance is affected.
- Check with your doctor for any health needs. The added stress of the disaster may change your body’s needs if you are taking certain medications.
- If you currently receive public assistance call your caseworker and notify him or her of the disaster. You may be eligible for emergency assistance if you have not used it within the past year. Red Cross can provide you with a referral form to verify the disaster if necessary. Give your caseworker your temporary address and phone number so you can continue to receive any food stamps or checks you received before the disaster.
- If you cannot return home, call the post office to make temporary arrangements for your mail. They can hold your mail until a change of address is available. They can also send your mail to a temporary address for as long as six months.
- Cancel all deliveries, such as newspapers, and cancel your telephone, cable, and internet service if necessary.
- Call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. Ask for Publication 547, the Disaster Information Booklet. This booklet tells you how your records should be made for tax deduction purposes if you are uninsured or your insurance will not cover all losses.
- Before you contract for any home repairs needed as a result of the disaster, first contact your insurance agent, mortgage company or bank. Read all contracts carefully before signing. Do not sign any document unless you understand everything. If you feel you have been victimized or entered into a contract without understanding the agreement, contact your lawyer or your local Legal Aid Society to obtain advice.
- Before the work begins, you, your insurance claim representative and the contractor should agree on the scope and cost of repairs, or rebuilding, and the amount of time necessary to complete them.
- You may want to take the opportunity to make some alterations or upgrades. Upgrades or alterations may not be covered under your policy.
- Your community’s planning department may require certain upgrades based on building ordinances or laws to make your repaired or rebuilt home meet current building codes.
- If this occurs, contact your Insurance claim representative to discuss the building code requirements.
- If you ask a contractor to provide an estimate, have your contractor provide a separate estimate of any upgrades required by building law or ordinance.
- If you have a mortgage, your mortgage lender is generally entitled to be named on any payments made to repair or rebuild the physical structure portion of the loss. Contact your lender to determine their procedures for inspecting the property and releasing funds to you and your contractor. Any building payments will likely include the mortgage lender as a payee.
- Keep a record of the name and telephone number of your mortgage contact person for future reference.
- Let your Insurance claim representative know if you have any other insurance policies that may cover the loss.
- To prevent damage while your dwelling is unoccupied and under construction, don’t forget about outdoor maintenance. You may have no, or limited, coverage for the maintenance of your trees, shrubs, plants, and lawns.
- To prevent additional damage to your home, you may need to winterize your plumbing system during repairs.
One thing that will be important to understand is the concepts of Actual Cash Value (ACV) and Replacement Cost Value (RCV). RCV is what it costs to replace an item. ACV is computed by subtracting depreciation from replacement cost value. For example, say you own a table which you bought in 2010. If you were to sell the used table, you could get $300 – that is the ACV. To buy a similar table today would cost $1,000 – that is the RCV. Insurance pays the ACV ($300) after a loss such as a fire. Insurance pays RCV (the remaining $700) only when the table is replaced. As such, it is very important you keep receipts.
- Be specific. Each item should get its own line.
- Group your items by room, starting with the large items first.
- Remember to inventory items that may be stored in out-of-the-way places, such as the attic or tops of closets.
- You may group identical items together. For example, “10 forks” or “5 bowls”
- The value of special or unique items might not be easily determined. If you have an opinion as to the values, write “Approx.” and then the value. If you are unable to determine a price, simply list the item on the inventory and write “TBD.”
Some damaged items, like art (from fine art to children’s drawings) or recorded media (CDs, DVDs, etc.) may be saved or restored to its original condition.
Inventory your Important Documents
- Bank Books and Records: Notify your bank immediately if check books, blank checks or savings account books are lost in a disaster. You may need to close your existing accounts and transfer your funds to new accounts.
- MasterCard 1-800-627-8372
- VISA 1-800-847-2911
- American Express 1-800-528-4800
- Discover 1-800-347-2683
- Animal Registrations
- Medical Records
- Citizenship Papers
- Insurance Policies
- Education Records
- Employment Records
- Stocks & Bonds: To replace lost stock certificates you must show evidence of the purchase. The stockbroker from whom you purchased the stock can provide such evidence.
- S. Savings Bonds: To replace a savings bond, go to www.treasurydirect.gov. There you will find copies of forms you will need to fill out and mail to receive a U.S Savings Bond replacement.
- Credit and Debit Cards: If credit cards are lost in a disaster, immediately call your creditors to close your accounts and open new ones.
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificates
- Divorce Decree(s)
- Food Stamp Card
- Health Insurance Cards
- Military Records (DD214)
- Money: If paper currency has been damaged only slightly, go to your local bank for replacement. If the money is more severely damaged, the U. S. Treasury Department will replace it if portions of the remaining bills are large enough to show the engraving designs on the face sides. Burned money should be packed in cotton and boxed as found, if possible. Send it registered mail or registered parcel post. They will send you forms to fill out. If you are sending large sums of money, ask the post office for a return receipt. Department of the Treasury, P.O. Box 37048, Room 344,OCSBEPA, Washington, D. C. 20013
Getting Through This Difficult Time
It will take time to rebuild from these losses, both emotionally and physically. Most individuals will be able to make needed adjustments and move on with their lives. Patience, acceptance, allowing one to grieve, adjusting to new environments, putting the past behind and believing that better times are ahead are all steps one takes to move through difficult times. If your reaction to the disaster significantly disrupts your daily functioning (example: job performance, interpersonal relationships, etc.), professional counseling may be of some benefit. If you would like help for your child or would like to talk to someone yourself, call your local American Red Cross for referral to counseling resources. Remember, your feelings are OK and normal. Sometimes it just helps to talk to a professional.
Your own and your family’s emotional care and recovery are just as important as rebuilding a home and healing physical injuries. We each have different ways of coping and different needs. You may be surprised at how you and others may feel after a disaster. Disasters are upsetting experiences for everyone involved. Children, older adults, people with disabilities, and people for whom English is not their first language are especially at risk. Children may become afraid and some older adults may seem disoriented at first. People with disabilities may require additional assistance. It is important to let children and older adults know that they are safe and that you will help them find a safe place to stay. It is important that you try to talk with them in a calm way. Disaster can stir up many different feelings and thoughts, such as:
- Concern for safety of a loved one
- Helpfulness to other disaster victims
- Crying for “no apparent reason”
- Anxiety about the future
- Excessive drug/alcohol use
- Domestic violence
- Physical symptoms such as headaches, gastrointestinal distress, worsening chronic medical conditions, fatigue, and changes in eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping
- Apathy and depression
- Frustration and feelings of powerlessness
- Difficulty in making decisions
Basic Steps You Can Take To Meet Physical And Emotional Needs
- Try to return to as many of your personal and family routines as possible.
- Rest and drink plenty of water.
- Limit your exposure to the sights and sounds of disaster, especially in the media.
- Focus on the positive.
- Reach out and accept help from others.
- Do something you enjoy. Do something as a family that you have all enjoyed in the past
- Stay connected with your family and/or other support systems.
- Realize that, sometimes, recovery can take time.
- Exercise, especially within 24 hours of the disaster.
- Allow yourself to experience your range of emotions.
- Learn relaxation and stress reduction techniques.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Maintain a spiritual connection.
- Give yourself permission to backslide – this is also normal.
- Be tolerant of the irritability & short tempers others show – everyone is stressed at this time.
- Do things you enjoy.
- Re-establish medication regimens.
- Write about significant experiences in your life and how they have affected you.
- Be around others – stay connected with your family and other supports.
Dealing With The Loss Of A Pet
- Give yourself permission to grieve.
- Memorialize the pet (examples: making a scrapbook, photo album, etc.)
- Have a memorial service, all family members help in the planning.
- Consult your local library or bookstore for books about pet loss.
Disasters and Children
Children may experience intense feelings about the disaster. Some children may show their feelings immediately; others will wait until a later time. This is a very difficult time for them as well as for you. Whatever their reactions, it is normal for children to be upset and demonstrate different behaviors. Following a disaster some children may:
- Behave as they did when they were younger, thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, asking for a bottle
- Be angry and hit, throw, or kick to show their anger
- Be upset at the loss of a favorite toy, teddy bear, or blanket
- Be afraid to be left alone
- Be afraid of the disaster recurring. They may ask many times, “Will the house burn again?” or “will the tornado come again?”
- Cling to parents
- Show reluctance to go to bed and/or nightmares
- Demonstrate withdrawal and immobility
- Refuse to attend school
- Exhibit problems at school, such as difficulty concentrating
Tips For Parents When Helping Children
- Offer frequent comforting and reassurance.
- Be open and honest about the disaster – provide facts that are age appropriate.
- Encourage children to express their emotions through play, talking and drawing.
- Maintain your daily routines as closely as possible.
- Review safety procedures that are now in place.
- Hold your child.
- Spend extra time with your child, especially at bedtime.
- Work closely with teachers and other caregivers that may not understand how the disaster has affected your child.
- Avoid prolonged indirect exposure to viewing the disaster over and over again (example: repetitively watching the event on television).
- Use language that the child will understand-talk with your child about what has happened, providing factual information that she or he can understand.
- Expect misunderstandings, correcting them as required – ask the child what they heard – listen to their reactions and observe their facial expressions.
- Relax rules, but maintain family structure and responsibility.
- Praise and recognize responsible behavior
- Q: What is the insurance company’s goal?
- Q: What is an insurance adjuster’s job?
- Q: What does my insurance cover?
- Q: How much is an initial consultation?
- Q: Why should I hire Wright & Associates?
- Q: How much time do I have to file a lawsuit
Q: What is the insurance company’s goal?
A: The insurance Company’s goal with your claim is to pay you the least amount possible so they make the most profit. An insurance company is a business. Like any business, insurance companies want to make a profit. The insurance company makes profit by taking collecting more in premium payments than it pays out on claims. The insurance company can also make money by delaying paying your claim so it can collect interest on the money already paid in premiums. The insurance company will not help you to protect and preserve your rights
Q: What is an insurance adjuster’s job?
A: In short, the insurance adjuster’s job is to save the insurance company money. Keep the following in mind when speaking with the adjuster.
- Insurance adjusters are not your friend.
- Insurance adjusters are not on your side.
- The adjuster has no legal obligation to you whatsoever.
- It is not the insurance adjuster’s job to help protect your rights.
- Insurance adjusters want to take what you say and use it against you.
- Insurance adjusters are trying to minimize and undermine your rights.
- The insurance adjuster has no interest in seeing that you are treated for your injuries.
- Insurance adjusters are well-trained professionals whose job is to minimize your claim.
- Insurance adjusters want to save their company money, so they can look good on their performance review.
- Insurance adjusters are trained to be nice to you so you will not hire a lawyer. Do not the friendly demeanor fool you.
- Insurance adjusters are not bad people – they are doing their job. Their job is to pay the least amount possible on your claim.
- Often times, the insurance company represents the person who hurt you. In other words, insurance adjusters are not trying to help you – they are trying to help the person who hurt you.
- Insurance adjusters may discourage you from getting a lawyer. Insurance companies do not want you to get a lawyer because people who get lawyers make the insurance company pay more money.
- The insurance adjusters want to keep you in the dark about your rights. The insurance adjuster will not help you find all the coverage you are entitled to under the insurance policy – like medical payments coverage and car rental coverage.
- An insurance adjuster may say “don’t get a lawyer, a lawyer will take your money.” Setting aside the fact that the adjuster may be practicing law without a license, in most cases, the adjuster is wrong. A lawyer will typically get you more money.
Q: What does my insurance cover?
A: It depends on the language of your insurance policy and the insurance policies of the people you live with. A good lawyer will request the insurance policies and find all the available insurance coverage.
Q: How much is an initial consultation?
A: Generally, Wright & Associates charges $300 for an initial consultation.
Q: Why should I hire Wright & Associates?
A: Wright & Associates:
- Ben has experience trying cases.
- Ben has experience arguing appeals.
- Ben and his team will protect your rights.
- Ben and his team will gather the necessary evidence.
- Ben and his team are professionals who are committed to your case.
- Ben and his team have the experience and resources to investigate your claim.
- Ben and his team will prevent you from giving statements against your interest.
- Ben and his team will come to you if you cannot come to us.
- If Ben does not think he can get you more money than you could without a lawyer, then he will not take your case.
- Ben and his team will put you on equal footing with the insurance company and their well-trained and experienced adjusters.
- Ben is a former insurance lawyer. Since he used to represent the insurance company, he understands how an insurance company may try to minimize your claim.
Q: How much time do I have to file a lawsuit?
A: It depends on the claim you want to assert. While some statutes of limitations are set by law, other limitations are set by the terms of a contract. The bottom line: You should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible. Once the statute of limitations runs, you may be forever barred from recovering for your damages.