Dealing with damage to your commercial property can be an incredibly daunting task. While making temporary repairs, assessing and taking photos of the damage, and filing an insurance claim are all necessary steps that must be taken to fully recoup the losses your investment sustained, it’s not uncommon for an insurance carrier to wrongly deny, delay, or underpay your valid claim. In these situations, it’s often in the best interest of the policyholder to obtain legal representation.
Before you hire a lawyer, however, you may have several questions you’d like to get answered to ensure you’re able to recover what you’re rightfully owed by your insurance provider. Here are some important questions to ask before hiring a commercial property insurance lawyer:
What Type of Claims Dispute am I Involved in?
When unexpected property damage happens, it can immediately halt operations for your business. This will lead to the need for a commercial property damage claim to be filed with an insurance provider. Although this process is supposed to give business owners peace of mind, a variety of disputes can occur over the claim, including:
- Damage Issues: The insurance carrier and its adjusters may disagree with you on what is damaged, the extent of the damage, and even the event that caused the damage to occur. For instance, if your commercial property suffered roof damage due to a hail storm, your insurance carrier may attempt to blame the damage on regular wear and tear, often leading to a wrongful denial of the claim. Not only that, but insurers may insist your property does not need to be repaired or may grossly undervalue the claim altogether.
- Coverage Problems: The insurance carrier may deny coverage for your entire commercial property damage claim or for specific portions of the claim that should be covered. In these instances, it’s important to review your commercial property policy to ensure you have the proper coverage in place.
- Bad Faith Actions: Many wrongful acts committed by insurance carriers are classified as bad faith actions. The most common claims of bad faith include the wrongful denial of a claim, gross underpayment of a claim, and purposefully delaying a claims decision. Insurers often act in bad faith as a means to avoid paying a claim in full in order to turn a profit for themselves. Denying or delaying coverage with little to no reason is a sign you should hire legal counsel.
What Steps Should I Take if My Commercial Property Insurance Claim Has Been Denied?
While it’s essential for business owners to have a comprehensive commercial property insurance policy in place to cover a wide range of potential losses, your insurance provider may attempt to find loopholes as a means to refuse to pay what you’re rightfully owed under your policy. If you find your valid commercial property insurance claim has been denied, your next steps should include:
- Contact the insurance provider: If your insurance provider refuses to pay your claim, they are legally required to provide reasoning as to why the claim was denied. If they do not, it’s important to attempt to contact the insurer to find out the reasoning for the denial.
- Appeal the insurer’s decision: Whether or not you receive an answer from the insurance provider as to why the claim was denied, it’s important to act fast and prepare evidence to appeal their decision. Gathering photo and video evidence of the damage is essential in these situations. All pertinent information and evidence you have should be submitted as a part of an insurance claim appeal.
- Talk with a lawyer: If the insurance company is still unresponsive and/or refuses to offer to pay a fair settlement amount, you may need to file an insurance coverage lawsuit. Whatever course of action you take, it’s best to discuss the claim with a commercial property insurance lawyer to evaluate your options.
How Can Hiring a Commercial Property Insurance Lawyer Help Me?
The law can be complicated, especially an area as specific as commercial property insurance. Your claims may very well lead to a court case, and it is not a good idea to represent yourself in court against a well-funded, extremely experienced insurance defense attorney. Hiring a lawyer can also increase the amount an insurance company is willing to pay because their risk of losing in court becomes greater when you have a property insurance lawyer on your side. Insurance companies have large and experienced armies of lawyers, experts, and insurance adjusters working to mitigate their exposure from the very first day they are made aware of a claim for loss. Unfortunately, their marching orders are often to pay the minimum amount on all claims and to deny claims whenever possible. If you stand to lose a lot of money due to business interruption and/or extensive repairs to commercial property, among other issues, you should consult with and hire an insurance coverage lawyer.
How Long Have You Been In Practice?
The number of years a lawyer has been in practice will generally directly affect the amount of experience they have. For instance, the lawyers at Raizner Slania have practiced law for over 31 years combined and during that time they have successfully handled thousands of claims against all major international insurance carriers. Many less experienced lawyers have entered the property insurance practice arena, offering lower fees and other promises; but these attorneys may not have the experience needed to get you the most money possible for your claims. The team of insurance lawyers at Raizner Slania has represented clients in complex insurance disputes nationwide.
Do You Have Trial Experience?
Contrary to popular belief, not all lawyers are trial lawyers with litigation experience. Although some commercial property insurance policies have language that requires disputes to be resolved through arbitration, pursuing litigation may be necessary. Litigation means that a trial is always on the horizon. The commercial property insurance lawyers at Raizner Slania are well-versed in the civil litigation process and have successfully filed lawsuits and taken cases to trial on behalf of clients for insurance-related issues.
How Much Do I Pay In Attorneys Fees?
Since you are hiring a property insurance lawyer to help you recover financial damages, it is important to ask how much of your recovery the lawyer will be taking as a fee. There are many different options for legal fee structuring. While under the law insurance companies are obligated to pay all attorneys’ fees and costs if your lawyer wins the case, regardless, you will not have to pay us any fees or costs unless and until we recover money for you. Our firm handles cases on what is called a “contingency fee” basis. In a contingent fee arrangement, the lawyer agrees to accept a fixed percentage of the client’s recovery. If the client wins the case, the lawyer’s fee comes out of the money awarded to the client. If the client loses the case, neither the client nor the lawyer will get any money, but the client will not be required to pay the attorney for the work done on the case.
How Do I Know When During The Claims Process I Should Hire A Property Insurance Lawyer?
You should look at hiring an insurance lawyer as early as possible in the claims process; however, a good marker of time to go by is when and if your claim is denied. When an insurance company denies your claim for property damage, it means that the company does not agree with what you have alleged. Try to get as detailed of a response as possible as to why your claim was denied so that you can take this information in with you to meet with lawyers. After the initial denial, insurance companies often have administrative hearings and appeals internally that must take place before a lawsuit can be filed.
Commercial Insurance Claim Lawyers
While insurance companies advertise themselves as being a lifeline for business owners when a disaster causes damage to their commercial property, they most often act in their own interests rather than those of the policyholder. In these situations, it’s important that commercial property owners consult with legal counsel to not only protect themselves but also their investment.
At Raizner Slania, our commercial insurance claim lawyers are well-versed in the multitude of ways insurance companies attempt to skew the claims process for their benefit. If you are a commercial property owner needing assistance with commercial policy coverage or with a wrongfully delayed, underpaid, or denied property damage claim, we can help.