Fire, Water, and Property Insurance Loss

Attorney Representing Real Estate Insurance Policyholders in Rhode Island and Massachusetts Fire Propery Damages

When you buy residential or commercial fire, water, or property insurance, you hope to be protected in case of a serious loss or damages. You may have purchased insurance to protect your building and its contents, including electronics, furniture, jewelry, equipment, machinery, and other items. Unfortunately, after a disaster, you may find that your insurer denies a claim or delays payment on a claim related to fire, water, or property insurance loss. Insurance companies are businesses, and sometimes insurance adjusters place profits ahead of people. Rhode Island insurance lawyer Stephen P. Levesque can fight for the rights afforded by your policy. He represents consumers throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Fire, Water, and Property Insurance Loss

An insurance policy is a contract between a consumer and an insurance company. The language is detailed and not in your favor. The insurance policy is supposed to be interpreted according to the rules for the construction of contracts. The scope and language of an insurance policy will determine which losses are covered and any limits or exclusions to coverage. Often, insurance policies are detailed. Insurers may try to take advantage of their knowledge of the policy's terms. Or they may inaccurately calculate the damages and the cost to repair them, as well as your loss of use and additional living expenses. However, insurers doing business in Rhode Island are obliged to promptly and adequately respond to you, to investigate your claim, and to subject it to an appropriate review.

Assessment of Property Loss and Damages

An accurate assessment of property loss is critical to your claim. A claim may require the insurer to pay the costs of buying new personal or business property, loss of use, repairing a building, living expenses, and business interruption. As an insurance attorney in Rhode Island, Stephen P. Levesque can work with appraisers, independent adjusters, forensic scientists, inspectors, and restoration specialists to determine which losses you sustained as a result of fire, water, or property damage and how they should be reimbursed.

There may be a demand for an appraisal under a policy. Unless an insurer denies coverage for your loss, and the dispute is restricted to the amount of the loss, an appraisal should be conducted. If an insurer refuses to submit to an appraisal process but instead litigates, it is supposed to specify the ambiguity in the policy and explain why there is a coverage issue, rather than a question about the amount of your loss. You are entitled to timely and adequate notice of the specifics of the insurer's position so that you can contest a denial of coverage related to fire, water, or property insurance loss.

Why Was My Claim Denied?

An insurance policy may include clauses that exclude certain losses or limit the amount of coverage available for a certain loss. For example, in a fire insurance contract, there may be a pollution exclusion that states that payments will not be made for losses arising out of the discharge, migration, or release of pollutants. Any denial letter should be enough to give you notice of the insurer's intent to raise a pertinent exclusion in the policy. You should be aware when looking at a denial, however, that the insurer may not be fairly interpreting exclusions or coverage limits.

In addition, the insurance company may use terms like depreciation [that your property is worth less today than when you bought it] and betterment [that you're not entitled to a better product than what you had] in order to deny your claim. Sometimes claims are denied with a reference to the deductible. However, if an insurer does not accurately calculate the loss, and your actual losses exceed the deductible, the losses beyond the deductible should be paid. And in some cases, insurers fail to timely process claims. They may hope that you will just give up on trying to get the claim paid.

Breach of Contract

If your insurer delays or denies a valid claim, Rhode Island insurance attorney Stephen P. Levesque can help you bring a claim for breach of contract. To establish a claim, you will need to prove that there was a contract, it was breached, and the breach caused your damages. The court will follow the literal language of the policy unless the policy is ambiguous. If you are trying to establish coverage, you may need to show that the policy exists and is valid, your loss falls within the policy's terms, and the insurer refused to make payments according to the terms. Once you show coverage, the insurer will have the burden of showing that exclusions or limitations apply.

Insurance Bad Faith

Insurers have an obligation to deal with policy holders in good faith and process claims according to the insurance policy. Unfortunately, some insurers engage in bad faith by intentionally denying, underpaying, or delaying the payment of legitimate claims.

Under Rhode Island General Laws Title 9, Courts and Civil Procedure section 9-1-33, you may sue an insurer when the insurer wrongfully and in bad faith refuses to pay or settle a claim brought under policy provisions, or otherwise wrongfully and in bad faith refuses to timely perform its obligations under an insurance contract. If liability is established, you can recover compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Massachusetts provides two laws under which consumers can bring claims related to insurance bad faith. Massachusetts General Laws chapter 93A covers the regulation of business practices for consumer protection, while Massachusetts General Laws chapter 176D directly addresses unfair competition and unfair and deceptive acts and practices in the insurance industry. Common situations in which a claim might be brought under these laws include when an insurer fails to conduct a fair investigation before denying a claim, fails to make timely payments, or misrepresents policy provisions. Damages (sometimes treble damages) and attorney fees may be available.

What if I Settled But the Payment Is Not Enough?

Stephen P. Levesque can help by utilizing experts and private adjusters to re-negotiate your loss. Understand they most likely under paid you by using legal terms like depreciation and betterment. It is important that you act quickly to begin the process and not let them get away with short changing you and your family. Our offices will notify the insurance company that you dispute their settlement amount and that we will begin the process of preparing a counter proposal. Generally, the combined efforts of Attorney Levesque and the experts can get you between 15%-50% more for the repairs of your damage.

Consult a Knowledgeable Insurance Lawyer in Rhode Island

You bought insurance for protection in case of losses. Your claim should be processed according to the policy terms. Unfortunately, insurers may lowball you or deny or delay a claim. If you need to recover for a fire, water, or property loss, you should contact the Law Offices of Stephen P. Levesque. Our office is in Cranston, and we represent people throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Call us at (401) 490-4900 or contact us through our website.

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