For over 20 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 water damage claim in Covina:
How did you first become involved with this claim?
I was contacted directly by an elderly lady after her house flooded. A broken supply line in the bathroom caused extensive damage to the flooring. When I was brought in, she was already working with a contractor that the insurance company had forced on her. They were at an impasse over the necessary repairs.
What was the source of the disagreement?
The problem was their flooring. It used to be standard practice to nail tackles strips to a vinyl floor and install carpeting on top. She had carpeting throughout the house that was installed this way. After the flooding, water damaged the carpeting as well as the very base of her flooring.
While he was removing the carpeting and padding, the contractor discovered that the vinyl floor was riddled with asbestos. The insurance provider was willing to replace the carpeting and padding but refused to perform the asbestos abatement.
Can the insurance company simply ignore potential safety hazards?
Asbestos is a serious safety risk, and the insurance company had an obligation to the homeowner to repair the damage. Fortunately, the homeowner refused to allow restoration to continue. She met with me and explained the problem. After speaking with her, I reached out to the contractor to clarify his safety obligations.
Why was this a safety issue for the contractor?
The contractor was contributing to the delay with the insurance company. He’d advised the insurance company that it was possible to proceed while forgoing the asbestos abatement. Under California guidelines, it’s not permitted to nail tackles strips to vinyl flooring containing asbestos. This can crack the vinyl as well as release spores into the air. The contractor claimed that this state guideline did not apply to this situation.
How can you resolve a dispute like this?
I’d dealt with asbestos before, so I was familiar with state guidelines. I confronted him with this information. He claimed to have years of experience in his field and insisted that he’d received permission from the AQMD (Air Quality Management District) to apply his method of repair.
We knew that something wasn’t right, so we reached out to the AQMD to confirm his story. The AQMD is the governing body for air quality disputes. They had no knowledge of this case and agreed that the asbestos flooring should be abated first. The contractor maintained his position despite multiple attempts to resolve the situation.
Did the homeowner eventually receive a settlement?
Unfortunately, to obtain a settlement, we had to refer our client to a lawyer.
Remember, this contractor was forced on the elderly lady by the insurance company! They’d worked together on multiple claims in the past. We suspect that the contractor consistently received valuable work from the insurer by underbidding his competition. Because he didn’t follow State guidelines, he was able to complete projects at a substantially lower cost. Fortunately, we were able to settle the claim without a protracted legal battle. We were able to have the floor properly abated and replaced.
Although this was a difficult case, I consider it memorable for positive reasons. The homeowner trusted her intuition and reached out when she suspected foul play. Public adjusters exist for cases just like this one. I’m grateful that I was able to represent the elderly lady’s interests and find a resolution.