What Are Insurance Carriers’ Duties On Property Claims?

Insurance Provider

When property damage occurs, it can be overwhelming to figure out what the best next steps are. Having a lawyer you can consult can help ease this process. Different duties and obligations govern the relationship between an insurance company and a person, business, or property that it insures. An insured has a duty to reasonably cooperate with the insurance carrier so that it can perform its obligations in the claims process. First-party claims are claims filed by the policyholder with his, her, or its own insurance company. 

These claims may take the form of claims for Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM ) benefits, medical payments coverage, collision/comprehensive coverages, or homeowners’/commercial property owners’ benefits, to name a few.

When a claim is filed, the insurance carrier has the duty to respond to that claim, to perform a full and complete investigation into the claim, and to timely pay all benefits that are owed on a valid claim.  An insurance carrier’s unreasonable denial or unreasonable delay in paying benefits that are owed on a claim may give rise to bad faith liability. If your insurance company is not handling your claim appropriately, you may need an attorney to take legal action on your behalf. 

If you hire an attorney, provide him or her with a copy of your insurance policy and all other documents and communications related to the insurance claim.  If you have a valid claim, your attorney will be able to deal with your insurance company on your behalf until your claim has been fully and finally resolved.

The attorneys at Roth Milne can help you with insurance and bad faith cases in order to get the best results.       

Working through the Claim Process:       

After a property loss, you must report the damage to your insurance company agent or representative to start the claim process. If your adjuster does not acknowledge and pay the full value of the claim, you may contact a lawyer to review the facts of your claim, review and analyze the terms of your policy, and help navigate the claims process on your behalf.

Record-Keeping:

Videotaping or photographing your possessions room by room periodically can be very helpful if you suffer loss or damage to your home or building that impacts your personal property.  If you are videotaping, stand in the middle of the room and turn in a 360-degree arch to capture the room’s contents.

Consider keeping physical copies of any video or photographs at a separate location or in an indestructible safe so they are not destroyed by fire or water.  After a loss, you will be required to account for any covered expenses, so be sure to keep all of your estimates, bills, invoices, and receipts.

If your property is not safe for occupancy, keep receipts for all expenses associated with your relocation, such as emergency shelter, rent, clothing (if necessary), and additional utilities.

Types of Property Damage and Insurance Coverage:

Theft:

 If your home or business is broken into, always file a police report and file your claim with the insurance company as soon as possible.

Water Damage:

Flood damage or damage from surface waters are typically not covered under standard homeowner or commercial property insurance policies.  However, homeowners, businesses, and commercial property owners can purchase a separate policy for flood insurance. 

If a sudden or unforeseen problem causes water damage to your property, you may file a claim and take immediate action to protect the property from further damages.

Insurance policies may not cover all resulting damage to your property if you have not taken reasonable steps to protect the property from subsequent damage.

Hail Damage:

Colorado has suffered from historic hailstorms over the last several years, causing unprecedented damage to property.  If you are home during a hail or windstorm, it can be helpful to take video and photographs of the hail and the storm, or even to keep a few hailstones in the freezer. 

You may also want to ask an expert or professional to evaluate your roof and the rest of your property for damage shortly after the storm and to give you an estimate of the cost to repair all storm-related damage.

Fire:

Experiencing a fire at your home or property can be highly emotional and difficult to navigate.  An attorney can help you to understand the claims process and to make sure that your insurance carrier is properly evaluating the loss and paying the benefits owed to restore your property to its pre-loss condition.