When it comes to your home, there is nothing more terrifying or tragic than a house fire. All of your possessions, belongings and memories are stashed away in that home. Once it goes up in a blaze, all of those things are gone forever. House fires are devastating for a family.
Fires are also devastating for commercial properties and business owners. Having a businesses’ merchandise and goods lost to fire can completely destroy a company, leaving it’s employees and shareholders in ruins.
People call Goldfinger Injury Lawyers when faced with fire loss. Our lawyers assist families and businesses recoup their losses, and stand up to the insurance company so that our clients get the compensation and peace of mind which they deserve.
The purpose of this Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post is to go over the basics of fire loss claims and how to get them started; along with what to expect.
For starters, in order to have a valid fire loss claim, you need to make sure that the subject property (whether commercial or residential) has valid insurance!
It always amazes me when people call in to report a fire loss claim and they don’t or didn’t have any valid insurance coverage at the time of their loss. There are people out there who live “dangerously” and don’t insure their properties over such losses. If there is a serious fire and you are looking to claim the loss through insurance, you need to have insurance in the first place.
Often in commercial contexts, the insurance policy in play can limit the loss when it comes to damaged goods. Some policies won’t cover the loss to damaged goods, OR, will limit the loss of goods to a certain number. Let’s say you have a warehouse which stores batteries. The warehouse bursts to flames. Your policy has coverage for the loss of the structure up to $500,000 and loss of merchandise up to $200,000. According to the business’ records, there were $350,000 worth of batteries and other equipment that was damaged in the fire. But the policy will only cover such losses up to a maximum of $200,000. This means that the business will only be entitled to up to $200,000 under the policy, leaving them with a $150,000 loss on the $350,000 in merchandise and equipment lost in the fire. Take heed business owners and make sure that your commercial general liability policies and property policies are in good shape.
As soon as the fire has taken place, it’s very important to report the fire to your insurance company. Waiting a period of weeks or months after the fire has taken place will raise red flags for the insurer responding to your claim and may act as a complete bar to your claim. The insurer is entitled to make their own investigations on the cause of the fire and waiting may jeopardize that investigation.
It’s important for the insurer to conduct their own investigations because they want to ensure that the fire was not caused by arson or some other cause which may nullify coverage. It’s also important for the insurer’s subrogated interest. Here is an example of a subrogated interest of an insurer in a fire loss claim.
There is a house fire which takes place in a residential suburb in Ontario. The blaze tears down the entire house and all of the belongings of the family are destroyed. The fire department determines that the fire originated in the laundry room and was likely the dryer. The insurer takes a look and they agree with the fire marshall’s findings. The insurer takes it one step further and deems that the dryer and the dryer vent were defective because the dryer itself was defective and had been known to be defective. The insurer places the company which manufactured the dryer on notice to seek out their subrogated claim. This does not mean that the insurer will not pay out on the claim. Quite the contrary. The fire was no fault of the innocent home owner. The insurer is seeking to place blame on the dryer manufacturer. The insurer will seek out reimbursement for any moneys paid out to the homeowner on this fire loss claim from the company which manufactured the dryer.
These sort of subrogated claims are very common across all lines of insurance. Think of it like passing the buck. But the insurer won’t be able to make this subrogated claim if the fire loss is not reported in a timely manner. Fire losses can be very significant so there’s lots of money at stake.
The insurer will want to meet with the insured to record a statement, and have the insured complete a Proof of Loss Form
This is a standard form which asks some very basic details like your name, address, date of the fire, date the fire was reported. Most importantly, it asks the insured to identify what goods/chattels were lost or destroyed in the fire, date of purchase, along with the purchase price of the goods. For most fire loss victims, completing this Proof of Loss form is very difficult. Itemizing each and every item in one’s home that was lost or destroyed in a fire is a tedious process. The form may also ask for the model # and serial # of the item(s) lost. This is impossible as most people don’t catalogue their household items, or if they do, they may be contained somewhere on list in your home and was likely burned in the fire.
Once the insurer has received the proof of loss form (which needs to be signed by the insured to certify that it’s true), an insurer will either approve, deny or partially approve the claim. You have no claim until you’ve heard from the insurer one way or another. If the insurer has approved your claim in full, then you have little to claim against them. They are giving you what you’re seeking which is great. But it’s the times when the insurer completely denies, or partially denies the claim that you will need a fire loss lawyer to assist you. And that’s when Goldfinger Injury Lawyers would be pleased to assist to get you the compensation you need to move forward.