Surviving bad faith insurance when you’ve lost everything to fire and the entire system has failed you is difficult.
The day after our bad faith insurance appraisal hearing, I called the manager of the public adjustment company to express our dissatisfaction with their representation of our claim. He came to my parents home to meet with us. Throughout our contract with them, we had been assigned different structural adjusters three times. We were very happy with the first two. They both new exactly what was going on with the claim. They discussed things with us in detail and really seemed to be on our side. The contents adjuster was very professional and great to work with throughout the nine weeks that he and I re-inventoried our belongings. But he retired just before our appraisal hearing! The new adjuster, that had so poorly represented us was a train wreck. Every time I tried to update him on details to prepare for the hearing, you could tell he was only ever half listening, if that. He spoke and seemed very much like a snake oil salesman. He would say things to smooth things but didn’t really seem to care about our claim. He seemed to be just trying to get by, rather than excel at his job and what he was hired to do. He barely spoke up at the hearing. He was not prepared at all and he was railroaded by the insurance company’s lawyer. The manager from the firm apologized. He said he was going to waive the fee that we agreed to in the contract. He said he didn’t want to see anyone lose their home and lives. He said he would send us that in writing when he got back to the office. My mother was in the other room and heard him promise this. He never did.
In the meantime, I began to take my story public and I also created a Facebook page. I posted everywhere and anywhere I thought people may listen. A few people from my community reached out and the birth my organization was born. My story was starting to be heard. We began to host small fundraising events and raise awareness about bad faith insurance with pamphlets and other literature. (Read more here). I also secured Once Upon A Child Children’s store as a major sponsor for my organization during this time. They agreed to provide emergency needs to local families who suffered a fire or other similar disaster.
During this time our lawyer contacted us and told us he’d filed the claim against the insurance company for $2.2 million dollars. We really didn’t want to sue for this much. We just wanted paid to us what was due in order to rebuild our home and replace our things. We just wanted to go home. But our lawyer said he was “going to make them pay”, that they were “repeat offenders” & we were a “good family who didn’t deserve this.” We trusted his judgement, especially since he had successfully sued our company in the past for one of the largest cases in Canadian history for bad faith. So we awaited a trial date. as well as another appraisal hearing as we continued to raise awareness about our cause.
A very short time had passed when our lawyer called us. He told me that the insurance company wanted to settle. However, they wanted to settle for the same amount that we were disputing. He advised me that we should “take it, start to rebuild and continue fundraising” with our organization. He said we would be looking at another ten years in litigation. What?????????? He completely flip flopped! What happened to “making them pay?” He originally told us we would be looking at three to five years in court.
So, again we took his judgement into consideration. We figured it would be enough to at least get started on rebuilding. Maybe, even enough to just get us in our home and we would worry about furniture, decor and fixtures later. Our fundraising was just starting to take off. The public adjustment company had waived their fee and since we didn’t go to trial, the lawyer would only be charging a few thousand dollars. We were also reaching our breaking point. We had suffered so much, we just wanted it all to end and get our lives back. So we accepted, figuring the lawyer knew best. This was his expertise after all.
There was a stipulation to getting our settlement though. In order to receive settlement we had to agree to remove the name of our insurance company from all social media networks and consent to a confidentially agreement that we not disclose financial and payout details. We realized it was blackmail, thinking they didn’t want anymore bad exposure but figured the ordeal was over so we agreed.
We were in for more shock with the settlement. The insurance company only paid out a portion of the settlement. They stated that, that amount needed to be spent on rebuilding and we provided them with the receipts, they would pay out the remainder. They made the settlement cheque payable to our lawyer instead of us! Our lawyer paid out the public adjustment company and he should not have. They agreed to waive their fee. He knew that. The lawyer also took 20% of the settlement. He had said that it “would only be a few thousand dollars if we didn’t go to trial and all he had to do was make a few phone calls.” He never represented us anymore than a few calls, emails and filed the bad faith insurance suit. He should not have taken that money. Various legal fees were also deducted.
Our settlement wasn’t even half of what we were deserved of and necessary to rebuild and replace our things. It was more like a quarter. Then with the insurance company only paying out just over half of that & the lawyer deducting all the payouts, we lost approximately another half. There wasn’t enough enough to begin rebuilding. There wasn’t even enough to come anywhere near the receipts required to receive the rest of our settlement either. Were left with almost nothing.
Our nightmare still wasn’t over either. We were allowed to take any salvageable items from the cleaning up crew’s warehouse. We would be damned before we would allow them to profit off our tragedy even further. We took all of our soot ridden appliances and electronics ourselves to the scrap yard. Why should they get the money from our things, even if it wasn’t much, when we really didn’t even get paid for them in the first place? As well as all of the dress clothes that they cleaned. Although I could still smell the soot and chemicals and on the clothing, I wasn’t going to allow them to take all of my clothes to a used store for profit. I would. I had a very nice pink leather jacket that went missing with this company for a very long time. Dave also had a Wayne Gretzky rookie card (don’t know if it’s real or not), that couldn’t be accounted for. Yet they had cleaned these items. I called numerous times requesting them, only to be told they couldn’t find them. I had seen them previously when I was at the warehouse redoing the inventory list with the adjuster. They were there and accounted for. At one point, the manger from the cleaning crew even tried to tell me that I took them already. I finally emailed him and said if they were produced within a certain amount of time, that I was calling the police and reporting them stolen by his company. Guess what? All miraculously reappeared. My Doc Martin boots and rollerblades were never recovered though. They went missing between travels between our house and their warehouse after the fire.
I was never compensated for the business stock that the umpire declared I was due either. To add insult to injury, the moving company that the clean up crew had deliver our salvageables, didn’t properly secure a large storage container of my floral spray paints. When they arrived, a few of the cans were exploding and they all became garbage.
The biggest shocker was yet to come…Since we weren’t left with enough to rebuild, my husband Dave, myself and friends cleaned up of and disposed of what was left of the house. Even our son Tyson pitched in! Instead of paying to dispose of the what was left of all the wood frame, full of soot at a dump, we used it for firewood. We billed the insurance company with receipts for our services and own disposal fees. We were told by our lawyer that we could not do that because we were not contractors nor in any of these fields. I argued that we were allowed by law to make up to a certain amount of money without paying taxes. We were also allowed to choose whoever we wanted to do do the work, so why would they not pay us for general cleanup?
So, now we are left with a hole in the ground on an empty lot with no running water or electricity. Our detached shed/garage remains. We are still paying the mortgage every month, praying for a miracle. A friend of ours who owns his own framing company, has offered to bring his crew to frame a new house for us. But we must raise the funds for materials. We continue to camp in a trailer on our property and maintain the lot.