Fire & Smoke Damage
Fire and smoke damage can be very expensive and emotionally crippling. It can shut down a business, displace all the residents living in a condominium complex, or leave a family homeless. If all the fire and smoke damage is not accounted for and then 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. They do so even if the local fire marshal is conducting an investigation. In some circumstances, they do not even tell their own policyholder that they are conducting a fire 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, even if it wasn’t.
It is common practice by most property insurers to send their policyholder a document called an Authorization for Release of Information after they file an insurance claim. They ask their policyholder to sign it and return it immediately. While insurance companies are entitled to certain information after a fire loss, they cannot go a fishing expedition. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for property insurers to send out Authorizations that are overly broad. If the policyholder signs it and returns it, they very well may be releasing personal and private information about themselves to their insurance company that the insurer is not even entitled to receive. They routinely send these Authorizations to their policyholder’s employer, 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 they are signed and returned to any insurance company.
Some property insurers even assign teams of private investigators and adjusters to locate the friends, family members, neighbors, and work colleagues of their policyholders. Once they are located, they ask them questions about the policyholder that are of a personal and private nature such as:
- Is the policyholder experiencing financial problems?
- Have they ever mentioned filing for bankruptcy?
- Do they have any personal, professional, gambling, or any other type of debt(s)?
- Are they currently going through a divorce, child support issue(s), business failure(s), alcohol or drug addiction, and/or any other circumstances that could possibly motivate them to file an insurance claim?
The answers to these types of questions are all taken into consideration by insurance companies when they conduct a fire investigation. If for any reason they believe that the fire was intentionally set, in addition to denying the claim, they can even refer it 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 100% guarantee, be aware that if you file a fire damage claim with your insurer, and they insist that you be placed under oath and provide testimony about the facts and circumstances of the fire, otherwise known as an examination under oath (“EUO”), 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.