When a fire damages or destroys a church or place of worship, the effects can be incredibly devastating. Often looked at as places of tranquility and solace, when places of worship suffer damage, it can leave many feeling lost or unsure of how to move forward. Insurance companies can make this process even more debilitating by making it difficult to receive the funds needed to repair the damage at hand. Read below to learn more about what can occur during a church fire and what to expect from the insurance company during the claims process.
Common Causes of Church Fires
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), from 2007 to 2011 an average of 1,780 fires occurred on religious and funeral properties each year. Though often associated with worship and prayer, churches are utilized for a variety of purposes. Many have office space, kitchen facilities, and halls and multipurpose rooms that can be used to host meals, hold community meetings, host celebrations, and more.
The NFPA found cooking equipment caused roughly one-third (30%) of fires that occurred on the premises of a church or religious facility. Heating equipment, as well as arson, each accounted for 16% of fires, electrical distribution or lighting equipment caused 10%, and lightning and candle lighting each caused 4% of the fires.
Church Property Damage and Coverage of Precious Items
While the above statistics are informative, it’s important to keep in mind that many of these places of worship are far more than just commercial structures – they house priceless items including irreplaceable religious artifacts. Pipe organs, artwork, stained-glass windows, sculptures, and more can all be damaged or even completely destroyed in a church fire. These interior contents damages – on top of the damage to the church itself – can represent huge costs and are often fraught with challenges, such as:
- Differences in coverage: Some of the most distinct features of a church are a part of the building itself; however, insurance coverage may treat it just as another property. This can become a major issue if items like pipe organs or historic materials are destroyed.
- Changes in value don’t match policy coverage: Precious items like artwork and sculptures will change in value overtime and coverage should be adjusted accordingly.
- Replacement and repair of unique and valuable property: When a timeless feature is destroyed, the insurance company may only be willing to pay for repairs rather than the full cost of replacement.
Just like other properties and businesses, churches and religious facilities need assistance after a disaster such as a fire occurs. Unfortunately, however, insurance companies too frequently attempt to avoid issuing payments in accordance with the terms of their policies. An insurance company that fails to honor its obligations can put a church in an unnecessarily difficult situation when it needs help the most.
Houston Church Property Damage Attorneys
Damage done to a church after a fire can be absolutely devastating to those in the congregation and beyond. Unlike a standard business, dues, tithes, capital campaigns and other financial sources help to support churches and houses of worship. If an insurance company fails to honor its contractual obligations, the entire community will suffer. If your place of worship suffered damage due to a devastating fire or natural disaster, contact Raizner Law today for help with your church’s insurance claims.