For over 15 years, I’ve represented homeowners in front of large insurance companies. I spend my days assisting my clients in the preparation, presentation, negotiation, and adjustment of their insurance claims. Today, I’m sharing an experience I had while handling a property damage claim in Studio City:
How did you first become involved with this claim?
In this case, the homeowner’s son found me by searching online. By that point, he’d already run into trouble with the insurance company and he knew that he needed an advocate on his side. This young man was living with his father when a tree fell through the house.
Whoa! Do you know what caused the tree to fall?
The reason for the accident wasn’t immediately clear. After some investigation, we determined that something had been eating through the roots of the tree. I don’t know whether the culprit was root rot or insects, but when the tree fell, it crushed the roof and landed in the middle of the living room. Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident!
When the client reached out to me, they’d been in the process of removing the huge tree. They were concerned that they would reach their policy limit for additional living expenses.
Were these homeowners underinsured?
That’s what made this case so difficult! These homeowners had a fairly robust insurance policy, and under normal circumstances it would have been sufficient to cover their additional living expenses. Unfortunately, the father was disabled and confined to a hospital bed. The family couldn’t live in their home during the restoration which meant that my client needed to find an accessible rental location for his father.
Was he able to find a suitable rental?
Although he searched for some time, the son was unable to find a rental home that would meet his needs and accommodate his father at the same time. He did the best he could in the situation, and selected a great rehabilitation center for his father. Unfortunately, he also had to rent a house for himself, which meant that his additional living expenses far exceeded the limits in his policy.
Were you able to increase the additional living expenses limit?
In cases like these, my job is particularly difficult. You see, the language of homeowners insurance policies is very explicit. They do not typically allow for exceptions based on unique circumstances. While I wasn’t able to increase the additional living expenses limit, I was able to take an active role in the restoration process.
What was happening with the restoration at the time?
The insurance company sent an engineer to survey the house so they could assess the extent of the damage. When I reviewed the report, I felt it was very limited. I worked with the corporate adjuster to explain that I believed most of the damages were hidden behind the walls. The insurance company adjuster was very professional and he gave approval to gut the house to the studs so we could go look at the framing.
That’s exactly how it should be done when a tree hits a house. After an accident like that, the problem is not just that some of the framing is broken. Within the framing, there is typically a layer of cement, which can be displaced by the impact of the tree. You really have to get a look at the framing of the house to determine how much damage occurred.
Did the homeowner eventually receive a settlement?
Yes, the homeowner received a substantial settlement for the cost of repairs. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to increase the limits to his additional living expense coverage, but we were able to ensure that repairs were completed properly. Moreover, the restoration work allowed my client to make some changes to the layout of the home which would improve the accessibility for his disabled father.
Although it was unfortunate that my client had difficulty with his policy limits, I’ll remember this claim positively for a few reasons. The insurance company adjuster behaved exactly as he should have. He allowed us to perform all of the tests that we needed to determine whether the house would be safe after the repairs. I’m glad I was able to help my client and his father, and I think this case is a good example for other homeowners. It’s important to adjust your additional living expenses coverage limits whenever there are changes in your family, such as an illness or the birth of a new child. These things will affect your cost of living in the event of an accident, so keeping your policy up to date helps ensure you are protected.