Los Angeles County Homeowners: Tips on Managing Your Fire Insurance Claim
- Follow through. How long should a homeowner wait for their insurer to act before following up with them about the status? According to Bob Scott, a partner with the Advocate Law Group who has also practiced law in the insurance industry for over 30 years, 'I would say no longer than two weeks. In today's world, if it's not going to happen in two weeks, it's not going to happen. Insurance policy holders should manage their own claims, but they shouldn't be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Look at different websites, get practical information or contact someone who can help.'
- Realize that insurers have an obligation to you. According to Dave Peterson, an attorney and fire insurance expert witness for both plaintiffs and defendants, 'The State of California passed regulations in 1993 that altered the way the insurance industry was to do business in the state. They spelled out what insurance companies have to do. They have an obligation to fully explain all coverages that are available to the insured for the claim that's been presented and that is the most often-violated regulation in California by the insurance industry.'
- Avoid taking on the insurer's responsibilities. The carrier often tries to shift the responsibility to investigate and work the loss, meaning getting a contractor and getting the remediation going, according to Scott. 'They try to shift that burden to the insured saying it's their responsibility to find a contractor. It's not going to be our contractor. Now, they do that basically for one reason, so that if the contractor screws up, the insurance company is trying to insulate itself from the responsibility of that contractor.'
'They can't do that in most cases, but it's critical that the insured understands what this risk shifting process is, denies it and writes to the insurance company. Insurance companies have lists within their claims department of approved contractors that they use time and again in Los Angeles. They're in this business because LA requires permits for rebuilding.'
'They're going to require a licensed contractor and they're going to require certain segments of the work to be done in a certain schedule so that their Los Angeles inspectors can review it. All of those things - such as framing, plumbing and electrical - are very technical for which the insured would almost never have experience. When they now shift that duty, they're trying to take a huge step back from what is really their responsibility, which is to be there to assist the insured, to investigate the loss, determine what the scope of the loss is and then find a contractor who will bid on it.'
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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