An insurance company’s primary obligation is to provide a profit to its shareholders. To make sure minimal compensation is paid out, adjusters will utilize any bad faith insurance tactics available to them. Be prepared.
We were nearly two years into our claim now and had received no settlement. Instead, we were facing the most unethical and immoral bad faith insurance tactics in an attempt to make us walk away. I still recall the day that our insurance adjuster met us at our home a few days after the fire. I stood there in despair, looking at the total loss of losing our home and everything in it to fire. I was exactly nine months pregnant. It was actually my due date , as he shook my hand and told me “not to worry because they would take care of us.” Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Even though we didn’t know it at the time, a series of steps were taken to put financial and emotional strain upon us from day one. Our insurance company had sent in what I had at one time considered to be a negligent clean up crew. Looking back at it and all the knowledge I’ve learned along the way, I realize now that that “clean up company” was just in the back pocket of the insurance company to assist in their bad faith insurance tactics. They are the insurance company’s regular ‘go to” company to help reduce the amount of claims. It is my opinion that this company deliberately failed to record approximately a third to one quarter of our damaged possessions. I wonder how many people don’t notice while dealing with the stress of a tragedy like fire? And once the claim is settled, you cannot go back to the insurer and say you forgot because the claim is closed.
When the insurance company didn’t correctly inventory our belongings and underestimated the damage, it was just the beginning of the bad faith insurance tactics process. It obligated us to hire a public adjustment firm. This begins the financial stress as you have to agree to pay the public adjuster a portion of your settlement. The public adjuster and myself took nine weeks to re-inventory our belongings and submitted a new list. This opened the door for the next phase of bad faith insurance tactics. We were sent a letter and accused of fraud for claiming things not on their list. Yet all of our belongings remained in the insurance company’s possession at their clean up company’s warehouse. It was absurd. The public adjuster firm assured us that this was just more bad faith tactics in an attempt to add emotional distress and delay the settlement further. It also caused more financial stress as we were left with no choice but to hire a lawyer because we were accused of committing a criminal offence. The insurance company refused to speak to us. They would only allow their lawyer to speak to speak to our lawyer.
We were forced to put even more money out because we were required to attend appraisal hearings to dispute our claims. It’s another part of bad faith insurance tactics to drain your settlement as you have to pay for each session. The insurance company reserved the right to choose where the appraisal was held. Of course, we were subject to more bad faith insurance tactics as they chose a venue which was nearly a two hour drive away, when they could have chose one closer to home for everyone. An appraisal is an informal hearing where the two sides sit down at a large boardroom table and go before an umpire (a judge in training) to dispute items and prices. The umpire makes a decision at the end. Our representation was not at all prepared for the insurance company’s lawyer. They were railroaded. I spoke up more times than they did.
The insurance company’s lawyer argued about the “price of half a bottle of ketchup on the open market” for a large part of the morning at the appraisal hearing. He belittled us for even claiming it. It was actually the insurance company who had listed everything in our fridge. Not us. Our representation didn’t say much. At one point I finally said “Okay, you know what? I’ll take the loss on the half bottle of ketchup. Can we now discuss the other $299, 999 of the claim?” He went on to dispute mall items like a deck of cards. It was disturbing that he was allowed to waste paid time like this. The umpire didn’t even really take control of the situation. The insurance company quoted $6 to replace my crockpot that was in brand new condition. They argued that I could replace it used on Kijiji. We had full replacement value in our policy and paid the premiums for that. We were entitled to replace our belongings with new product. They did this with all of our things.
The very dirtiest of all bad faith insurance tactics occurred at the hearing. Representatives from the insurance company’s cleaning crew attended. The umpire asked how much of our clothing was cleaned. The same manager from the cleanup crew who had told me not to keep anything replied “Barely anything.” She looked me in the eye, the day they attended our home to assess the damage, and told us “Keep nothing”. Especially clothing. When the umpire asked why, she pointed her finger at me and said “because she told me not to.” On the very contrary! I asked that all my dress clothes, suedes and leathers be cleaned, even after she advised me not to! I couldn’t believe what was going on in a legal matter. It was all a lie! The contents manager also told us not to keep anything related to the baby. The fire involved toxins from plastic and melamine. Yet, they produced a picture of a lamp from the baby’s room, to the umpire that made it look clean! They did the same with our toaster. I had seen those items at the warehouse, months earlier, sitting in soot since the date of the fire, nearly two years prior. Additionally, the insurance company’s “electronic expert’ had written off all electronics and appliances the first day they attended our home to access the damage! It was unbelievable to us that their bad faith insurance tactics ran so deep.
I also had stock from my previous business in the house at the time of the fire. I had formally closed my business account with the government before the fire occurred. I provided proof of this at the hearing. The insurance company argued that they shouldn’t have to pay for that because it was business stock so didn’t fall under home insurance. The umpire decided that since I had closed my business, it was now considered personal possessions and I was entitled to receive compensation for them.
We spent the entire day at this hearing and barely got through dealing with any of our contents, let alone the structural damage. Another appraisal hearing had to be scheduled which we would have to pay for again. The insurance company’s lawyer had done his job. More bad faith insurance tactics to draw out the process, wear us down emotionally and further drain us financially with more legal fees to be paid.