New York City Fire Damage Lawyer
Fires and explosions can cause devastating property damage. As bad as the damage can be from the initial blaze or blast, the after-effects smoke and soot leaves behind can be substantial in their own right. This is all in addition to the water damage that may well be the byproduct of the efforts to put out the fire.
Property owners need to know that their insurance carrier will deliver the promised coverage. Unfortunately, insurance companies often need prodding to do the right thing. That’s where the New York City fire damage lawyers at Sutton & Smyth, LLP come in.
We’ll fight hard for the settlement your policy has promised.
“Highly recommend! Thank you!”“Daniel was very knowledgeable, super attentive, and quick to inform me throughout the entire process.”- Samantha S.
“I would highly recommend this law firm.”“He continuously updated me throughout the entire process and answered all my questions.”- A. L.
“Thank you so much for listening to us when no one else would.”“Leigh Sutton & Daniel Smyth made sure that his voice was heard and he was compensated to the max!”- Mari K.
“I always felt like I was in great hands.”“My experience working with Dan was working with someone transparent, helpful, and consistent, and I'm really happy I met him when I did.”- Erin R.
“Obtained better than expected results on all cases referred...”“I am an attorney that has referred a number of sensitive cases to the attorneys at Sutton & Smyth, LLP.”- Michael L.
“Daniel made me feel at ease throughout my entire process.”“He is very knowledgeable, super attentive, and quick to inform and respond.”- Catherine M.
“This the law firm for you!”“Very good at his job and I'm beyond grateful and satisfied with the job he's done.”- Dominique McCloud
“I would absolutely recommend them!”“Extremely helpful counsel during a stressful time in my life!”- Kelly P.
$1.7 Million Property Damage Due to Fire
$775K Motorcycle Accident
$750K Ceiling Collapse in Rental Apartment
$585K Bicycle Accident Involving Taxi
$485K Sidewalk Trip & Fall
Why Was My Insurance Claim Denied?
Insurance companies can deny fire damage claims for various reasons, and it's essential for policyholders to understand the terms and conditions of their insurance policy to ensure a smooth claims process. Common reasons for the denial of a fire damage claim include:
- Policy Exclusions: Insurance policies often have specific exclusions that may not cover certain types of fires or circumstances. For example, if the policy excludes coverage for wildfires, arson, or intentional acts, a claim related to these events may be denied.
- Lapsed or Inadequate Coverage: If the policyholder has allowed their insurance coverage to lapse due to non-payment of premiums or if they have insufficient coverage to cover the extent of the damage, the claim may be denied or only partially paid.
- Failure to Report Promptly: Most insurance policies require policyholders to report a fire loss promptly. Delays in reporting can lead to claim denials, as the insurance company may argue that the delay hindered their ability to investigate the incident.
- Misrepresentation or Fraud: Providing inaccurate information or misrepresenting facts during the claims process can result in a denial. Insurance fraud, such as intentionally setting the fire or inflating the value of the loss, is illegal and can lead to a denied claim.
- Non-Disclosure of Material Information: When applying for insurance, policyholders are often required to disclose relevant information about their property and its condition. If they fail to disclose material information, the insurance company may deny the claim when it becomes apparent.
- Inadequate Documentation: Insurance companies typically require thorough documentation of the loss, including photographs, receipts, and itemized lists of damaged or destroyed items. Insufficient or incomplete documentation can lead to claim denials.
- Policy Limits: Insurance policies have coverage limits, and if the total loss exceeds the policy's maximum coverage amount, the claim will be limited to that amount. Any additional losses will not be covered.
- Negligence: If the insurance company determines that the policyholder was negligent in causing or exacerbating the fire, they may deny the claim or reduce the payout. Negligence can include leaving a fire hazard unattended or failing to take reasonable precautions to prevent the fire.
- Pre-Existing Damage: If the property had pre-existing damage or was in poor condition before the fire, the insurance company may argue that the fire did not cause all of the claimed damage, leading to a partial denial.
- Failure to Cooperate: Policyholders are typically required to cooperate with the insurance company's investigation of the claim. Failure to provide necessary information, access to the property, or cooperation with the adjuster can result in a denied claim.
- Uninsured Structures: If a structure on the property was not covered by the insurance policy, such as a detached garage or shed, any damage to these structures may not be covered.
To avoid claim denials, it's crucial for policyholders to carefully read and understand their insurance policy, maintain accurate records, report losses promptly, cooperate with the insurer's investigation, and act honestly and responsibly throughout the claims process. If a claim is denied, policyholders have the right to appeal the decision and seek legal counsel if necessary.
Common Causes of Fire Damage
Fire damage refers to the destruction or harm caused by a fire. Fires can result in various types of damage to property, the environment, and even human life. Common causes of fire damage include:
- Electrical Malfunctions: Electrical fires can occur due to faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, damaged appliances, or short circuits. These fires often start in electrical panels, outlets, or appliances.
- Cooking Accidents: Cooking-related fires are a leading cause of residential fires. They can result from unattended cooking, overheating oil, or flammable materials near stovetops.
- Heating Equipment: Fires can be sparked by malfunctioning heating systems, such as furnaces or space heaters. Poor maintenance, gas leaks, or blocked vents can contribute to these incidents.
- Smoking: Accidental fires can occur when smokers improperly dispose of cigarettes, matches, or other smoking materials. These fires often happen in homes, but they can also ignite outdoor areas like forests or grasslands.
- Arson: Deliberately set fires, known as arson, cause significant damage to property and pose a danger to lives. Motivations for arson vary but can include insurance fraud, revenge, or vandalism.
- Wildfires: Wildfires are large, uncontrolled fires that spread across natural landscapes, such as forests, grasslands, or shrublands. They can be ignited by lightning strikes, campfires, discarded cigarettes, or human activities.
- Chemical Accidents: Fires can result from chemical spills, leaks, or reactions in industrial settings, laboratories, or storage facilities. Chemical fires can be particularly dangerous due to the release of toxic fumes.
- Natural Causes: Lightning strikes can cause fires in trees, vegetation, or buildings. Volcanic eruptions, while rare, can also lead to fires if they eject hot lava or embers.
- Appliance Malfunctions: Household appliances like dryers, refrigerators, or water heaters can malfunction and start fires. These may occur due to electrical problems, mechanical failures, or blocked vents.
- Candles: Unattended or improperly placed candles can lead to fires, particularly when they come into contact with flammable materials like curtains or paper.
- Children Playing with Fire: Curious children may accidentally start fires by playing with matches, lighters, or other flammable objects.
- Sparks and Open Flames: Sparks from welding, cutting, or grinding metal can ignite nearby flammable materials, causing fires. Open flames from candles, torches, or bonfires can also pose a risk.
- Gas Leaks: Gas leaks in homes or commercial buildings can create an explosive and flammable atmosphere. A spark or open flame can trigger a fire or explosion.
Fire damage can range from minor scorching or smoke damage to complete destruction, depending on the size, intensity, and duration of the fire. Fires not only cause physical damage but can also result in emotional and psychological trauma for those affected.
Possible Property Damage Caused by Fire
Fires can cause a wide range of property damage, depending on their size, intensity, and the materials involved. Property damage from fires can be extensive and include:
- Structural Damage:
- Burned or Charred Building Components: Fires can consume or severely damage walls, roofs, floors, and structural supports, compromising the integrity of a building.
- Crumbling or Collapsed Structures: Intense fires can weaken the structural elements to the point of collapse, leading to a total loss of the building.
- Melting or Warping: High temperatures can cause materials like metal, plastic, and glass to melt or warp, distorting their shape and functionality.
- Smoke Damage:
- Soot and Smoke Residue: Smoke carries soot, which can coat surfaces throughout a property, including walls, ceilings, and possessions.
- Odor: The pungent smell of smoke can permeate every surface and item in a property, often requiring extensive cleaning or even replacement.
- Water Damage:
- Firefighting Efforts: The water used to extinguish the fire can cause additional damage, leading to waterlogged structures, damaged possessions, and the potential for mold growth.
- Sprinkler Systems: Automatic sprinkler systems can activate during a fire, causing water damage in addition to fire damage.
- Heat Damage:
- Melted or Warped Materials: High temperatures can cause plastics, vinyl, and other materials to deform or melt, ruining appliances, fixtures, and furnishings.
- Glass Breakage: Extreme heat can shatter windows and glass surfaces.
- Content Damage:
- Personal Belongings: Furniture, electronics, clothing, and other personal items can be destroyed or severely damaged by flames, smoke, or heat.
- Artwork and Collectibles: Valuable artwork, antiques, and collectibles may be irreplaceable if damaged in a fire.
- Electrical and Mechanical Systems:
- Electrical Systems: Fires can damage electrical wiring and systems, posing a risk of electrical shorts or additional fires.
- HVAC Systems: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems can be compromised, spreading smoke and soot throughout a property.
- Plumbing and Utilities:
- Pipes and Plumbing: The heat from a fire can damage water pipes, leading to leaks or bursts.
- Gas Lines: Fires can cause gas leaks, posing a risk of explosion or further fires.
- Roof Damage: Fire can burn through roofing materials, potentially exposing the interior of a structure to the elements.
- Landscaping and Outdoor Structures: Fires can extend to outdoor areas, damaging landscaping, fences, sheds, and other structures.
- Environmental Damage: Large fires can have environmental impacts, such as soil erosion, damage to vegetation, and pollution of nearby water sources.
- Mold and Mildew: Water damage resulting from firefighting efforts can create conditions conducive to mold and mildew growth, which can further damage the property and pose health risks.
Property damage from fires can be devastating, and the recovery process often involves a combination of cleaning, repair, and rebuilding efforts. Insurance coverage, fire prevention measures, and fire safety plans can help mitigate the financial and personal impact of fire damage. Additionally, professional restoration and cleanup services are typically required to address the various types of damage caused by fires.