Category: Personal Injury

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.

 

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.

Calculating depreciation is usually a simple step in arithmetic.

Let’s say you lost a two-year-old flat screen TV that was in good condition before the blaze. A new, similar unit prices $1,000 in the store. This is the replacement cost or “RCV.”

A TV carries a life expectancy of five years, so it loses 20% of its value each year.

The depreciation calculation here is RCV minus 40% corresponding to ACV $1000 – $400 = $600.

This implies that the insurance company will pay $600 for the destroyed TV as part of a fire insurance policy. If there is substitute coverage, the carrier will send a check for the remaining $400 or $1,000 in total after confirmation of purchase.

The same simple measurement applies to most parts of your home or office that wear out over time. Think carpets, curtains, or roofs.

Each will have its own depreciation schedule. Some items will depreciate over long periods (25 years for a roof in most cases), while others lose quality relatively quickly.

The situation at the time of loss can also count, which usually occurs when the damaged item is not completely destroyed. A flimsy carpet that is smoke-damaged is a good example. Well, in serious events such as a wildfire, some carriers cut through the regular damage process because so many people are affected by the similar accident.

This implies, particularly where there is a total loss, your claims adjuster may not let you jump through the depreciation hoop.

The reason of all this is not to be afraid to ask your insurer to waive the depreciation step in your claim and either to cover the replacement prices directly or to pay the insurance limits separately.

You may be pleasantly surprised by the reaction and ease some of your stress as you recover from the fire.

 

$10.9 Million Jury Verdict in Personal Injury Lawsuit

A personal injury lawsuit filed by Daniels Law resulted in a $10.9 million jury verdict against Los Angeles County. The personal injury case involved a man who suffered serious injuries when a county employee drove a forklift truck over his legs.

Jurors deliberated for nearly a day before determining that the county was responsible for the injuries of James Cobb, who was 34 when the accident occurred on the grounds of USC Hospital in 2015.

The award is more than double the county’s highest settlement offer, according to Daniels Law Partner Bill Daniels.

“The county offered to settle the case during jury deliberations for $5 million after initially making a $1.5 million settlement offer before the trial began,” Daniels said.

The county rejected an earlier $3 million settlement request, in addition to an offer to implement a so-called “high / low agreement” that would set a lower and upper limit on potential damages, even if the jury agreed to a higher or lower amount.

As Cobb walked across a crosswalk after parking his car, a forklift driven by hospital employee John Hill, hit Cobb from behind.

The impact caused Cobb to fall forward, and the forklift truck then ran over both legs. Cobb’s injuries required extensive surgery and ongoing rehabilitation.

During the trial, county attorneys argued that Cobb could have avoided the forklift if he had taken better care crossing the crosswalk where the collision occurred. Cobb, an employee of a local party rental company, was working on the grounds of County USC Hospital to oversee a tent installation for two events on the USC Medical School campus at the time of the accident.

Crucial to the eight-figure verdict were extensive video animations and exhibits that graphically documented why Cobb was an innocent pedestrian legally walking in a crosswalk and showing how the county’s negligencein operating its forklift truck.

“We strongly believe that the county’s defense team thought they could win by confusing our jurors. Our strategy was to paint a clear picture so that jurors could understand why we brought this case to trial and get a fair outcome,” Daniels added.

County attorneys were shocked by the jury’s verdict and appealed, arguing the verdict was too high and laying out legal arguments that were basically the same ones the jury rejected at trial

Three justices with the California Court of Appeals rejected the county’s argument and upheld the ruling in all respects.

“The judgment is affirmed. Cobb is awarded his costs on appeal,” Justice Chavez wrote in the appellate decision.

“The Cobb trial was a great success because we put together a great team,” Daniels concluded.

The hefty personal injury award is one of a string of jury victories won by Daniels Law over the past five years.