If you suffer property damage due to fire, flood, or theft, one of the logical steps is to file a claim with your homeowners insurance company. However, this process might give you some trepidation. What are your rights as a policyholder? What expectations should you have of your insurance company? And how do you know you can trust them to act fairly and honestly? These are all very valid questions to raise.
Relatedly, you may wonder if you need to hire an attorney to assist you in navigating the claims process; or, if it might make more sense to hire a public adjuster. These, too, are very natural, reasonable questions.
First things first: Before you do anything else, we’d advise you to review the specifics of your policy, ensuring you understand the categories of your coverage (that is, what’s covered and what’s not).
Beyond that, let’s consider some specific scenarios that might arise during the claims process.
You’ve Met with Your Insurance Company’s Adjuster, and a Dispute Has Arisen
If you’re communicating with your insurance company, and being assertive about your rights as a policyholder, then keep going! It may take some time, but if your insurance company is treating you respectfully and you feel confident in advocating for your own interests, that’s ultimately very positive.
However, if you feel like you’re getting nowhere, or that the insurance company isn’t dealing with you respectfully, that may mean it’s time to call an attorney. Enlisting a lawyer will command the attention and the respect of the insurance company, and ensure your claim is treated with the seriousness it deserves.
You’ve Hired a Lawyer. Should You Let Them Do the Talking?
Just because you’ve hired an attorney, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to let them handle every interaction with your insurance company. If you’ve been talking with the insurance company and feel like you’ve made at least some progress, then you might simply ask your lawyer to advise you on what to say and how to proceed next.
However, if you feel like you’ve given it your best shot and the insurance company isn’t treating you with fairness and respect, or if you’re simply fatigued by all the back-and-forth, consider having your lawyer handle the remaining negotiations on your behalf.
What About Hiring Your Family Attorney?
Is it ever a good idea to hire your family lawyer to represent you in an insurance dispute; for example, the attorney you hired to help with your will?
Generally speaking, you’ll want to hire an attorney with specific experience representing policyholders and/or working through bad faith litigation. After all, your insurance company is likely to hire some very experienced, expert lawyers… so you’ll want to make sure you have an all-star on hand to defend your interests.
How Can You Find the Best Insurance Attorney?
If you’ve never had any need to hire an insurance attorney in the past, you may wonder where to begin.
A good place to start is by asking family members, friends, or your trusted family attorney for a recommendation; if they know anyone who works in insurance law, maybe they can refer you.
Also, don’t hesitate to do your due diligence online: Read reviews and testimonials, check references, and don’t hesitate to interview a couple of law firms to find someone you feel comfortable working with.
Will You Need to Sue Your Insurance Company?
The odds that you’ll need to sue your insurance company, especially over a small dollar claim, are very small. Most of the time, some basic negotiation and legal hardball will get you the compensation you deserve.
Also note that there are plenty of alternatives to litigation, including mediation, arbitration, and appraisal.
- In mediation, you and your insurer will sit down with a third party to help amicably resolve your dispute.
- Arbitration is a little more formal; an arbitrator will dictate a resolution, which may be legally binding or non-binding.
- If you have a dispute over the amount of an insured loss, hiring a third-party appraiser can be a meaningful step forward.
How Will You Pay Your Attorney?
In some cases, you may be expected to pay your lawyer on an hourly basis. However, the more common arrangement is to pay on a contingency basis; what this means is, you only pay your lawyer once your claim is resolved favorably. For most policyholders, this is the preferred option. Make sure you clarify payment terms before you choose to hire a lawyer.
When Should You Hire an Attorney?
While there’s no need to rush your decision, you’ll generally want to hire your lawyer no later than one month before the first anniversary of the event that caused your property loss.
What if You Hire an Attorney and Regret It?
In the State of Texas, you are legally entitled to discharge your attorney at any time, and to bring in a new lawyer to handle the case. Just make sure you clarify payment terms with the second attorney. (Specifically, ask if they will handle any outstanding fees you owe to your first lawyer.)
Speak with a Houston Attorney Today
More questions about your rights as a policyholder? Or, are you ready to meet with a lawyer who is experienced in policyholder issues and bad faith litigation? Contact the team at McLaurin Law whenever you’re ready.
When should you hire an attorney to handle your homeowners insurance claim? Get tips from McLaurin Law. #mclaurinlaw #homeowners #policyholders