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 Northridge.
How did you first become involved with this claim?
In my line of work, not every call comes from the homeowners. In this case, I was contacted by water damage emergency services. They were working for an elderly couple whose home was flooded after a sudden, accidental breakage in the drain line. When they arrived at the home, they immediately began removing the damaged flooring. Unfortunately, they were asked to stop their work by a corporate insurance adjuster.
Is that something company adjusters usually handle?
Absolutely not. The adjuster for the insurance company isn’t authorized to direct the work of restoration companies. Fortunately, the technicians handling the flooring had worked with me in the past. They were concerned that the adjuster was taking advantage of the homeowners, and they reached out to me about representing the couple.
Why was it so important that the flooring be removed?
If your home isn’t properly dried after water damage, it can lead to mold growth. In this case, leaving the flooring intact was a serious safety hazard. I went out to the job site personally and requested that the adjuster allow the restoration companies to finish their work properly. After that, emergency services dried the home and removed the damaged flooring. Unfortunately, that’s where we ran into delays. We couldn’t replace the floors until the insurance adjuster agreed to pay for the new installation.
Wasn’t the replacement automatically covered by the couple’s insurance policy?
It should have been. This was a unique case because the homeowners had recently installed a brand new, prefinished, engineered hardwood floor. Their flooring was “locked in” which means that the pieces fit together in a specific interlocking pattern. Instead of nailing or stapling boards in place, locked flooring is installed from end to end. To restore the home to its original condition, we had to completely replace the flooring, including the undamaged pieces. The adjuster balked at the idea.
Why did he hesitate?
While he was inspecting the home, the adjuster noticed some leftover flooring in the garage. He claimed that the leftover materials would be enough to fill in the gaps and replace the flooring that had been removed. Furthermore, the adjuster insisted that the insurance company would only pay to fill in the gaps and would only supply the materials the homeowners couldn’t provide themselves.
We spent a great deal of time working with that adjuster to explain and prove the original method of installation. Complete restoration truly required removal and replacement of the entire floor. We also informed him that, under their policy, the homeowners could not be compelled to use private property to repair the insured damage.
Did the insurance company eventually pay to replace the whole floor?
We were able to obtain a settlement that covered the full amount necessary for repairs. Even so, this claim still stands out to me as an example of poor insurance practices. The adjuster drastically overstepped his bounds, and his instructions to the restoration company put the homeowner’s health in jeopardy.
This situation might have ended very differently if the restoration company hadn’t reached out to me. I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity to advocate for this couple. It was extremely rewarding to see them test out their brand-new flooring. In fact, at the end of the day, claims like this are the reason that I do what I do.