When Insurance Goes Wrong: Help After the Wildfires

Homeowners and automobile owners are now flooding insurance companies with claims due to the extensive and catastrophic damage caused by the wildfires raging in northern California, known as the North Bay firestorms, the Wine Country wildfires, and more. According to the San Rafael Patch.com, State Farm has already seen more than 850 filed claims for property damage in the area. The number is expected to skyrocket since authorities in the region report at least 7,000 homes and structures having been damaged or demolished by the fire.

Will all the claims filed by homeowners, winery owners, and property owners be honored? The unfortunate truth is that most probably will not be honored or handled appropriately by insurance companies. In the experience of our San Francisco insurance law attorneys from Delfino Green & Green, up to ten percent of claims will be denied. Like any business, insurance companies are there to make money, maximize profits, and minimize expenditures. As a result, when claims are filed, they often find a reason to deny them, even when no logical reason exists.

Common rejections used by insurance companies include:

  • Not maintaining the property
  • Not taking steps to fireproof the property
  • Damage preexisted the fire

For example, if your roof was burned by the North Bay wildfires, your insurance company may state that the roof would not have sustained damage had you done more to maintain it.

How to Combat Insurance Claim Denials

Insurance companies have made it their business to try to deny, delay, or minimize your claim. How can you fight their approach and methods, which have been refined over all of their years in business?

Document, document, and, for good measure, document. You must leave all damage as it is until your adjuster arrives to take a first look at your property. If this is not possible due to safety concerns, take exhaustive photos and videos of your property. Keep track of all correspondence with your insurance company, from initial phone calls and onward, and be sure to include the name of the person with whom you spoke, the date and time, and the content of the conversation. Keep all correspondence you receive by email or traditional mail organized and ready for retrieval. You never know where a bit of evidence to use in your favor is going to be found.

Most importantly, get in touch with an attorney familiar with bad-faith claims, also called bad faith insurance claims. Attorneys with experience in this practice area are trained to deal with insurance companies, anticipate their strategies, and protect your best interests above all else. Your policy is a legally binding contract that actually grants you many protections and rights. Do not, however, expect that your insurance company will automatically follow the contract and try to be your friend after the North Bay firestorms. Do hire an attorney to negotiate for you.

Delfino Green & Green is currently offering free consultations to those affected by the wildfires. We are a local firm that cares about our clients, neighbors, and communities. Help us help you by contacting us and adding your no-cost case evaluation to your calendar.

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