LA County Homeowners Affected By Fires: Will Your Insurer Do The Right Thing?

Why shouldn't LA County homeowners simply trust their insurance companies to do the right thing and provide fire insurance coverage for everything for which they're entitled? That's the question we asked Bob Scott, a partner with the Advocate Law Group who has also practiced law in the insurance industry for over 30 years.

Bad economy may translate to California bad faith claim handling

According to Scott, the nation's current financial downturn may have an added affect on victims of the recent Los Angeles fires. He explained, "Due to the nation's financial crunch, insurance companies must worry about their bottom line. They want to meet that internal rate of return on their money and their investment every year. The net effect is that has been that they have turned out to be very adversary in the context of their claims handling."

Fire insurance adjusters

Claims handling isn't the only issue for which LA County residents need to be concerned. Insurance companies often use independent contract adjusters in catastrophic situations like the numerous fires experienced in California this year. Scott says this can be good or bad:

Anytime there's a big fire or loss, insurance companies often find themselves without enough adjusters to do the job. In these situations, they have to hire independent catastrophic (CAT) adjusters to pick up the slack. Many of those people we have seen from prior fires and big catastrophic issues tend to be far less responsible in following their appropriate fair claims handling practices and tend to be a little bit more of a maverick in the context of their claim adjustment style. That can be good or that can be bad.

Many times they think they're saving their company money and would be rewarded for such later on. That, of course, is shallow thinking. However, the point is that homeowners should make sure where that adjuster is from when they say they're representing any one of the companies. Ask them, 'Are you employed by the ABC Insurance Company or are you employed as an independent adjuster on a temporary basis?'

LA homeowners should protect themselves

Some homeowners will get an adjuster who will do his or her job efficiently, but others may get an adjuster that will make their lives miserable, according to Scott. To avoid the later, he says that LA homeowners should, "Confirm everything in writing with a copy to that person's supervisor from the get-go. If it really gets bad, you can request that another adjuster be assigned to the risk. You should do so politely and appropriately, but all letters should be sent to the person's supervisor in writing, return receipt requested, until you are sure that you have made a confirmed, reported, paper trail of your agony. You have to do that to protect yourself."

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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