Consider the Following When Hiring an Fire or Flood Claims Attorney
At some point, after suffering a major fire loss or other major loss you will file your insurance claim. You will question the process and consider your options for help. You’ll consider your rights. You will think and worry about trusting the insurance company. More importantly you will consider your financial interests and how they conflict with your insurance company’s financial interests. Yes, they naturally conflict. The more paid to claimants the less profit for insurance companies. You want a maximum payout, your insurer a minimum.
An insurance claim is a business negotiation. Simple fact, pure and true. So while you paid good money for coverage and good claim service, you may have to fight for what you deserve and are entitled to. You may need professional assistance to win the fight. In a perfect world you do not need an attorney, you would be paid in full and your world placed back in order in short time. This is not a perfect world however.
To ensure a fair settlement of a large claim, usually above $10,000, steps must be taken to learn the language and educate yourself. Seek out experts. Interview and research until you find and expert you can trust and rely upon. You truly need the “squeaky wheel”, the right professional, to help you through this dangerous road. You’re here so you’re on the right track.
Do you need professional help? Do you need a lawyer? Do you need a public adjuster? What is a public adjuster? Can you handle it on your own? The first thing you need before making these decisions is a complete copy of your policy, including the “Declarations Page” and all “Endorsements” and “Riders”. Not just the one page, which most usually only have.
Your Declarations Page is generally the first or second page of the policy. You need more than just this. The declaration page states the dollar limits applying to each category of coverage, and lists the endorsements and riders, (extras) that you have in addition to the basic policy. Each such addition will be listed by a code number or letter, or combination thereof. Review your basic coverage categories; Dwelling, Contents (Personal Property), and Loss of Use (sometimes called “Additional Living Expenses”.) The Declarations page does not list the conditions and other obligations which form the insurance contract. Your rights to payments and recovery are dictated by the language of the policy. Not the declarations page only.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q: I’ve filed a claim under my homeowner’s policy. I’ve met with adjusters from my company. I’m getting frustrated. Do I need a lawyer?
A: If you are communicating in writing and in person with your insurer with confidence, polite assertiveness, and insistence on your rights and your insurer is responding, keep going on your own. If you feel like you’ve “hit a wall”, are losing patience, feeling frustrated, angry or anxious, or are worried about time passing and/or losing your rights, a qualified attorney can help. An attorney can help you get the respect and claim results you deserve. If the dispute is only relates to the extent or value of property damage, and your insurer is cooperating in trying to resolve the dispute informally – hiring an insurance claim attorney may not be necessary. If you live in a state that licenses and regulates public adjusters and there are experienced and reputable ones available in your area, interview both lawyers and public adjusters before deciding which one would be best suited to resolve your particular situation. Illinois licenses Public Adjusters. Be sure to check for qualifications, background, bonding ect.
Q: Once I hire an attorney, should I let them to do all the talking to my insurer?
A: Not necessarily, but once the insurance company has dug in its heels and you’ve hired an attorney, let the attorney communicate with the insurance company. Most attorneys will insist on this and it’s for your own protection.
Q: Can I hire my family lawyer to represent me…the one who did my will last year?
A: You can, but you shouldn’t. Your lawyer should be experienced in representing policyholders (people like you) in insurance coverage or bad faith litigation. Insurance companies generally hire very experienced insurance defense counsel to represent them and yours should be a worthy adversary. Insurance companies will assess the risk of not settling with you by considering the strength of your representative. Again, the attorney you chose should be well educated and experienced in this specific field of law. There is no substitute for experience when it comes to these fights.
Q: Do I have to sue my insurance company to get what I am entitled to under my policy?
A: Absolutely not. On most small dollar claims, your insurer will pay your claim with little fuss and bother. Basic negotiating will resolve most insurance disputes. There are laws and regulations in Illinois, like most states, that make it illegal for insurance companies to force consumers to file suit to recover their policy benefits.
Q: What are the alternatives to litigation?
A: Mediation, Arbitration, Appraisal are three of the most popular alternatives to litigation.
In MEDIATION, the parties work with a third party to negotiate a resolution of their dispute in an informal, voluntary process.
An ARBITRATION may be binding or non-binding, and is more formal than a mediation. The arbitrator may dictate the result, or simply work with the parties to reach a result.
APPRAISAL is a procedure that can be used to resolve a dispute over the amount of an insured loss. It has no relation to real estate appraisals. It can be fast and economical or slow and expensive, depending on the appraisers and umpire selected by both sides.
Q: If I do hire a lawyer, what will it cost?
A: You can pay by the hour, or enter into a “Contingency Fee Agreement.”
Q: What is a “Contingency Fee Agreement?
A: Usually those who have an issue with their insurance company are unable to pay an attorney by the hour. Accordingly, most Attorneys including the Law offices of Jason Harris will accept cases on a contingency fee agreement. Under such agreements, the attorney is only paid if the client recovers money in a lawsuit or settlement. Then, the lawyer takes a percentage of the recovery.
If a case settles before a case goes to trial, most attorneys set their contingency fee at 33% of the recovery. If a case goes to trial, the range increases to 33-40%.
Q: What do lawyers charge by the hour?
A: Hourly fees for lawyers vary according to firm size, experience of the attorney, and geographic location. Consumers retaining a partner in a law firm can expect to pay $200-$450 per hour. Rates for law firm associates range from $125-$300 per hour. Consumers retaining a rural attorney in private practice can expect to pay lower hourly fees. If you have to sue your insurance company, you’ll want your attorney on a contingent fee agreement or your legal bills will add up very quickly.
Q: Do I have to pay litigation costs on top of attorney fees?
A: Some attorneys will advance litigation costs, but the client is generally ultimately responsible for them. Whether you pay hourly or on a contingency, you may have to pay costs, even if you lose your case. You can set a cost reserve in advance with your attorney, and request that he or she try to stay within that amount.
Q: What do litigation costs run for an average case?
A: That question cannot be answered with certainty. It depends on the facts of the case, the location of witnesses, and the complexity of the dispute. This is discussed during the initial consultation.
Q: How long can I wait to hire an attorney?
A: That depends on your circumstances. However, the safest course is to consult with an attorney immediately
Q: What recourse do I have if I am not satisfied with my attorney?
A: A client has an absolute right to discharge their attorney at any time, and for any reason. You may be liable to pay your attorney for the reasonable value of their time, and, if you fire them soon before the case settles or is tried, you may have to pay them extra. You can hire a second attorney, but make sure you iron out the question of payments you may owe to the first attorney.
Q: What are Statues of Limitations?
A: There are hard and fast rules called “statutes of limitations” that cut off your right to sue when a certain amount of time has passed. Once that time passes you are barred and may no longer file a lawsuit. Do not wait too long to consult with or hire a lawyer.
Q: What is an examination under oath?
A: This is similar to a deposition only it occurs before a lawsuit. You must cooperate with your insurance company and they have the right to ask and take your examination under oath. You are entitled and it is strongly urged to have an attorney with you at an examination under oath.
Law Offices of Jason E. Harris
(312) 818-1318 City
(847) 260-9006 Suburbs