Dealing with home insurance claims after a loss can be frustrating, especially if the insurance company denies your claim or offers an unfair settlement. While most straightforward claims can be resolved without an attorney, there are some situations where hiring a lawyer to assist with your claim is wise.
Dispute Over Policy Coverage
After you file a claim, the first step is determining whether the damage or loss is covered under your policy. Insurance companies may try to claim that certain damage is excluded or not covered. For example, your insurer may deny a claim for water damage arguing it was caused by flood waters which are not covered, while you believe it was from storm surge that should be covered. Coverage disputes also commonly occur after fires and other property damage.
If there is a disagreement with your insurer over what is covered in your policy, an insurance attorney can provide legal guidance on policy interpretation and negotiate with the company on your behalf. Having a lawyer who is experienced with home insurance policies argue your case can better your chances of getting the insurer to cover the claim.
Claim Has Been Denied
Another clear sign it is time to contact a lawyer is if your insurance company denies your claim outright. Denials often occur after coverage disputes or if the insurer alleges the policyholder made misrepresentations on their application or failed to meet policy requirements such as timely notice of the loss or providing adequate documentation.
If your claim is denied, filing an appeal on your own can be an uphill battle. An insurance lawyer has the expertise to compile evidence to challenge the denial and argue why your claim should be accepted and covered. If negotiations and appeals with the company fail, the attorney can file a lawsuit against the insurer to recover your damages.
Offered Settlement Is Too Low
After investigating your claim, the insurance company will make you a monetary offer to settle it. However, their initial offer is usually lower than the actual cost to fully repair the home and replace damaged or lost personal property.
If the settlement amount seems unreasonably low given the extent of your losses, bringing in an insurance lawyer can be beneficial. An attorney with experience handling home insurance claims will determine the full scope of your covered losses. The lawyer can then negotiate with the adjuster to pressure the insurer to make a fair settlement offer that adequately compensates you for your damages and losses.
How Lawyers Handle Insurance Claims
There are several ways a knowledgeable insurance attorney can handle denied or disputed home insurance claims:
Investigating the Claim - The lawyer will thoroughly examine the facts of your case including reviewing your policy, damage assessments, adjuster reports, and claim correspondence. This allows them to build the strongest argument for why your claim is covered and should be paid.
Negotiating Your Claim - Your attorney will directly negotiate with the insurance company through calls, emails, and letters to demand evidence for denial of your claim or showing why their settlement offer is not sufficient.
Litigation Against the Insurer - As a last resort, the attorney may file a lawsuit against the insurance company seeking recovery of your damages. Even just the threat of litigation can bring the insurer back to the negotiating table.
Contingency Fee Agreements
Most insurance lawyers work on a contingency fee basis when assisting with denied or disputed home insurance claims. This means you only pay the attorney a percentage of the insurance money they obtain for you if they are successful with your case.
Typical contingency fees range from 25% to 40% of the recovered amount. There is no upfront payment required. The lawyer only gets paid their fee if they win your case or get the insurer to agree to a satisfactory claim settlement.
When to Hire an Attorney
Here are some clear signs it is smart to hire a lawyer to assist with your home insurance claim:
Claim involves complex issues or significant damages over $100,000
Your claim has been completely denied
You believe the insurer's settlement offer is unfairly low
The insurance company is delaying handling your claim
You need help appealing a claim denial
Only an attorney can force the insurer to respond and negotiate fairly
Bringing in legal counsel as soon as your claim is denied or you receive an unsatisfactory settlement offer maximizes your chances of getting a positive outcome. The sooner you have an attorney holding the insurer accountable, the more leverage you have in negotiations and appeals.
Alternatives To Hiring A Lawyer
While an experienced insurance lawyer is often your best advocate, there are some alternatives to consider:
File Complaint With State Regulators - Every state has an insurance regulatory department that you can file a complaint against your insurer for improper denial or handling of your claim. This may prompt the insurer to reconsider your case.
Use Mediation Services - Some states offer low-cost mediation programs through the department of insurance where a neutral third-party helps facilitate claim negotiations between policyholders and insurers.
Negotiate Claim Yourself - As long as your claim does not involve complex legal issues, you may be able to negotiate an acceptable settlement with the insurance company on your own through polite persistence.
Navigating the home insurance claims process after a loss requires you to advocate for your rights under the policy. While most straightforward claims can be settled without legal action, hiring an attorney is prudent if your claim is denied, you need help understanding policy coverages, or believe the insurer’s settlement offer does not reflect the full extent of your damages. An experienced insurance lawyer levels the playing field and gives your claim the best chance of a favorable resolution.
5 Frequently Asked Questions About Hiring A Lawyer For A Home Insurance Claim
1. When is the best time to hire an attorney for a home insurance claim?
The best time is as soon as your claim is denied or you receive a lowball settlement offer. This allows your lawyer to get involved early to build your case against the insurer.
2. How much does a lawyer typically cost for a home insurance claim?
Most lawyers work on contingency of 25% to 40% of recovered damages. You pay no fee upfront.
3. What can a lawyer do if the insurance company denies my claim?
A lawyer can negotiate with the insurer to have your claim accepted, help file an appeal, or sue the insurance company to force them to pay the claim.
4. Should I hire a public adjuster or insurance attorney?
Public adjusters handle claim negotiations while attorneys provide legal counsel and can litigate against the insurer. Using both provides the most leverage.
5. When can I handle a claim myself without an attorney?
You can likely negotiate straightforward claims yourself that are accepted without dispute over coverages or amount. But involve a lawyer if issues arise.