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My insurance company won’t pay my fire claim—now what?

Question: My house recently suffered fire damage. My daughter’s bedroom was essentially destroyed, and the rest of the house has smoke damage. Our insurance company has rebuilt her bedroom, but is balking at taking care of the smoke damage in adjacent parts of the house. Do I have any recourse?

Answer: The policy you have with an insurance company is a legally binding contract. Therefore, you are required to fulfill certain obligations—being truthful on your application, pay your premiums on time, etc. In turn, your carrier is required to cover your losses when you file a claim.

Insurance companies are in the business of making money. As such, they often find ways to underpay claims or flat-out deny them. They may say the damage was not related to the fire or that, but for your negligence, the ancillary damage would not have occurred. For example, they may state that you could have mitigated the damage by closing your daughter’s bedroom door once you discovered the fire—thereby containing the destruction.

One good way to fight back is to hire a private adjuster. Many people are unaware that they do not have to use the adjuster assigned to them. A private adjuster works for you only, and is paid a percentage of the money he recovers on your behalf.

In the event that you continue to have problems with your company, even after hiring a private adjuster, you should consult an attorney who is experienced in bad faith insurance claims.

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