Important Issues in Florida Fire Damage Claims [Part I]

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
Founder of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.

If your home is damaged by a fire, the aftermath can be emotionally stressful and financially devastating.  The loss of your home and personal property inside the home can mean emotional and fiscal challenges.  Although you may have a homeowner’s insurance policy to cover the loss, insurance carriers often deny valid fire damage claims.  The stress and anxiety that accompanies a significant fire damage loss will only be exacerbated if your property insurance carrier refuses to rebuild your home and replace lost items.  Sometimes such denials will come with no reasonable explanation or an explanation that appears dubious on its face.  Our Florida fire insurance claims law firm has provided an overview of a few important fire insurance claims issues.

Do I need an insurance claims attorney to assist me in pursuing my fire damage claim?

If you file a claim with your insurer that is not initially denied, the insurance company will likely undertake an investigation.  Insurance companies routinely investigate the cause of a fire, the extent of the fire damage, and the value of the loss.  Insurance carriers are notorious for blaming homeowners for a fire damage loss.  Sometimes these allegations are made even though there is no evidence from fire inspectors employed by government entities suggesting that a fire was intentionally started, such as the indication of the use of an accelerant.

Even if an official investigation results in a report from a fire inspector that the fire was not intentionally set, the insurance carrier may hire special investigators to justify the allegation of arson or insurance fraud to shift blame for the loss to the property owner.  If you are faced with this scenario, an experienced Florida fire insurance claims attorney will work with experts who can help confirm the cause of the fire.  Insurance companies may also attempt to exploit innocent mistakes in a sworn proof of loss or other documentation to support fraud allegations.

A Miami insurance disputes attorney can negotiate with your insurance company while assisting you in proving the extent and value of your loss and can also help you avoid overlooking aspects of your claim that may result in your claim being undervalued.

What if my insurance company claims I caused the fire?

While the insurance company will not be obligated to pay the claim if it is established that you started the fire or you enlisted someone else to cause the fire, the insurance company bears the burden of proof.   Specifically, the insurance company has the evidentiary burden of establishing that the fire was intentionally started and that you had a role in starting the fire.  The insurer cannot rely on mere speculation or conjecture to establish that you were involved in arson, rather, the insurance company must present factual or circumstantial evidence to justify denying a claim based on allegations of arson.

Are there bad faith practices by insurance companies that are typical in fire damage claims disputes?

There are certain bad faith practices that are more likely to be alleged in a fire damage claim which include the following:

  • Unambiguous violations of the policy terms
  • Failure to conduct a timely investigation
  • Undervaluing the damaged items
  • Unjustified allegations of fraud or arson
  • Ignoring evidence supporting a total loss claim
  • Making threats of civil or criminal liability to extort a reduced payment of the claim

Click the following link to read Part II of our 3 part series titled "Important Issues in Florida Fire Damage Claims - Part II"

If you have questions about a fire damage claim, you are invited to contact our law firm to speak to an experienced Miami fire insurance claims attorney.  My law firm represents policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM. 

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