The storm that blew through NW MI last August 2, 2015, left a trail of property damage for many. And with that, many property owners are looking to their homeowners’ insurers for help but are being surprised by unwelcome news. First, the insured is learning that their local agent who sold them the policy is, oddly, completely out of the claim process picture; instead, the insured is directed “to deal with company’s home office” regarding the claim. And with that, the anecdotes are starting to pile up by area residents already: for example, with tree debris cleanup, unless the tree is touching your dwelling — “CLAIM DENIED!” And if it is touching a dwelling: “Here is $1,000.00, less your deductible; the rest is on you.” For damaged homes, anecdotal stories include insurance “experts” crawling all over assessing “value” of the loss (at the deliberate least possible price), then subtracting depreciation (at the deliberate greatest possible price), leaving their insured’s with 1/3rd of the actual cost to replace or repair. Many deliberate insurance claim traps exist within homeowners’ policies including time limitations to report a loss and what, exactly, must be included in the reported loss. In short, though, you do not have to “accept” what your insurance company tells you it will pay. You have every contractual right to contest their “value” assessment; their employee or agent in the field’s interests are aligned with their employer and not you. Hire experts and get estimates from actual market driven service providers in the area. Contest the claim and if necessary, file suit timely and get back what you paid for in the first place.
Authored by L. Page Graves
A native of Lansing, Michigan, Page Graves now helps members of the same community who need legal help with Michigan No-Fault Automobile Insurance Law, representing medical service providers and severely injured people in collecting unpaid and underpaid no-fault benefits. A partner with Smith & Johnson in Traverse City, Mr. Graves has been repeatedly included in the annual Best Lawyers since 2012.