Whether you rent or own your home, having it damaged or destroyed in a fire can be devastating. In a matter of hours, all of your belongings and memories are gone forever, and the financial damage can be extremely high. If your commercial building is affected, you’re also looking at a loss of income until you rebuild.
All of this is bad enough, but when your insurance company denies your claim after years of paying your premiums on time, the situation feels even worse. At the MIC Firm, we understand that dealing with fire losses can be stressful, especially when an insurance claim is denied. We have seen insurance companies routinely deny valid claims without explanation and are committed to helping you recover the compensation you are entitled to. Speak to a Louisiana insurance lawyer at our law firm today.
Common Causes of Louisiana Property Fires
In residential and commercial properties, most accidental fires result from one of the following non-criminal causes:
- Cooking: Unattended stovetops are a leading cause of fires in homes and businesses. Thanksgiving was the most common day for cooking fires in 2019, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
- Heating: Heating is the second leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, and the third-highest cause of fire-related deaths in homes.
- Electrical and Lighting Equipment: In 2014-2018, electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in an estimated 10% of reported home structure fires per year.
- Smoking: Between 2012 and 2016, one in 20 home fires were started by smoking materials.
- Candles: Between 2015-19, U.S. fire departments responded to approximately 7,400 home fires caused by candles. These fires caused an average of $291 million in direct property damage per year.
Regardless of the reason, there are certain damages that you can claim after an accidental property fire. If your insurer disputes or underpays any of them, contact our insurance dispute attorneys for assistance in pursuing the money you are entitled to.
Common Types of Property Fire Damage
When fires ignite in a residential or commercial property, the damage can vary in both severity and extent. Here are some of the most common types of property damage claims in Louisiana and how an insurance attorney at our law firm can help:
- Broken or cracked windows
- Damage to the roof and/or structure
- Damaged or destroyed personal belongings
- Damaged or destroyed motor vehicles
- Smoke damage
- Ash damage
- Chemical odors
- Soot all over furniture, fixtures, and personal belongings
- Water damage
- Mold damage
- Loss of business income
When dealing with property insurance companies, it is a given that they are rarely going to value your loss at the proper rate as defined by your policy. They aim to pay as little as possible, or even refuse to pay at all.
If your insurer offers a lower payment after their claims adjuster has assessed your actual damages, don’t settle for less. A fire damage claims lawyer at the MIC Firm can help you ensure that all of your covered losses are accounted for and accurately valued.
The Fire Insurance Claims Process in Louisiana
Most property insurance policies specify the deadline for notifying the insurer of a fire damage incident. When you submit your claim, you will likely need to include some or all of the following documentation.
- Photos and video footage of the property before and after the fire
- Estimates for damage repair
- A list of lost or damaged property
- Proof of value for lost property
- Receipts for expenses like temporary roofing, water remediation, debris removal, etc.
- Receipts for hotel stays, temporary rentals, and other displacement expenses
You should also contact an experienced Louisiana fire insurance claims lawyer for assistance in reviewing your policy and confirming which damages are covered and for how much. When your insurance company receives your property damage claim, they must investigate it, carry out damage assessments, and pay undisputed amounts promptly or face penalties.
What if Your Fire Insurance Claim is Denied?
When insurance companies deny claims, sometimes the reasons are valid, while other times the denials are due to a mistake or misunderstanding. In some cases, the insurer may be acting in bad faith by denying your claim without investigating it first or accusing you of fraud without reasonable justification.
Below are some of the most common reasons that Louisiana insurance carriers give for claim denials.
- Claim Not Filed on Time: If you experience a fire loss, you must contact your insurance provider within a specified period of time. Otherwise, the company may claim that you notified them too late.
- Insufficient Documentation: In order to file a claim, you need to provide evidence of your covered losses. In the case of a house fire, failing to submit an inventory list or proof of damage to the house could delay or even prevent the settlement of your claim.
- Failure to Pay Insurance Premiums: Your insurance coverage lapses if you don’t pay your premiums on time. If you fall behind, your insurance provider may claim that they are no longer responsible for covering your losses. Keeping all receipts on file will allow you to prove you paid your premiums if it is ever questioned.
- Claim Type Not Covered: All types of insurance policies have exclusions. Arson is a common exclusion in fire insurance. Your damage claim may be denied if there is reason to believe that your property fire was not accidental.
- Failure to Mitigate: After a property loss, you must attempt to protect the property from further damage. A claim can be denied for failure to take reasonable steps to reduce the extent of the loss.
Louisiana law requires your insurance company to pay your claim if you submit satisfactory proof of loss. If it insists that you have not done so, the insurance dispute attorneys at the MIC Firm can review the reason(s) and challenge any decisions that are misinformed, arbitrary, or capricious.
What If I Only Rent My Property?
If you rent your property, the landlord is typically not responsible for the cost of replacing personal property destroyed or damaged in a fire. However, you can file a claim through your renter’s insurance to compensate you for all lost property.
The process is largely the same as filing a claim for home property damage, except that you’re mainly seeking compensation for your personal property, such as furniture, clothing, and other belongings: it is your landlord’s responsibility to arrange any repairs necessary to make the rental habitable as soon as possible. Most policies will also cover temporary housing costs until your home is habitable again.
Do I Need a Fire Insurance Claims Lawyer?
While you don’t need to use legal counsel to handle your property insurance claim, doing so can increase your chances of getting fair compensation for your losses, especially if the damage is extensive. An experienced insurance attorney at the MIC Firm can help you with the following steps.
Navigating the Claims Process
Fire damage claims can be complicated, and you might not be familiar with all the steps and procedures involved, such as:
- Formally drafting and filing relevant paperwork
- Documenting and compiling evidence
- Making an inventory of damaged belongings
- Obtaining repair estimates
- Relocation during repairs
Your insurance claim lawyer will protect your rights, ensure all tasks are performed effectively and thoroughly and guide you through the legal process step by step.
Protecting You From Being Cheated
While your insurance adjuster may seem sympathetic to your plight, be aware that insurers are in the business of making money. These companies can -and often do- use a variety of tactics to reduce their costs.
For example, the insurer might deny your claim by stating that the fire was started by arson or that the type of damage is not covered under your insurance policy. Even if your claim is accepted, the insurer may dispute the damages you have sustained. An adjuster might value your claim for much less than it is worth, or offer you a lowball settlement and hope you will accept it out of desperation.
Our experienced fire insurance claims attorneys can handle all negotiations with your insurance company and fight to ensure you receive the full value of your claim.
Advocating on Your Behalf
Fire damage claims come with a lot of speed bumps, which can cause major stress for property owners. We will use our decades of experience to help overcome any undue delays or denials. If your claim is wrongly denied, we will fight to protect your rights and aggressively pursue recovery for you, even in court if necessary.
How Much Does a Fire Insurance Claims Attorney Cost?
If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a major property fire, you may be worried about whether you can afford legal help for your claim, especially if your insurer is being difficult and you have immediate needs, such as temporary housing and repair work to prevent the property from deteriorating further.
At the MIC Firm, we understand your situation and concerns. This is why our payment arrangements are flexible and we even accept certain bad faith insurance claims on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you only pay if we win your case. Talk to us today about what we can do for your case.
Fire Insurance Claim Denied? Speak to a Louisiana Fire Insurance Claims Lawyer.
Disputes with your insurance company can be time-consuming and emotionally draining. After all, you took out fire damage insurance so that you can be protected from these damages when they happen. The experienced claims attorneys at the MIC Firm will review your case and demand the best financial outcome from your insurer.
We are dedicated to protecting the rights of clients who experience unfair claim denials and other bad faith practices from their insurance company. Homeowners, business owners, and renters are encouraged to contact us today for a free initial consultation and case review.