Hurricane Sandy Victims Demolishing Evidence in Insurance Cases
For the second time in a week I had a potential client tell me that they let their town demolish their Hurricane Sandy-damaged home. While it does not absolutely preclude a homeowner from seeking additional recovery from their insurance company, demolishing their home could impact their case. As many people already know, some towns in New Jersey, like Toms River (including Ortley Beach), began a demolition program of properties structurally damaged by Sandy. Under these programs, towns are offering to demolish homes and clear the debris at no cost. Because of the cost savings, this is a very attractive offer to many homeowners. However, for those property owners that have unresolved insurance claims, they may be destroying key evidence and precluding themselves from receiving additional recovery from the insurance company.
If a property owner is seeking additional money on their insurance claims, insurance companies are going to require supporting evidence to prove that the homeowner is entitled to additional payments. This evidence will probably include the opportunity to send another adjuster and/or engineers to inspect the property. In addition, if the homeowner engages an attorney to represent them against the insurance company, the attorney in most circumstances is going to send their own experts (contractors, engineers, etc.) out to the property to determine the amount and cause of the damage. Without a home to inspect, experts will have nothing on which to base their reports, which could negatively impact the property owner’s case. That is why before a client demolishes their home, we typically schedule our expert to visit the property and give the insurance company the same opportunity. Even though it has been almost nine months since Hurricane Sandy, we never want to be standing before a judge and have an insurance company say we didn’t give them an opportunity to inspect the property before it was demolished.
About the Author: Christopher W. Gerold is an attorney in Wolff & Samson’s Disaster Recovery Claims Group. Chris represents homeowners and businesses with their Sandy related insurance claims with a special focus on flood insurance. For more information on flood insurance and ways Wolff & Samson can help you with your flood insurance claim, please contact Chris at (973) 530-2061.