In this blog post, Gurshabad Singh Sandhu, a student from Rayat and Bahra University School of Law, Mohali and pursuing Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws from NUJS, Kolkata describes how an individual can claim a property damage claim after an accident.
Accidents not only cause damage to the life of the person but it also leads to damage of the property. Property includes the vehicle which has been damaged during the accident and also the personal property which has been damaged due to the accident, e.g., phone, laptop or any valuable personal belonging or damage caused to the immovable property which can be land or the house.
Claim of Compensation
The law gives the primary right to compensation against the breach of legal right. Likewise, wrongful interference with the immovable property of another is a legal wrong and law gives the primary right to damages or compensation for such legal wrong.
Points to be kept in mind while filing a Property Damage Claim:
- Contact Your Insurance Company by Phone: All policies have deadlines by which you must submit the actual estimate of damages and formal claim, but notice of the damages is different. Notice puts the insurance company on notice that some damage has occurred and it gives the insurer an opportunity to inspect, take photos, and investigate. Now, during this ‘notice’ you need not provide an opinion about how the damage occurred / what caused it. Everything you say will be recorded by the insurance claims handler and can be used to deny your claim. Therefore, it is best to just notify the damage and say that you are not sure yet about what exactly caused the accident and you are trying to understand the same.
- Keep Records: Take photographs – there is no such thing as too many damage photos when it comes to insurance claims. Even taking pictures of the area around your property can be helpful in the long run to show that how bad the damage has been caused. Gather all the documents you need (copy of your policy, declarations pages, get news clippings if it was a severe storm or tornado or earthquake, get a newspaper with weather information for the day the damage occurred. Also, make a list of all the items and stuff you lost or were destroyed so that their value can be estimated.
- Keep Receipts: Any damage-related repairs you make or things you purchase to prevent further damage could be reimbursable under your policy. Keep those receipts—including receipts for hotel stays, building materials, food you replace or buy, laundry costs, anything you pay for that you would not have had to pay for but for the damage that occurred.
- Stay Informed: Your insurance company will provide claim forms and instruct you on filling them out, but you may also be pre-certified for medical services like MRIs, disaster expenses, hotel stays, emergency funds, etc. that can avoid running into coverage issues later. For this reason, you should always read your policy. Denials of coverage often run into this problem, and you should be diligent in making sure it has not happened to you.
- Prevent Further Damage: Just because a storm has destroyed half your house does not mean you can sit idly by while the next day’s rain destroys the other half or the rest of your belongings. One must take reasonable steps to keep further damage from occurring. If you do not, the insurer may deny the claims you make for damages that occurred post-damage event.
- Don’t Commit Fraud: Avoid making fraudulent claims including adding items that were never lost or collaborating with contractors to overcharge the insurer. Unscrupulous contractors, public adjusters, and simple crooks can prey on disaster victims while they wait for their insurance payments. And insurance investigators go into these things with a less-than-healthy level of suspicion and are also good at their jobs.
- File Sooner Rather Than Later: Almost all insurance companies have time limits on how long they will accept claims after the damage has occurred. One should never wait longer than reasonably necessary. What is ‘reasonable’ is critical and tough to define. But consider why you are waiting to file the claim–if you have a reason for waiting that makes sense to most people, then maybe it’s reasonable.
- Do not begin repairs until approved by an insurance company: Your insurance company will want to come out and inspect the property before repairs begin. After that, you must ensure that you and your insurance company agree on the repairs and the cost of those repairs. If you start repairs before the insurance company inspects the property and approves them, the insurance company may not pay for the repairs or may not pay enough for the repairs. This could leave you paying for those damages out of your pocket. There is always a lot of negotiating in large insurance claims. You must be patient and be prepared to wait to start work until you know it will all be covered.
- Do not throw anything away: You should not throw away any items that are damaged until the insurance company has authorised this in writing as such items will help you support your claim and to determine the values of the property. Your policy states that the damaged property should be available for inspection at any time throughout the claim. Should you dispose of your “evidence” prematurely, you risk having these items denied coverage or refund.
- Do not respond by repairing or replacing the property: You do not have to make the repairs or replace the contents that were lost in the event. Your insurance policy is a legal contract between you and your insurance company. The insurance company must pay you for the damages whether you rebuild or not. You can use the settlement to purchase another property in another location rather than make repairs to the old property. Or you may simply cash out your settlement and not replace anything. Remember, when you suffer a loss to your property, you do have options. Make sure you explore them all and then make the best decision for you and your loved ones.
Suits for immovable property situate within jurisdiction of different courts
Where a suit is to obtain relief respecting, or compensation for Damage to, immovable property situated within the jurisdiction of various courts, the suit may be instituted in any court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction any portion of the property is located. Provided that, in respect of the value of the subject-matter of the suit, the entire claim is cognizable by such court.
Suits for compensation for wrongs to persons or movables
As far as suits relating to immovable properties and the relief is by way of compensation, a suit can be filed at two places-
(1) Where the defendant resides or,
(2) Where the damage to the movables occurred.
The same will apply to the suits for compensation for damage to persons.
Suits for compensation for damage to person or movables
Where a suit is for compensation for Movable Property, if the Damage was done within the local limits of the jurisdiction of one court, and the defendant resides, or carries on business or personally works for gain, within the local limits of the jurisdiction of another court, the suit may be instituted at the option of the plaintiff in either of the said courts.
In other words, this section corresponds to suits for damages or compensation about persons or movable property. Suits involving tortious liability are covered by this section. We are aware that Tort is a civil wrong for which the relief lies by way of claiming unliquidated damages. Nuisance, negligence, defamation, accident, trespass, etc. come under tortious liability. In such cases, the two options where to file the suit are where the defendant resides or carries on business or work for gain or where the tortious act takes place. It is for the plaintiff to choose the location. Of course, this section is also subjected to pecuniary jurisdiction.
The policy requires that you give prompt notice of a claim. Should you remove damaged property or alter the scene where the claim occurred, you may have your claim denied if your actions compromised the insurance companies ability to investigate the claim. All insurance policies require that you make a detailed listing of all property damaged in the claim. Avoid making fraudulent claims including adding items that were never lost or collaborating with contractors to overcharge the insurer.