As wildfires continue to devastate California yet again, countless homes and businesses have been destroyed. The destruction of buildings and other property, however, does not even begin to reflect the actual extent of wildfire damages. Thousands more homes and business have been affected by smoke damage. Unfortunately, some insurance companies will refuse to recognize smoke damage alone if a property was not actually touched by a fire. If you can demonstrate that smoke has indeed affected a building and personal property, then you can also demonstrate damages and the insurer should be held accountable to pay to return the smoke affected property to its pre-loss condition.
Continue Reading The Importance of Demonstrating that Damages Exist in Smoke Damage Insurance Claims

While many enjoy “smokey” notes in their wine, no one enjoys the flavor of an ashtray. But that is exactly what can occur to wine made with smoke-tainted grapes. Wildfires produce an excessive amount of smoke combustion byproducts, and currently many of the wildfires raging now are in wine country. Because wildfire season lines up with winery harvest season, smoke-tainted grapes are an unfortunate reality – especially this wildfire season.
Continue Reading When Wine Grapes and Wildfire Smoke Meet: The Smoke Taint Claim

Larry Bache, who will talk about Hurricane Sally claims in Florida, was debating with Derek Chaiken in our Los Angeles office about smoke residue claims versus char claims from the California Wildfires when I came up with the brilliant idea of holding an impromptu seminar with Merlin Law Group attorneys about all the ongoing catastrophes, on my Tuesdays at 2 With Chip. Deborah Trotter is licensed in Louisiana and will join us about Hurricane Laura claims. Ashley Harris is licensed in Alabama and will join us in about Hurricane Sally claims there. I am licensed just about everywhere but will concentrate on Texas claims from Beta.
Continue Reading Beta in Texas, Laura in Louisiana, Sally in Alabama and Florida, and Wildfires in California—Do Not Miss Learning From Attorneys in All These Jurisdictions Today at Tuesdays With Chip at 2

California public adjuster Matt Blumkin was with me and other members of Merlin Law Group last night telling a story about how a California wildfire required his entire neighborhood to be evacuated and what needed to be done to clean the smoke and ash which penetrated the homes throughout his community. Ironically, Matt was in New York City negotiating with an insurer over a Malibu wildfire that destroyed a celebrity mansion when he got news from his wife about the emergency order to evacuate. Luckily, his home was not destroyed, but the smoke left residue outside and inside his residence.
Continue Reading Wildfire Smoke and Ash Cleanup Disputes

After a fire loss you would expect your insurance company to complete a full and fair adjustment of the damages, right? So did the Normans, however, as admitted by a corporate representative of State Farm, “had State Farm not received additional information [from an industrial hygienist], the payments made in July 2012 would have been the settlement of the Normans’ claim” stemming from smoke and soot damage to their home as a result of the infamous Waldo Canyon fire of 2012 in Colorado.1 Eventually State Farm did pay a lot more in covered damages in May of 2013.
Continue Reading After A Fire, You May Need An Industrial Hygienist

Losses from wildfires across the United States over the past decade have added up to $5.1 billion.1 In addition to damage typically expected from fires (smoke, soot, ash, water from fire-fighting hoses and extinguisher chemicals), some homeowners may face the additional risk of damage caused by suppression efforts, specifically aviation-based firefighting.
Continue Reading Hidden Damage from Wildfire Claims

Photo by Kevin Hurd and AP
Photo by Kevin Hurd and AP

A recent decision by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin1 might predict how other courts would analyze coverage under commercial general liability insurance policies for wildfires. In May 2013, a fire broke out on forest land owned by Lyme St. Croix Forest Company. The fire burned nearly 7,500 acres over the course of three days and damaged real and personal property owned by various individuals and businesses.
Continue Reading Wildfire Considered One Occurrence Despite Damaging Numerous Properties

Last week, Richard Tutwiler of Tutwiler and Associates, Matthew Garnett of Vernis and Bowling, Heather Filegar of Southern Healthy Homes, and I presented at the 2018 Windstorm Insurance Conference at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel.

Rick Tutwiler who will be the President of the Windstorm Insurance Network in 2020, wanted to expand the course offering presented this year, so we proposed a topic that had not been presented in the past: Where Wind Meets Fire: Interesting Issues in Claims Where the Wind Brings Fire, Ash, Smoke, Soot and Ash to Other Properties.
Continue Reading Where Wind Meets Fire – Wildfire

Last month, the California Department of Insurance issued a notice to insurance companies, insurance agents, and public adjusters regarding the recent wildfires in the state. Although the notice is directed to insurance companies, agents, and adjusters, it provides useful information for policyholders affected by the wildfires. According to the Department of Insurance press release discussing the notice, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones directed the Department to issue the notice following reports that insurance adjusters were giving wildfire victims incorrect information about their property insurance claims.
Continue Reading Department of Insurance Bulletin Provides Notice to Insurance Companies and Useful Information for Wildfire Victims