Property insurance cases provide lessons for others to follow. A recent federal court decision in Oklahoma1 after a fire loss reflects why my book, Pay!, suggests that public adjusters should be considered for retention cards shortly after a significant loss. The language from the opinion that caught my attention was as follows:
Instead of using a professional company to pack and determine what items were and were not salvageable, the plaintiff decided to handle that process himself, then cleared most of the salvageable contents himself. State Farm then reviewed the information provided by the plaintiff regarding the items that were not salvageable and consistently questioned its validity and accuracy compared to its understanding of the damage caused by the fire. There is thus a legitimate dispute about the extent and valuation of damage to the plaintiff̵7;s content.
Most policyholders have never dealt with a significant property loss. They are really learning for the first time what policy terms mean and how they are applied. They have never made an adjustment to real or personal property. For most, they will miss out on many policy benefits and not do all the adjustment steps correctly. As a result, they will often destroy their own claim and miss out on benefits that would otherwise be covered.
So why not interview and retain a competent and passionate loss professional to help you?
Fire, smoke and ash incidents are much more complex today than they were 25 years ago. Today, we understand that smoke residues are often dangerous and require much more extensive cleaning than before. I have discussed this repeatedly and encourage readers to study The importance of showing that there are damages in smoke damage insurance claimsand Wildfire Insurance Claims—An Expert’s Considerations.
The district court ruled that the policyholder did not find that there was no bad faith. I wonder how the case would have turned out – and even if there would have been a need for litigation – if the policyholder had hired a claims professional to assist from the beginning of the adjustment.
Amateurs hope, professionals work.
1 Coleman v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co.No. 21-cv-0430 (ND Okla. Nov. 21, 2022).