Does it seem odd that a law firm that handles mostly personal injury claims should accept cases that involve homeowner's property claims? The loss of belongings might not seem to be on par with physical injury or even wrongful death. However, imagine for a moment that a product you buy malfunctions and causes a fire that results in your house sustaining thousands of dollars worth of damage. I am sure you will agree that though the loss is financial – the emotional effects are deeply personal.
Taking it a step further, imagine that the house fire also caused injury to yourself or your children. Though this fact would bring our story more in line with those our firm typically handles, there are going to be aspects to the case which may involve product liability, personal injury and possibly a court room battle with the insurance company who insurers the home.
Representing Home Owners
Unfortunately, in our experience, insurers are not always as happy to part with compensation money as they might appear to be when watching their corporate advertising campaigns. Their determination not to pay can, as mentioned by attorney Scott Staples in his recent post titled Prepare a Home Inventory BEFORE a Crisis, cause additional trauma and “feelings of violation”.
He counsels taking the time to prepare a complete and thorough inventory of the contents of your house before disaster strikes so that you do not have to deal with insurance company bickering over whether you actually owned the things you say you did, or whether an item's value is what you claim it to be.
Understanding Homeowner Insurance
Given that the purchase of your home is likely to be one of the major milestones of your life, it is natural that you want to protect it and all its contents from disaster. Of course apart from the personal assurance you get from protecting your assets, homeowner insurance is most likely a requirement to obtain a mortgage on your home.
In any case, it is advisable that you review your home insurance and confirm that you understand all the sections contained therein and any limitations to coverage. Discuss any clauses that are unclear or areas of the insurance contract that you feel fall short of the level of protection you need with your insurance agent.
Typically, Dwelling Coverage will protect your home from theft, vandalism, fire and other perils. It will pay for the repair of your house when the cause of the damage is expressly covered under the policy. It is common for additional coverage to be required for flood and earthquake damage.
If you have an outdoor workshop or extensive patio it is important to verify whether they are covered in the event of a fire, flood or storm damage. Your policy may include Outdoor Structures Coverage but you should know whether you need additional coverage to protect external structures and property.
Similarly, though fittings, furnishings and house contents will be covered by a homeowners policy, it is most likely that the coverage is limited to your belongings' used value. Unfortunately in the event of a disaster, like a fire, the cash value you might get for two or three year old electronics or goods is not going to be enough to replace your personal items at today's prices. If you want to be sure that you are able to replace your Personal Property Coverage valuables your policy must include replacement-cost coverage.
Should your home be so damaged that you cannot live there, then your homeowner insurance policy will cover the cost of a hotel and additional expenses under a Loss of Use or Additional Living Expenses Coverage. You should know what the limitations on this clause are before you are ever in a position to find out the hard way.
Home Insurance Claims in Court
Even with the brief outline of a typical Homeowners Insurance policy above, you can see that there many areas that might be open to interpretation should an insurer decide to push back on a property claim. Despite clear guidelines from the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, there are many cases of homeowners already distraught over damage to their property and the loss of their belongings having to fight their insurance company just to get what is rightfully theirs.
For most individuals the process of fighting for your rights against an experienced insurance company, or even its lawyer, can be incredibly intimidating. That is where our firm, Schauermann Thayer Jacobs Staples & Edwards PS, step up to the plate. We are experienced in dealing with these types of claims and, when necessary, to protect our clients' rights throughout the insurance claim process or throughout the courts.
Our Vancouver lawyers for insurance claims and coverage disputes are available to help people in Vancouver and throughout Southwest Washington and the Portland, Oregon, area with issues related to unfair denials, delays or insufficient payment of your homeowner's claim for fire loss, water or storm damage, or other covered events for which actions can sometimes yield triple damages under the Insurance Fair Conduct Act (IFCA). Please find more information on Homeowner's Insurance Support for Unfair Denial here.