Wednesday, July 13, 2011

When to Sue Your Insurance Company

We always advise our clients to work through the claims process and obtain as much money possible on your own before having an attorney review your file for a potential lawsuit. Your insurance company will make an initial offer which is negotiable. If you feel the offer is unfair, you have every right to challenge it.

Once you believe you have gone as far as you can go yet you still believe you are being unfairly compensated, then seek legal advice. In my experiences we can usually tell a client after an initial meeting if we believe we can obtain more money on their behalf. In almost all of our lawsuits, we've been able to obtain significantly more money than the insurance company's "last, best offer" to the client.

You can expect to pay a contingent fee in the 40% range in a lawsuit against your insurance company. You will also be responsible for costs including expert fees out of whatever result might be obtained on your behalf. Understand that it is not a quick process but, litigation can be a productive, though last resort to obtain what you are owed.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Record Time For Denials

People in Sierra Vista are already being told what's not covered before even seeing an adjuster! This may be a new speed record, even in Arizona. Do not take "no" without challenging any denial or refusal to pay. The fires were bad, the next few months may be worse!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Red Flag Issues: Ongoing Wildfire Claim Issues

Our office has already been contacted by potential clients in the Sierra Vista fire losses. Some individuals are being told by claims adjusters their insurance policies were apparently "reformed" recently without their knowledge. Also, people are being told they need specific proof of ownership of their contents even though any such proof was destroyed in the fires.

These are huge "red flag" issues for anyone at the beginning stages of an insurance claim. An insurance policy is a contract. It cannot be changed without consent by both parties. If your insurance carrier tells you differently, get professional legal help!

Likewise, you can swear to the ownership of items destroyed in the fires without having specific "proof of ownership" such as receipts etc... Insurance carriers routinely intimidate customers out of millions of dollars in claims payments through misrepresentation and intimidation tactics. Don't be a victim! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call our offices at 520-882-9115.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Monsoon Is Coming!

Arizona has been through one of the worst fire seasons ever and it is still not over. It is easy in the heat of June to forget the flood and storm risks coming in July. The next event on the potential disaster horizon is the summer monsoon season.

Areas that have been damaged by wildfires are particularly susceptible to water damage from runoff. If you live anywhere near a floodplain or a wash you should consider buying federal flood insurance immediately. It takes 30 days for flood insurance to become effective. Your homeowners insurance will not cover flood damage including runoff, wash overflow or pooling in drainage basin areas.

FEMA's website can provide you with information on flood insurance as can your local insurance agent. It's important to get not only basic flood insurance which protects your residence but separate flood insurance for your contents, as well. Unlike homeowners insurance, flood insurance does not cover your contents unless you purchase it separately.

This is also a good time to check your roof, windows and door frames to make sure your home is in condition to withstand the monsoon storms. If you have any questions, call our office at 520-882-9115.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wildfire Losses and Other Disasters

Parts of Arizona are currently being ravaged by wildfires. Sierra Vista, towns throughout the White Mountain range and people living in eastern Arizona are all threatened by out-of-control wildfires.

Over 60 homes and a number of other businesses in southern Arizona have been burned along with dozens of properties in the White Mountains and eastern Arizona. Many people still don't know if their property has been destroyed because of the mandatory evacuations in these areas.

There are things everybody who has suffered property damage can do to help protect their rights throughout their insurance claims process. My office has put together a Wild Fire Insurance Claim Checklist which we will make available free of charge to anybody who requests one. Simply call 520-882-9115 to get your copy.

One thing anyone who has suffered a property claim should do immediately is to buy a notebook and began making a list of everything you had in the property. In addition to furniture, mentally go through each room and make a list of every item from what's hanging on the wall to closets, cupboards and medicine cabinets. Don't forget the garage or storage sheds! Once you have made a complete list, try to put an accurate date and condition note for each item listed.

At the outset of your claim, you should ask for alternative living expenses to pay for alternative housing and expenses while your home is being rebuilt. You're entitled to similar living conditions to what you lost in the fire. A hotel room or small apartment is not sufficient to replace the family home while rebuilding occurs.

Try to have a friend with you during each meeting with the insurance company representatives or contractors. Take notes! Remember, you have a right to choose your own contractors, as well. Use contractors with an established track record and reputation. Be wary of contractors recommended by your insurance company. Make sure to check them out thoroughly if you decide to use any contractor recommended by your insurance carrier.

You are entitled to have your property rebuilt or repaired to a pre-loss condition. If something can't be repaired to a pre-loss condition then it must be replaced. You can always question what the insurance company and its contractors are doing or recommending. You have a right to negotiate any aspect of your loss in question any deduction for depreciation taken by the insurance company.

Finally, if you feel you're being treated unfairly, get professional help. Call my office at 520-882-9115. Good luck and stay safe! Joe Watkins

Monday, September 7, 2009

Insurance Is a Contact Sport

Fall is here and football is back! However, football is not the only contact sport this time of year. Many people have experienced summer storm damage resulting in insurance claims.

Remember, insurance, like football, can be a contact sport or, at least, an extremely adversarial endeavor.

Your insurance company does not want to pay full value for claims. You have a contract with your insurance company and you are entitled to everything that contract provides. This is a great time to go through your insurance policy and, if you're involved in an insurance claim, make sure you're getting everything you're entitled to. has a number of free podcasts which can help you get the most from your insurance claim. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to take charge of your claim. Take the time to educate yourself and be aggressive! Good luck!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Paper Trails

A recent employment article on protecting employee rights raised an interesting question. How do you protect yourself when dealing with big businesses? The best way is to think like a big business.

Insurance companies keep a paper or electronic trail of every transaction, claim, complaint or communication with their customers. If you have an insurance claim, you need to do the same thing. From the very beginning of your claim, record every communication.

It is especially important to keep notes regarding telephone conversations with insurance company adjusters or employees. Keeping good notes also helps you establish a timeline in the event you ever need to seek legal help with your claim.

Your insurance company has a duty to resolve your claim both fairly and quickly. Sadly, this rarely happens. By keeping good notes and establishing a timeline you can prove that any delays in the claim process were caused by the company, not you.

Finally, if you ever have to file a complaint with your state Department of Insurance to protect your rights, your notes will be invaluable. Remember, insurance is a business and you need to work to protect your rights. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way.