Counter expertise with fire damage
Over the past years we have dealt with several consumers which were victim of something terrible, because their homes were burned down. A small consolation in the majority of the cases is the fact that almost everyone in the Netherlands is insured against fire damage, which covers the material damage. This however was not the case for the consumers which came to us. After the initial shock of the fire and the loss of their house, they were confronted with insurers who did not want to compensate their damage. This led to damages which surmounted to tons of euros, a debt which cannot be satisfied by these consumers in their lifetime.
The use of an expert
In both cases the insurer made use of an expert to invest the fire. This expert made his assessment and in both cases there existed reasons which could justify non-reimbursement. Both reports came down to the fact that the consumer himself committed arson. Furthermore accusations, such as having a cannabis plantation or non-compliance with the duty to inform, were made. In both cases we advised these consumers to hire a counter expert. This was the right way to go in the end, because the counter experts came to very different conclusions about the fire, which eventually led to the verdict from a judge that the insurer had to pay up.
The insurer will always make use of an expert, especially when large damages are claimed. This can be tricky, because an opposite interest exists. The expert is nominated by the insurer, which can lead to the assumption of conflict of interest in itself. It is therefore important to make use of your own expert which can provide sufficient counterweight. This is the so-called counter expert.
Costs of the expert
Starting point in the law is that the costs of an expert are to be paid by the insurer, even when these costs exceed the costs for which the consumer is insured. These costs must be reasonable, looking at what is necessary to determine the damage. The insurer cannot derive from this legal obligation in his insurance policy, unless that is more beneficial for the consumer. Whether the costs are reasonable has to be determined in every specific case and depends therefore on the height of the damage, the questions which have to be asked, the level of disagreement between insurer and insured, etc. On many occasions the insurance policy provides additional rules with regards to the costs of an expert. Always check these policy when you are confronted with a similar situation.
Asking the right questions
When you called in a counter expert it is important to ask the right questions, which depends mostly on the reasons of the insurer to refuse compensation of the damage. These reasons must be given in writing and cannot be altered afterwards by the insurer, because a consumer should know what to expect. Always carefully pay attention to the letter of the insurer which describes why he will not compensate, because this is leading for the questions for the counter expert. May there be an accusation of arson by the insurer, it is important for the counter expert to search for possible other causes of the fire. Be sure that you manage this.
Duty to inform
The next point for which many clients come to us is the duty to inform. When there is a change of destination of the property or when there is a temporary vacancy of that property it is important that the insurer is notified. This is off course not the case when you go on holiday to France for two weeks, but when there is a long-lasting construction planned for which you will have to leave the house temporarily, you will have to give notice. This is because it changes the risk drastically, because empty property often is subject to arson. Furthermore the construction to technical installations can cause short circuits and/or fires. The importance of your notification lies in the fact that refraining from that could lead to non-compensation from the side of the insurer when an actual fire would occur. You would be breaching the insurance policy, leading to the non-compensation. When you doubt what constitutes a change of destination in terms of the insurance policy, please contact your middleman. He also has the responsibility to aid you properly in this respect
In conclusion it is of importance that you notify your insurer throughout the duration of your fire insurance on changes to the property, including possible vacancies. You can do this yourself or via your middleman. When you are confronted with a fire it is of importance, especially when the insurer uses an expert, to make use of a counter expert which can look together with you, make pictures, investigates and advises on the causes of the fire.
Make use of an attorney with fire damage
When the insurer decides to make his decision on denial of compensation definitive, the investigation of the counter expert is all the more important. When the insurer will not be persuaded to pursue to compensate your damage, please contact our office. We will see in what way we can force a payment from the insurer. You can also make use of us earlier in the process, because we have worked with counter experts previously and can get you in contact with the right office. Furthermore we can also assist with the determination of the right questions and the communication with the insurer in the preliminary phase. This can also prevent them from forming a definitive view of rejection and a long-lasting and expensive legal procedure.
When you have any questions or when you are confronted with such a situation, whether this is caused by fire or has his basis in another insurance, please contact one of our attorneys.
Click here for a piece of the broadcast of ‘Meldpunt’ in which a victim is heard on the burning of his house and the settlement of that matter.