Fire & Smoke Damage
Fire and smoke damage can be very expensive and emotionally crippling. It can shut down a business, displace all the residents of a condominium complex, or leave a family homeless. If all the fire and smoke damage is not accounted for and properly remediated, its effects can linger on for years.
Typical fire damages include:
- Roof damage
- Structural and non-structural building component damage
- Damage to personal property or business property such as appliances, furniture, and/or business equipment
- Damage to plumbing, electrical, and HVAC
- Damage to technological systems like televisions, sound systems, and computers
In some circumstances, the smoke and soot associated with a fire can actually cause more damage than the fire itself. Smoke and soot damaged items include:
- Clothing, bedding, linens, furniture
- Computer and electrical equipment
- HVAC systems, including the ductwork
- Walls, ceilings, and insulation
- Business equipment and/or personal property
- Structural and non-structural building components
Accidental or Intentional Fire?
Property insurers routinely hire their own private fire investigators even if the local fire marshal is conducting an investigation. Sometimes they do not even tell their policyholder about the investigation until after it is completed. Generally speaking, they do this whenever somebody at the insurance company has raised the possibility that the fire may have been intentionally set.
It is common practice by most property insurers to send their policyholders a document called an Authorization for Release of Information after they submit an insurance claim. They ask their policyholder to sign it and return it to them immediately. While insurers are entitled to certain information after a fire loss, they are not entitled to go a fishing expedition and delve into the personal and professional areas of your life that have nothing to do with the insurance claim. Many insurers intentionally send overly broad Authorizations to their policyholders in order to obtain information that is intrusive and not reasonably related to the insurance claim. If you sign it and return it, you may very well be releasing personal and private information to your insurance company that it was never entitled to in the first place. Insurance companies then routinely send these Authorizations to employers, banks, credit unions, bookkeepers/accountants, credit card companies, medical providers, and even the Internal Revenue Service. Authorizations for Release of Information should always be reviewed by an attorney before you sign and return one to any insurance company.
Some property insurers will even assign teams of private investigators and adjusters to locate the friends, family members, neighbors, and work colleagues of the policyholders who they are investigating. Once located, they ask them questions of a personal and private nature, such as:
- Is the policyholder experiencing financial problems?
- Have they ever mentioned filing for bankruptcy?
- Are you aware of any personal, professional, gambling, or any other type of debt(s)?
- Are they currently going through a divorce and/or child support issue(s)?
- Have they suffered any business failure(s) recently?
- Do they have any dependency issue(s) such as alcohol or drug addiction?
- Are you aware of any other personal circumstances in their life that could possibly motivate them to file an insurance claim?
The answers to these questions, and many more, are all taken into consideration by an insurance company when they conduct a fire investigation. If your insurance company ultimately concludes that the fire was intentionally set, and even though you are 100% innocent, not only can they deny your claim, but they can even refer your case to law enforcement for potential criminal investigation and/or prosecution. Remember, unlike in criminal court where proof of a crime is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’, insurance claims are handled in the civil court system, where the standard of proof is much lower.
Contact our Fire and Smoke Damage Attorneys Today
While not a guarantee, be aware that if you submit a fire damage claim to your insurer and they request that you be placed under oath and provide testimony about the facts and circumstances (otherwise known as an examination under oath (“EUO”)) of the fire, there is the real and distinct possibility that somebody at the insurance company believes that the circumstances of the fire are suspicious. Proceed with extreme caution. Fire claims are not only about your insurance policy; they may have unintended criminal law implications. If they demand that you provide an EUO, seek legal representation immediately. The attorneys at Kubiak Law Group understand the law, your insurance policy, and the rules and regulations as they pertain to fire claims. We have the experience, knowledge, and resources required to fight insurance companies to protect your rights.
We offer free consultations, the same day return of calls and emails, and 24/7/365 availability. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation and learn how we can help with your insurance claim.