Legal Question in Insurance Law in California

I had two house fires in California, the first in mid 2007 and the second about a year after that. I had an actual cash value policy, so as a result, the insurance company, paid about 25 cents on the dollar. My public adjuster hired a company to conduct the personal property inventory. Not only have they have done a great job but they are still doing a great job, as they just emailed me to inform me that after reviewing what the insurance company disallowed from my original personal property claim submittal for the first fire, $117,000 was unjust and not in accordance with accepted depreciation schedules. The second claim should also be comparable.

More than a year after the first fire, but before a year after the second fire, I noticed a clause in the policy stating that I only had a year after the incident to file a lawsuit. Therefore, to protect my rights, I did, although I am somewhat confused because someone told me that the one-year limitation might not be true since the insurance company still is negotiating both claims. My first question is just that. What is up with the one-year clause; is it cast in stone or not?

In addition, I have a case management hearing in about ten days and I do not have a clue what to expect at the hearing. What do I do now? Do I need an attorney at this point?

Asked on 6/10/10, 3:59 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Joel Westbrook Miles & Westbrook

With regard the one-year statute of limitations, the person you spoke with was referring to tolling. Tolling means that the period of time between when you first report your claim to the insurance company and when the insurance company reaches its final decision, does not count towards the statute of limitations. As long as your claim really does remain open, the statute of limitations is not running. You should check your records to see if you have ever gotten a letter from your insurance company on either claim stating that it has concluded its investigation, and importantly, advises you of the statute of limitations clause in your policy. Not only are they required by law to advise you of this in writing, but this is also how a carrier ends the tolling of your claim and starts the statute of limitations to begin to run again.

With respect to your personal property claim, most homeowners policies will initially pay only actual cash value, but will pay full replacement cost if you show evidence that you have actually replaced the personal property after receiving your actual cash value payment. You should review your policy to see if you have this coverage. It also sounds like your carrier is being too aggressive regarding depreciation.

A case management conference is a hearing in which the court and the parties' attorneys discuss case management and scheduling, such as setting a trial date. You definitely do need a lawyer at this point. My firm handles property insurance cases if you want to call me to discuss your case further or schedule a consultation.

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Answered on 6/10/10, 9:18 am

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