Category: Insurance

INSURANCE BAD FAITH DISCOVERY BASICS

Insurance bad faith cases are usually hard fought and the fighting can be bitter.

Generally speaking, when we take on a carrier for acting contrary to its insured’s interests and allege those actions are malicious justifying punitive damages, the folks on the defense side tend to take it personally.

So, the first rule of discovery in the bad faith case is, assume you are in for a tough fight.  Which, in turn, leads to the second and third rules: know your adversary and be prepared.

The bad news that the general practitioner faces in prosecuting a bad faith case is that the defense team will usually be much better schooled in the fine points of insurance than an attorney who does not work with insurance matters on a daily basis.

The good news that the general practitioner can take heart from is that the purpose of bad faith law is to act as an equalizer between the powerful carriers who adjust claims for a living and the ordinary insured who probably never wanted to have a claim and, with luck, will never have another.  Insurance regulations require that insurance companies keep a record of all material claims decisions.  So, where there is wrongdoing, there is almost always a record of the bad acts waiting to be uncovered.

The key discovery strategy in defending bad faith cases is to deny the plaintiff information.  However, if you know where and how to dig, it’s not that difficult to get the evidence you need to put on your successful case. Continue reading “INSURANCE BAD FAITH DISCOVERY BASICS”

Three key principles in total loss wildfire insurance claims 

If you suffer a disaster such as a total loss from wildfire and need to claim on your insurance, consider these three principles:

Get a copy of your policies and read them.

Insurance always starts with a written policy, so the first thing to do when you get ready to make a claim is to get a copy of any policy that might cover your damaged property and read it through from front to back.

If you do not have your insurance policy forms because they have been lost, destroyed or are otherwise unavailable, you will need to obtain a policy reconstruction from the insurance company. Ask your agent or go directly to the insurance company’s policy services department. If you cannot remember who your insurance company is, you will need to do a little detective work. Start with your checking account. A check of your bank records may well lead you to any insurer that could provide insurance coverage for your damaged property.

Check your coverages.

Your insurance policy covers certain types of losses and excludes protection for others. That’s why it is important to get a copy of the contract right at the start.

A problem that often occurs after a catastrophic loss is the damaged property is not fully insured. Where a broker or broker advises you professionally on appropriate coverage or binds coverage based on their own professional expertise, you may have a claim for professional negligence if the property is not insured to its full value.

Watch out for Time Limits

Property insurance policies generally have their own deadlines, known as “limitation periods,” and the period during which legal action must be filed to enforce the contract is frequently shorter than the period applicable to a simple written contract.

If in doubt, consult a lawyer about the time limits for your claim. Be proactive. Once you have suffered a loss, a clock ticks somewhere that could limit your ability to claim back the insurance benefits.

 

Additional living expense coverage basics for a total wild fire loss

A few words from Daniels Law partner, Bill Daniels:

When we had a house fire in 2009, our big problem was what to do with the horses.

We have lived on a small horse farm in the San Fernando Valley for about thirty years. My wife Cheryl is a serious animal person.

So when the fire burned down our house, it threatened to scatter our entire family and also all our pets and livestock.

The tally back then, if I recall, was a quarter horse gelding, two Arabian mares, a retired blind pony, two pygmy goats, three domestic cats, four Labrador dogs (two black, one brown and one white) and one domestic rat.

Imagine you are looking for a rental home to relocate this crowd and you have an understanding of the predicament we were in. Fortunately, we now had homeowner insurance that included basic fire protection. In addition to property damage services, there was something known in the insurance industry as “ALE.”

The ALE coverage is intended to reimburse you for the additional costs you incur as a cause of a damage. In our case it was the house fire. Continue reading “Additional living expense coverage basics for a total wild fire loss”

Hiring a contractor after a total wild fire loss in California

Probably the best tip we can offer on the contractor’s hiring front is to check a builder’s license or the registration of a home improvement vendor to see if the candidate you’re thinking of has problems in the past that could point to problems in the future.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board is a good place to start. This is a website where you can verify a contractor’s license online. Googling “Check Contractor License California” should transport you easily to the Board’s license check page, where you can search for license number, company name, personal name, etc.

Previous testing of a license can save many problems in rebuilding your property. We learned this the hard way after hiring a paver contractor years ago to repave a driveway. It was only after the contractor broke his contract and that we realized that we were not his first victim. If we had known about the license check website, it would have saved us a lot of trouble.

A license check also helps you avoid hiring an unlicensed contractor, which is a known hazard after catastrophic fire damage. Contractor licenses are designed to protect the public from unscrupulous souls; do not be tempted to ignore this protection. The state licensing office also publishes a checklist for homeowners to download and follow. Continue reading “Hiring a contractor after a total wild fire loss in California”

Depreciation in total wild fire loss insurance claims

Some insurance companies will not focus on depreciation when dealing with forest fire claims.

This is good news. Depreciation is something most people don’t understand when they are buying insurance and they can make claims settlement, well, troubling.

Simply put, your home or business building and personal belongings – furniture, fabric, tools, etc. – can lose value over time because they age, show traces of wear, or even become obsolete.

This fall in value is called a “devaluation” by the insurance industry.

The concept becomes relevant when you make a claim because of the way in which most policies are written.

Generally, claim reimbursement begins with an initial amount for the Actual Cash Value (“ACV”) of your loss. ACV is the fair market value of lost or damaged items: Think of the price a willing customer pays to buy from a willing seller.

To avoid depreciation, most insurance companies sell replacement cost coverage that can allow additional money up to the full cost to remove any item.

The catch is that you usually only get a complete replacement cost benefit when you actually replace the missing or damaged item.

I have seen how people have dealt with this concept over the years, so it is worth taking a closer look at how the process works. Continue reading “Depreciation in total wild fire loss insurance claims”