Amid the charred remains of a fire-damaged home there can be thousands of items, many so damaged as to be unrecognizable. Unfortunately, many homeowners allow their insurance company (or a company retained by their insurance company) to prematurely shovel their damaged personal belongings into a dumpster, and dispose of them, in order to clean up and "move on." Quite frequently, the inventory prepared by your insurance company (before disposing of your goods) is hastily prepared, items are not adequately described, and many items are left out of the inventory entirely. An incomplete or otherwise substandard personal property inventory hurts your interests, not your insurance company's interests. Afterwards disputes may arise regarding the nature, extent and quality of your personal property, the completeness of the inventory, and how much you should be paid for your personal property. To avoid these problems, your inventory should be professionally prepared and well documented.
The Law Offices of Bruce C. F. McArthur will prepare a detailed and complete inventory of your damaged or destroyed goods. If I am retained before your damaged or destroyed personal property items are disposed of (this is my preference), I will create or arrange for the creation of a detailed spreadsheet listing all of your belongings, photograph each item, and obtain your input where necessary and appropriate (in order, for example, to determine the nature and quality of specific items that may otherwise be disputed by your insurance company), and price the entire inventory, for submission to your insurer. I will supply your insurer with backup documentation for the pricing of the items in the inventory, and negotiate a final settlement of the personal property claim on your behalf. My goal is to make sure that you obtain the compensation you deserve. If I am retained after your goods are already disposed of, this makes inventory preparation and pricing more difficult, but I will work with you to create as comprehensive an inventory as possible, using available records, pre-fire and post-fire photos, and any other available information.
Compensation For Damaged/Destroyed Contents Of Your Home
Think for a moment about all of the personal property items in your kitchen alone: each major appliance, the contents of your refrigerator and freezer, dishes and silverware, cookware and cookbooks, kitchen furniture, microwaves, food processors, blenders, mixers, juicers, coffee makers, toasters and toaster ovens, other electric appliances, cannisters, racks, spices, all of the food in your cabinets and/or pantry, disposable plates, cups, silverware and other disposables, pizza dishes, platters, cutting boards, cooking gloves and potholders, timers, cooking utensils of all kinds, glasses and mugs, cooking knives and other cutlery, cookie jars, bread boxes, serving trays, mats and rugs, everyday dinnerware, and fine china, wine and other liquor glasses, etc. If these items are damaged or destroyed, they must be individually inventoried, priced and paid for. The same is true for the personal property items in all of the other rooms of your house. When they are inventoried, it is usually important to be as detailed as reasonably possible, so that when these items are priced, you are paid for what you had, not a less expensive substitute. You cannot count on your insurance company to do as careful and complete a job as you need done. If items are poorly described or left out of the inventory altogether, this usually hurts you, not your insurance company.
My general approach is to go room by room, cabinet, by cabinet, drawer by drawer, closet by closet, etc., to inventory the contents of your house in as much detail as possible. I sometimes spend days going through the rubble, and interviewing my clients, so that we can present a comprehensive claim to the insurance company for your losses. It is a time-consuming process, but it pays great dividends if done carefully.
You are entitled to be compensated for everything you owned, subject to the monetary limits, deductibles, and other terms and provisions of your homeowners policy. Even with "replacement cost" coverage, however, your insurance company generally is not required initially to pay the full replacement cost of your damaged or destroyed personal property. Though your insurance company may price your personal property at replacement cost (referred to usually as "RCV"), it will generally depreciate your personal property items (subtract a percentage from the replacement cost) to arrive at a depreciated value (referred to as "ACV" or "actual cash value") and will pay this amount, which is less (frequently far less) than the replacement cost. Only if you then actually replace an item with a new one, and spend more than the ACV amount determined by your insurer for that item, are you eligible to receive a partial or complete reimbursement of the depreciation subtracted. Precisely how personal property items and inventories are handled varies from insurer to insurer, and the details are generally not fully set forth in your insurance policy. Not surprisingly, therefore, many homeowners are confused and put off by the whole process, and simply accept what is offered by their insurance company for their personal property. I will help you get full value for your personal property, taking into consideration any insurance policy coverage issues that may arise during during the process.
Let's Work Together To Get What You Deserve
I will take the time necessary to prepare a thorough personal property inventory. It all adds up: furniture, artwork, jewelry, collectibles, clothes, shoes, dishes, food, electronics, tools, sporting goods, books, garden tools, and the list goes on and on. An inventory covering the contents of a home usually consists of thousands of line items, and each one must be priced separately. You may be surprised at the aggregate replacement cost of your accumulated personal property. My goal is to help you maximize your monetary recovery for personal property, so that you can replace what is replaceable and begin to rebuild your life.
I am a Walnut Creek lawyer with more than 30 years of experience with insurance claims. In the last few years I have focused my practice almost exclusively on representing people in fire damage and water damage claims, serving the San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding Northern California. Contact me today for a free initial consultation to start the process of restoring your home and reclaiming your life.
If you need assistance with your personal property claim (or with other other aspects of your fire or water damage claim), contact me for a free initial consultation.