Part 2 – In The Aftermath of Disaster…

MARSHALL FIRE – Jan. 6 Update from Kanthaka Law

The Coloradans in Louisville, Superior, and the surrounding area have started the New Year after the most disastrous wildfire in Colorado history.  Some reports are of 1,000 homes lost.  Although it may not seem right to say, those homeowners with a total loss are in some ways the lucky ones when it comes to the aftermath.  

After the last fire truck leaves the neighborhood, homeowners will begin the arduous process of making insurance claims.  What we learned in El Paso County, after the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest Fires was that those homeowners with an obvious total loss had claims paid nearly immediately.  The problem, which often ended up in court, was with the folks whose homes were left apparently untouched.  But, in reality, their homes were the most difficult claims.

The seemingly untouched home in an otherwise burned-out neighborhood has withstood ambient air temperatures of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (815 degrees Celsius).  The extreme heat destroys the seal in thermal windows; this damage will be seen next Spring when condensation forms between the glass panes of the window.

Those clouds of smoke we saw in the reporting on the fire engulfed all structures in the area and even downwind outside of areas of active fire. With the smoke, acidic and toxic by-products of combustion permeate everything in the home:  every article of clothing, every piece of upholstery, and every possession.  The nature of the smoke is such that it will corrode and ultimately render inoperable electronics left behind – including those exercise bikes, computers, refrigerators, and stoves.  And, this is true not only of those homes impinged upon by the flames but those exposed solely to smoke.  Don’t think you will be able to mask the smell, or fall prey to offers by your insurance company of what is in essence a surface cleaning.  Your home, with “just a little smoke damage” and blocks from the flames may be hazardous to your health, and in reality, maybe uninhabitable as if it burned to the ground. 

It is important to ensure that you make an immediate claim with your homeowner’s policy and that you have your own professional, independent, adjuster assess your loss if there is any question.  (More about the scams, including adjuster scams, that residents can expect in Part Three.)  Despite the friendly advertisements of insurance companies, always remember they are not in the business to pay claims; but, to retain earnings for their shareholders.

In the meantime, be sure to photograph and document everything; do not dispose of anything without the insurance company’s approval or permission.  Be sure, in other words, that there aren’t any disputes between you and the insurance company before you take that oriental carpet to the dump.  There is more about initial claims in the first part of this series.

The Kanthaka Group’s attorneys stood by our friends and neighbors whose homes and possessions fell victim to the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires.  We are experienced in dealing with insurance companies and ensuring that your claim is properly and accurately assessed.  If you feel that your insurance company is not being as responsive or is not handling your claim properly, contact us.  Getting legal assistance as early as possible will help you and ensure that your claims are properly researched, assessed, adjusted, and ultimately paid by the insurer.

As a Firm, our hearts and prayers go out to our fellow Coloradans in Boulder and Jefferson Counties.  If you find you need legal counsel, call us for a free initial consultation – we will even come to you.