Every year, California wildfires cause thousands of dollars worth of property damage to surrounding homes and properties. Worse yet, these fires can affect homes that are far from the direct impact of the fire. This year alone, we’ve seen the La Tuna Canyon fire destroy 7,000 acres of woods, claim nearly ten houses, and injure numerous people and firefighters. It is difficult to fight fires, but the La Tuna Canyon fire is especially difficult, as it is on steep terrain and not easily accessible by vehicles and people. Burbank is at the forefront of potential damage from the fire, and other neighboring cities are a few hot days away from facing the same troubles. One often unseen and unknown harm caused by wildfires is extensive smoke and ash damage to residential and commercial properties. All too often, home fire insurance companies like Farmers, All State, State Farm and others fail to inform you of the smoke and ash damage your home has sustained. Additionally, home insurance providers will attempt to low ball or deny your claim for smoke and ash damage.
Seek Legal Assistance First: Under such circumstances, it is vital to seek legal representation so that your rights under the law to full and just recovery for your loss from insurance companies are protected. Contact a smoke and ash insurance attorney today.
Smoke and Ash Damage to Your Property
Smoke property damage claims in wildfires are due to smoke and ash damage, not the fire itself. The fire in La Tuna Canyona, for instance, has given off smoke and ash for many days; not only are these materials hazardous to breathe in, but they can cause lasting damage to your land and home if not properly cleaned. Smoke damage claims can be filed by homeowners that are in the vicinity of a wildfire or brush fire. In many cases, the outside of the house may look undamaged; however, the inside of the property may have suffered severe smoke damage. Examples of smoke, soot, and ash damage to property include
- Damage to swimming pools and hot tubs resulting from build-ups in filters and pumps
- Damage from soot to the lawn and other shrubbery on the property
- Smoke and ash damage to carpeting
- Smoke and ash damage to furniture and clothing
- Buildup of ash and soot in storm drains, attics, and crawl spaces
Smoke and Ash Health Hazard to Your Family: Smoke and Ash not only damages your property but can result in serious medical health complications. Ash contains acids and other harmful chemicals that can result in respiratory infections, damage to the nose and throat, and chronic bronchitis. Smoke and ash can also result in severe asthma and skin rashes.
What if Insurance Adjusters Deny My Smoke and Ash Claim – Insurance Bad Faith:
Under California insurance laws, home fire insurance companies owe claimants an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Insured homeowners are able to seek not only actual damages sustained to their homes but punitive damages against insurance companies. If your home is damaged by the effects of the La Tuna Canyon fire, for example, and your insurance company did not do its due diligence in giving you a settlement to pay for cleaning costs and property reimbursement, you may have ample grounds for a lawsuit. The law requires insurance agencies to pay out a minimum amount in the event of property damage under homeowner’s insurance, and agencies will do everything they can to avoid that payout.
Under this California law, an insurance company can be sued for both a contract claim and a tort claim. Insurance bad Faith is a claim against an insurance company that has failed, because of bad faith, to meet its fiduciary duties to the insured homeowner. Examples of actions by insurance companies which are interpreted as an act of bad faith under California include:
- Failure of an adjuster to notify homeowners of damage to the property after prompt inspection of the premises.
- Directly advising a claimant not to obtain the services of an attorney.
- Misrepresenting to claimants pertinent facts or insurance policy provisions relating to any coverage at issue.
- Not attempting in good faith to effectuate prompt, fair, and equitable settlements of claims.
- Failure to accept or deny claims in a reasonable time.
Southern California Thomas Fire Insurance Claims
The Thomas Fires raging through Southern California have displaced hundreds of people throughout the Santa Barbara, Ventura, Ojai, Carpenteria, and Santa Paula areas. It is currently California’s third-largest fire, but officials predict it is well on its way to becoming the largest California fire on record.
Many homes and businesses have been destroyed by the blaze. Rightfully, those people wonder if their homeowners insurance will cover their losses as they hope to rebuild everything they lost in the fire: their home, furniture, cars, clothing, and other things that hold sentimental value. As one might expect, insurance companies are less than willing to disperse the money for claims. If your insurance company is not willing to give you the payment you deserve, then you need to contact one of our attorneys. Here are a few tips on how you can increase your chances that your claim will be processed correctly:
What Should I Do If I Suspect My Home Has Sustained Smoke and Ash Damage:
Do not Attempt to Speak with Your Insurance Adjuster – If an insurance company contacts you, your best response is to not talk to them regarding your incident, as any statement may be used against you to deny coverage.
Do Not Accept Insurance Companies Low Ball First – After a fire, insurance companies attempt to immediately contact you and give you a low ball offer. Many people are quick to accept this money because they are in distress: their home has been destroyed and the money their insurance agency has offered them seems better than nothing. They are not thinking big-picture. Accepting their offer will eliminate your chances at the recovery you are entitled to, so it is important that you do not divulge any information which may incidentally hurt you. Our smoke and ash insurance attorney will make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Contact a Law Firm Handling Insurance Bad Faith Claims: Get in touch with an attorney and ask him to speak with your insurance agents. Our attorneys understand what insurance adjusters want to hear because it will save their company money. We will speak to the adjusters and only settle once the amount is something that we know you deserve; something that will help you get back on your feet. Skilled attorneys will be able to speak to insurance carriers in a fashion that will not divulge any information that may be harmful to your future compensation.
Fires are dangerous and when you file an insurance claim, you expect the insurance company you’ve been paying for years to give you the money you deserve and help you through this hard time.