Reasons Insurance Companies Deny Fire Claims & How To Get Help
You buy insurance to protect you from fires and other unexpected disasters.
Unfortunately, insurers can deny fire claims. In fact, insurers across the United States deny or reduce hundreds of fire damage insurance claims almost every day.
Could your insurance company deny your fire damage insurance claim? Keep reading to discover some of the most common reasons insurers deny fire damage insurance claims.
Arson or Suspicion of Arson
Insurance does not cover deliberate acts.
If you burn down your house intentionally because you want an insurance payout, for example, then insurance will deny your claim. Or, if you ask someone else to burn down your house, then insurance will still deny your claim.
However, insurance companies shouldn’t deny your claim simply because they suspect arson. Instead, they should provide concrete evidence.
If the insurance company denies your claim due to arson but has no proof, then the insurer may be acting in bad faith. An insurer could be denying the homeowner rightful compensation without cause.
Insurers use many reasons to deny claims. If your insurer suspects you have committed insurance fraud, then your insurer may deny your claim.
The insurer may use different language about your suspected insurance fraud, including:
- The fire department was unable to determine the source of the fire
- The insurer believes you or someone else committed arson to defraud the insurer
- You are lying or hiding details about some aspect of your insurance claim
Insurance companies frequently deny claims due to “misrepresentation,” which is a way of saying you misrepresented certain things to your insurance company.
If your child tipped over a candle in a room, for example, and started a major fire, then you might lie and say the candle tipped over on its own. You might be worried that your insurer will deny your claim if you tell the truth.
You should always be upfront and honest with your insurer – especially with major fire damage insurance claims. Insurers can and will investigate the incident, and they could accuse you of misrepresentation if you lie about any aspect of your claim.
Insurance companies are not obligated to cover fires that were started because of illegal activities.
If you were running an illegal grow operation in your home, for example, and faulty electrical equipment led to a fire, then your insurer could deny your claim.
There are countless illegal activities that could lead your insurer to deny your claim. However, the most common activities include the manufacturing and selling of illicit substances, including drugs and alcohol.
Lack of Proof or Documentation
You must have evidence proving the loss, including documents proving the value of each item you lost.
If you claim a fire destroyed your $3,000 gaming PC, for example, then you might need evidence proving you owned a $3,000 gaming PC. Otherwise, your insurer could deny this part of your claim.
If you cannot verify the prices or value of items in your home, then your insurer is unlikely to cover these items (or, they’ll cover them at a reduced rate).
Unpermitted Electrical Work
There’s a reason you need to work with licensed, bonded, and insured electricians: they’re certified to perform quality work.
If an unlicensed electrician installed shoddy electrical work in your home, then it could negate or reduce your fire damage insurance claim.
As a homeowner, you are responsible for maintaining your home in good condition. You have an obligation to fix issues with all necessary permits and inspections.
If you failed to maintain your home’s electrical system by performing unpermitted work or attempting poor-quality DIY repairs, then your insurer could deny your claim.
Natural Weathering, Prior Damage, and Maintenance Issues
Your home develops maintenance issues over time, including natural weathering and other problems.
After a fire damage insurance claim, your insurer will not cover the cost of repairing or replacing any damage caused by natural wearing or maintenance issues.
Similarly, your insurer could reduce your claim because of previous damage. If damage already occurred before the fire, for example, then your insurer could reduce this part of your claim.
You Didn’t Take Preventative Measures
You need to take reasonable precautions to limit loss or damage to your insured property.
If you accidentally started a fire in your kitchen, for example, and then simply left the house to run errands, then your insurer might deny your claim. You did not use a fire extinguisher to control the blaze, nor did you attempt to call emergency services.
As long as it’s safe to do so, you must take reasonable steps to limit fire damage – or at least contact emergency services as soon as possible.
Missed Insurance Premiums
If you missed paying your insurance premiums, or if you did not pay your latest premiums on time, then your insurer could deny your claim.
As a policyholder, you have an obligation to pay premiums on time. If you did not live up to this obligation, then your insurer could deny your fire damage claim.
Denying, Delaying, or Underpaying Claims
Sometimes, the insurance company doesn’t deny your claim outright; instead, the insurer delays or underpays your claim.
Insurance companies may drag their feet on a major fire damage insurance claim, for example. It’s a costly claim, and the insurance company wants to be thorough.
However, some insurers may use delays as a negotiation tactic, knowing that policyholders are more likely to accept a smaller payout after weeks of stress and delays.
An insurance company may demand excessive evidence, challenge every aspect of your claim, and use every possible excuse to delay or reduce a claim settlement.
In all of these situations, the insurer may not be acting in good faith. Insurers need to respond to policyholders in a timely manner. Otherwise, they’re acting in bad faith.
Steps to Take When the Insurer Denies a Fire Damage Claim
If an insurer denies or reduces your claim, then it’s not the end of your claim. Instead, you can fight back, negotiate, and ensure you receive every penny owed to you in compensation.
Here are the steps to take when the insurer denies your fire damage claim:
- Ask for Written Justification: Your insurer needs to provide written justification for claim denial. Most insurers are thorough with their documentation, but be sure to receive a copy of all documents. You may need this documented evidence for future negotiations.
- Hire a Public Adjuster: Public adjusters are licensed insurance professionals who represent your best interests – not your insurer’s best interests. Hire a public adjuster to negotiate with the insurer on your behalf. A good public adjuster manages your claim from start to finish while obtaining the highest possible amount of compensation.
- Review your Home Insurance Policy: Sometimes, your home insurance policy doesn’t cover everything you thought it did. Ideally, you’ll review your policy before a loss. However, reviewing your policy after a loss can determine if your insurance company is taking advantage of you – or if your policy legitimately does not cover certain items you thought it did.
Final Word: Insurers Use Any Reason to Deny a Fire Insurance Claim
Insurance companies aren’t on your side. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses that want to pay as little for claim settlements as legally possible.
Insurers may use any number of reasons to deny or reduce a fire insurance claim.
Hire professional help, review your policy regularly, and document your claim to ensure your insurer has no reason to deny your fire insurance claim.