Experts Warn Los Angeles Fire Victims to Get Insurance Promises in Writing

Victims of the recent Los Angeles, California fires have enough to worry about. Having their homeowners' insurance company act in bad faith shouldn't be added to their lists. To combat bad faith insurance practices, our experts say - get it in writing!

California Fire Insurance Attorney Bob Scott

According to Bob Scott, a partner with the Advocate Law Group who has also practiced law in the insurance industry for over 30 years:

It's important for homeowners to reconfirm this coverage with their insurance agent. I would do that in writing - especially if it's a half a million dollar house or better. They also want to reconfirm with their agent that not only are they covered for the dwelling but also covered for an adequate amount for their contents. Most of us accumulate things and don't put present, good values on them. It's important for homeowners to make sure they get as close as they can to replacement value coverage as that company offers. Very few companies offer full replacement value anymore, but there are a few. You've got to hunt for them.

Scott says that everyone should be reminded that the insurance policies for fire coverage in California are a creature of statute, which means they're found in the insurance code, word for word, as in many states. "As such, carriers cannot vary from that language. They must cover it all in a very uniform, same language and same application way. What we see is carriers trying to deny the coverage altogether. However, if they haven't done so in very clear and unambiguous terms, and continue to bill for it, they're going to be on the risk for that loss."

Fire Insurance Expert Dave Peterson

Dave Peterson, a fire insurance expert witness for both plaintiffs and defendants, agreed wholeheartedly with Scott. "It's best to create a paper trail in most cases because when you start doing things verbally, the conversation may or may not be memorialized by the insurance company. They're supposed to memorialize them, but a lot of them don't. My suggestion would be to write letters to the insurance company because that becomes part of the claim file."

LA County fire victims: Do you know how the process works?

Peterson says that those affected by the recent Los Angeles fires should understand how the process works. He explained, "Homeowners must first give notice to their insurance company. At that point, the insurer must start an investigation within 15 days. Then it has 40 days to accept or deny the claim. The insurer needs to explain all the coverages that are available to the insured so that the insured has enough information to understand the process."

Unfortunately, Peterson says that the issue of personal property is one of the largest problems in the process. "The insurer will require that the insured prove the contents. There are some insurers who are reasonable about it, but what I find is that most of them are not. If you have a major fire loss, the insurance company should be hiring a salvage company. The salvage company should be going in there to make a list of everything that's been destroyed and usually they do a very good job. It's after that list is made up that you can then present it to the insured and have them fill in the blank spots which are usually when it was purchased and from where it was purchased."

If your homeowners' insurance company has denied your valid homeowners' claim or is not treating you fairly or in good faith, contact Bob Scott at the Advocate Law Group to discuss your situation and evaluate your options. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential.

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