When you’ve lost your home, and most or all of its contents in a fire, you just want life to get back to normal. That means having your home rebuilt or repaired and salvaging or buying new personal items.
Why should you hire a lawyer? A lawyer can act on your behalf by providing expertise in resolving disputes and by understanding how insurance companies work. We know how estimates and claims processes can often be used against insured and know how to fight back. More importantly, hiring a lawyer means that you have someone fighting on your behalf with your best interests at hand. Insurance companies want you to believe that they have your best interests at hand, but that is seldom the case.
When should you hire a lawyer? In many cases, insureds will hire a lawyer when they simply can't make headway with their insurance company in getting the claim processed or when their insurance company wrongfully denies their claim or refuses to pay the full value of their claim. However, you can never hire a lawyer 'too soon' to act on your behalf.
You should definitely hire a lawyer if you are given a Proof of Loss form to complete or if you are requested to submit to an Examination Under Oath.
A Proof of Loss (POL) is simply a form that is requesting you to set forth every item you are claiming coverage for under your policy of insurance. In theory, this should be quite simple. In practice, however it is not. The forms are typically full of insurance jargon, and are not specifically tailored to your coverage. If you are contemplating filling this form out without having read and reviewed your full policy of insurance then you are making a mistake. You may claim something which isn’t covered under the policy, which the insurance company may decide is a fraudulent claim and deny coverage for the entire policy. Most people will need the assistance of legal counsel or someone who is experienced in this field in order to appropriately fill out this form. Insurance companies know this and may attempt to use any information you put into this form against you. In a recent case we worked on, a former employee of an insurance company called a POL a “hostile adjusting tool,” meaning that this was not the typical process to determine what an insured was claiming under the policy. If your insurance company sends you a Proof of Loss form to be completed, you should strongly consider contacting us.
An Examination Under Oath (EUO) is a sworn statement taken by a lawyer hired by your insurance company. The lawyer will likely request various documents prior to the EUO and will review those documents prior to asking you about them. The lawyer also has the benefit of reviewing your insurance company’s file, including your application, your policy, the Underwriting notes, the adjuster’s and investigator’s notes, and a variety of other items about you before asking you these questions. If your insurance company requests to take your EUO, you need to contact us immediately. EUOs take place in very few cases – the fact that they are asking for your EUO lets you know they are considering denying your claim. A few misstatements in an EUO will certainly lead them to deny the claim. Further, an EUO is almost always taken by an attorney – if the insurance company has decided to get their lawyers involved, why wouldn’t you want legal representation as well?
You might think that having your insurance company deny coverage for your fire loss would be the worst thing that could happen in this situation. However, it can get even worse than that. Many insurance policies provide for coverage for Loss of Use or Living Expense payments during the investigation of a claim. If the company makes these payments for 6 months while they investigate your claim and then decides to deny the claim, the company may end up filing a lawsuit against you to recover these payments it has made to you in the investigation period. Without adequate legal counsel, after you have lost your home to a fire you could end up having your claim denied and then owing your own insurance company thousands of dollars, as well.
If you are reading this post right now and have yet to experience a fire, walk through your house and make a video of your possessions. In this day and age where smartphones with video capabilities are everywhere, you can just grab your phone and walk through each room, panning around. This will be invaluable in the event you ever have a fire at your house.
If you or someone you know has experienced a fire loss, please contact Clark Mason Attorneys for assistance.