There's no doubt that the superstorm Sandy left considerable property damage in its wake. However, it also appears to have stirred up a flood of lawsuits by homeowners claiming the damage to their homes were purposely underestimated by engineering firms hired to conduct inspections, resulting in denied or undervalued claims. If you feel your insurance company or third-party is purposefully undervaluing your losses to avoid paying, here are a couple of things you can do to ensure you get every cent you're owed.
Get the Paperwork
One of the lawsuits filed against insurers was triggered by what the homeowners allege were suspicious changes made to reports filed by an engineer. At first the engineer determined that the damage done to the home was caused by the storm. However, the individual's supervisor appears to have made changes to the paperwork to indicate the damage was caused by preexisting issues, which resulted in their claim being denied by their insurance company.
To properly prove your insurance claim was undervalued, you'll need to obtain information showing how the value of your loss was assessed. This can be challenging to do since insurance companies understandably want to keep that information as confidential as possible.
However, you can request copies of reports created by insurance adjusters and other inspectors who looked at your property. This will allow you to find instances where the inspection may conflict with known information about the property.
For instance, the inspector may state there was existing structural damage in a particular area. If you have proof to counteract that claim then you may be able to force the insurance company to reevaluate your payout. At the very least, a misleading or patently false report may provide the basis for a personal injury lawsuit based on fraud.
Hire an Independent Adjuster
A common mistake homeowner's make is assuming the insurance company's adjuster is there to help them. However, the fact that the adjuster works for the insurance provider represents a direct conflict of interests. The goal of the insurance company (and therefore the adjuster) is to minimize the amount of money it has to pay out on the claim.
Therefore, it would behoove you to have an independent party evaluate the damage to your property. In addition to confirming or disputing what the insurance company agent's evaluation, a third party may be able to help you interpret your policy. The language in insurance policies can sometimes be unclear, causing homeowners to accept undervalued settlements because they don't know what's covered and what's not. An independent appraiser with experience reading policies can help ensure you get the maximum payout.
Insurance companies won't make it easy for you to dispute undervalued claims, so it's a good idea to hire an attorney to assist you with the process. A lawyer can help you legally obtain supporting paperwork from the insurance company and negotiate an appropriate payout for you if the provider chooses to settle. For more information about litigating an undervalued insurance claim, contact an attorney, such as someone from Edward J. Achrem & Associates, Ltd., near you.