What is the arson defense?
Picture a situation where your home has been destroyed by a fire. Not only is your home gone, but your personal possessions were in your home as well. Your life has been turned upside down by this event, but you believe everything will be ok because you have homeowner’s insurance. So what do you do? You submit your claim to your insurance company and you expect that your insurance company will pay your claim quickly so that you can move on with your life. Some time goes by, and your insurance company notifies you that it is investigating the claim for possible foul play. A few more weeks go by and you receive notice that your insurance company has denied your claim on the basis of arson.
Unfortunately, this sad tale happens more often than you think. The arson defense is a common tactic that insurance companies assert to avoid having to pay insurance claims. Tragically, this type of accusation happens at the worst possible time. Despite their familial-esque advertisements, insurance companies do not take your personal wellbeing into consideration. To an insurance company your claim is just a policy number with words on a piece of paper. The insurance company is always looking for a way out of paying your claim, and the arson defense is a favorite in fire cases.
How does an insurance company establish the arson defense?
It is the insurance company’s burden to prove arson. In criminal cases, the burden is on the state to prove that the defendant has committed arson beyond a reasonable doubt, a very high standard. In civil cases, the insurance company only needs to prove arson by the greater weight of the evidence. This standard is much lower than its criminal counterpart.
In Florida, there are a few things that an insurance company must show before they will succeed on an arson defense. The first thing the insurance company will have to show is that the fire was “incendiary.” In other words, the insurance company has to prove that the insured, or someone acting at the direction of the insured, intentionally set the fire. They typically do this by trying to establish things like fire accelerants being used or by showing that the fire was started by foreign objects.
The second thing the insurance company will try to show is that the insured had “motive.” They will typically try casting you in a light of financial hardship. They will look through your credit records, your mortgages, student loans, pretty much anything they can use to make you out to be financially distressed.
Lastly, the insurance company will try to show that the insured had “opportunity.” For this element, the insurance company does not have to prove that you were anywhere near the fire when it occurred.
If your insurer has accused you of arson you need an experienced insurance claims attorney that will be able to perform an independent investigation of the fire and work with the right experts to help disprove the arson defense. And you may need to consult with a criminal defense attorney, as well.
You can reach Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].