Living through a wildfire is a traumatic event. Losing your home is devastating. The only consolation is knowing that you were prepared for this and had insurance. Too many people learn after they lose everything that their insurance company refuses to provide the protection it promised. Maybe it has denied your claim, or you learned too late that the policy limit your insurer set was far too low for you to rebuild.
Insurance companies have a history of denying or delaying fire insurance claims and leaving policyholders feeling hopeless. Don’t worry, though. In this blog post, we will explore common reasons your wildfire insurance claim was denied and how we can help you recover what you are entitled to under your policy.
Your insurance company may claim you had no coverage at the time of the fire. This may be because of a premium payment issue or because the insurer reviewed your insurance application now that you’ve made a claim and decided that the policy should never have been issued and has rescinded it.
We have handled claims where the policy was rescinded after a wildfire because the policy listed the owner as the insured, but the insured’s trust actually owned the property, for example. Insurance applications also ask questions about the intended use of the property. If you state that you are not using the property for business but have a business on the premises, it could be a basis for rescission. If you are growing at the property any plant or product that is illegal under state or federal law, that can also be a basis for rescission.
An attorney can review the insurer’s claimed basis for rescission with you or their assertion that the policy lapsed due to non-payment and determine with you whether their position has any merit.
With outright denials, the insurer may deny your fire damage claim if it believes there are coverage exclusions in your policy for items affected by the fire. Policies typically include a list of exclusions concerning various types of damage, including smoke and ash damage. If you have made specific payments to ensure coverage, but your claim is still denied, an insurance attorney can help you.
Your fire claim may be denied if the insurer suspects arson. This is a more common issue than you’d believe, and the insurance company may contest the claim if they suspect the policyholder of intentionally causing the fire or exaggerating the damages. Fire investigators may also be employed to determine the cause. This is where seeking out the assistance of an experienced insurance attorney may help you get the resolution you deserve.
The insurance company may deny a claim if sufficient proof of losses and damage is not provided. To prevent this, make a careful inventory list of destroyed/partially damaged items, don’t throw any items away, and photograph the wreckage or damage. Locate photos online of your home and possessions before the fire. Pull credit card receipts and bank statements from your banks to demonstrate purchases made for the home before the fire.
Your insurer may fully pay the benefits listed in the policy, but you find yourself without anywhere close to the money you need to rebuild. Underinsurance is a rampant problem in the United States, particularly in California, due to the years of wildfires creating labor and materials shortages. Insurance companies blame the homeowners, saying that if the homeowners wanted more insurance, it was on them to request it. The California Department of Insurance has been cracking down on this behavior. In the past three years, it has forced some insurers to pay tens of millions of dollars in additional claims payments due to their own mistakes in estimating the replacement cost value of their insureds’ homes. While your insurer will tell you that they bear no responsibility for your underinsurance, the truth may be quite different depending on the facts of your situation.
If your insurer denies your fire claim, you want to contact an attorney right away. There are limitations in the policy and in the law on how much time you have to bring a lawsuit for an insurance denial. Let Monahan Tucker Law stand up for you when your insurer lets you down.
Helping clients in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Arizona.