When a commercial property is damaged, business owners will likely turn to their insurance provider to help mitigate the cost of repairs. Because of the highly technical components of an insurance policy, commercial property damage claims can become complex situations that may require legal assistance. When this happens, it’s important to know how quickly legal counsel should be obtained.
When to Hire an Insurance Lawyer
After suffering a major loss from a natural disaster, fire, or theft, one of the first things commercial property owners must do is report it to their insurer. While having adequate insurance can help lessen the blow associated with damage that is a covered loss, there can be a lot of ambiguity within the claims process as insurance policies are unique in their coverage options and language. This situation is compounded by the fact that insurance companies and policyholders have competing interests. For example, while the insured wants to receive the full and proper amount owed under their policy, the insurer wants to minimize payouts on claims to turn a profit. To do so, insurance companies often employ tactics such as finding reasons to deny a claim, underpaying the claim, or delaying the claims process.
This can be incredibly frustrating for policyholders who have paid for a specific type of coverage from their insurance company. In these instances, business and commercial property owners will often need professional legal help to obtain what they are rightfully owed under their insurance policies.
Commercial property damage claims are typically more complex and costly due to the size of the properties. In these cases, there is often a higher chance for a dispute to arise between the insurer and the insured on the amount of the claim. Some instances where obtaining legal counsel for an insurance claim would be necessary include when:
The policyholder and the insurance company don’t agree on the value of a claim;
Claims are large, expensive, and/or complex, which can be due to the size of the property, the amount of damage, and/or the type of damage;
The insurance policy contains an arbitration clause;
Causation is disputed; and
Claims have been denied
When to hire an experienced insurance attorney depends on a variety of factors. In Texas, the Prompt Payment of Claims Act provides specific deadlines for insurance companies to evaluate claims. Further, it is important for policyholders to be mindful that once a certain amount of time has passed, policyholders may lose the right to pursue legal action. While the policy typically states what this time period is, there are also statutory time periods or statutes of limitations that dictate how long you have to bring certain claims. For example, under Texas law, claims for the breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, as well as violations of the Texas Insurance Code must be brought within two years after the cause of action accrues. The default limitations period for breach of an insurance contract is four years from the day the cause of action accrues.
However, the most important factor is when it becomes obvious that there is some type of dispute. This may be clear when the insurance company denies a valid claim, significantly underpays the value of a claim, or the insurance company or adjuster is simply unresponsive to delay the claims process. These events are common, but in recent years insurance companies have engaged law firms during the claims process—sometimes well before there is a known dispute. Though the purpose is not always clear, this trend should alert policyholders that the insurer may be acting on the advice of legal counsel. In response, it may be beneficial for property owners to do the same and seek the advice of an experienced insurance attorney. That way policyholders can take comfort in knowing their lawyer is working in their best interests during the claims process.
Insurance Coverage Lawyers
Dealing with a commercial property damage insurance claim that has been delayed, underpaid, or denied can prevent commercial property owners from getting back to business. When these disputes arise with an insurance company, policyholders can feel like they are at the mercy of their insurer with limited options to be made whole.
By involving an experienced insurance coverage lawyer, policyholders are often on a much more even playing field to dispute their claim than they would be on their own. At Raizner Law, our lawyers are licensed in multiple states and have excelled in high-stakes litigation and arbitration while still managing large dockets of cases. Our attorneys have successfully handled a variety of different claims involving complex issues against some of the largest insurance companies, corporations, and organizations in the country. If your business suffered property damage from a covered event and your claim has been delayed, grossly underpaid, or denied, we can help. Contact our office today to see how we can best assist with your claim.