Insurance Theft Claims
Everyone buys insurance for their homes, cars, and other possessions with the expectation that it will cover their losses if something happens. However, that is not always the case. Insurance companies are in the business of making money. To do so, they will watch their bottom lines carefully. That often means that policyholders will not get what they expect.
Policyholders want to get full value from their insurance claims. A primary component of lawyers involved with insurance practice involves insurance theft claims.
What Are Insurance Theft Crimes?
Theft is defined as the unauthorized taking of property of another with the intent to deprive them of it permanently. Insurers, however, can cover much more than just objects stolen from a home or car. Theft claims can be brought by an individual or a business under one of three general categories of theft crimes:
- Larceny: Larceny is what people typically think of when they hear the term theft. Under larceny, there is robbery, burglary, shoplifting, or and auto theft.
- Embezzlement: The crime of embezzlement is the fraudulent taking of the property of another by someone who is in lawful possession of that property. An example is a banker who steals a customer’s money.
- False pretenses: False pretenses refer to obtaining title and possession of another’s property by misrepresenting a fact, making false representations with the intent to defraud.
For most people, a theft claim will be made under their homeowner’s insurance policy. These policies generally cover one or all the following:
- Dwelling: Covers repairs to a home damaged in a break-in, such as broken windows and damaged doors.
- Personal property: Pays to repair or replace personal belongings that are damaged or stolen in a break-in. For example, if a thief breaks an expensive lamp or steals a television.
- Other structures: Covers repairs to detached structures on your property. For example, if a detached garage or shed is damaged in a break-in.
Getting Fair Compensation in an Insurance Theft Claim
Insurance companies use a variety of tactics when analyzing and valuing a theft claim. They may allege the following:
- Your damages are excluded from coverage, so your claim is denied.
- Your policy was lapsed, you did not pay your premium, or your premium payment was late.
- The thefts are outside the scope of your coverage.
- Damages are less than what you claim.
Insurers will often use independent experts in investigating and valuing your claim. These experts are often not truly independent in many cases; they may work consistently for the insurance company.
Insurance companies are known for operating under the “three Ds” philosophy: delay the claim, deny the claim, and defend against a lawsuit. The harder they can make it for a policyholder to file and prove a claim, the better their chances of the policyholder walking away without a fight. They may disregard your attempts to communicate and make unreasonable demands for evidence as well.
Many theft claims for small amounts can be settled without a lawyer. However, there are good reasons to at least consult with a lawyer about how they can help, ideally before the insurer has a chance to deny your claim. A lawyer will evaluate your situation to determine whether it is even worth pursuing. Many times, it is worth the effort.
How Can a Lawyer Help With an Insurance Theft Claim?
Hiring a lawyer right after a substantial theft, such as valuable possessions stolen in a burglary, has many advantages. A lawyer can do the following:
- Provide expertise from the start. A lawyer can consult with you on the claims process from the beginning. They will assist in filing the claim, advise on the process, help you collect evidence, and communicate with the insurance company. When an insurer knows a lawyer is on board, they will often change how they treat the claimant and make decisions.
- Determine your coverage. Insurance language can be confusing, complex, and unclear. A lawyer familiar with insurance can cut through the jargon and legalese to ensure that you do have coverage for the claim, even when the insurer tries to deny that you do.
- Strengthen the claim. An insurer may look at a claim from a person without legal representation and think they can offer a modest compensation or deny the claim immediately. They are not above preying on the policyholder’s fear and anguish after a theft. Their handling of the process will often change when they know the person has legal counsel to prove that the claim is valid.
- Handle communications. Once a lawyer is on board, they will be the one to communicate with the insurance company, the adjuster, and other parties. This can help the policyholder avoid relaying information that may give the insurer reason to deny or devalue a claim or that somehow incriminates them. It also lets the insurer know that a lawyer will not be responsive to their usual tactics.
- Build the case/collect evidence. A lawyer can help the policyholder collect all the evidence possible to build a solid and valid claim. They can also use their expertise to value the claim to ensure the policyholder is getting compensation based on today’s value. Insurers are famous for offering to settle at a much lower amount than the stolen objects are worth.
- Keep the process moving. Insurers may delay the claims process hoping that the policyholder will drop the claim out of frustration. A lawyer can help ensure that the claim remains front and center with the insurance adjuster. They will also be aware of and meet all deadlines associated with the claim.
- Appeal a denial. When an insurer denies a theft claim, the policyholder can appeal. This is usually a complex process that includes exchanging a copious amount of information, known as discovery. There are also deadlines to meet, so a lawyer can ensure actions are completed on time. Negotiations between the policyholder and insurance company are a primary part of the appeals process. Lawyers are skilled in effective negotiations, helping the policyholder receive fair and just compensation for their losses.
- Take the claim to court. When the claimant and insurance company cannot reach a fair resolution, a lawyer can take the claim to court. Their expertise in litigating can help your case.
How Can I Prepare for an Insurance Theft Claim?
No one wants to believe that they will be the victim of insurance theft. The following tips may help make the claim process a little easier.
Take inventory of your personal property before buying insurance. List every possession that has value, such as:
- Jewelry, art, collectibles, antiques, expensive clothing such as furs, and other high-priced valuables.
- Tablets, laptops, computers, cameras, televisions, gaming systems, and other electronics.
- Guns, knives, and other weapons.
- Oven, range, gas logs, and other major appliances.
- Furniture and rugs.
- Sporting equipment, play and leisure equipment, and tools.
- Take pictures or videos of all the above.
Make a checklist that includes a listing of the items in case memory gets fuzzy with time. Include where and when you bought the item and its brand, make, model, and serial numbers.
Gather all receipts and other documentation related to the items and their value. Also, keep documentation and photographs in a fire-safe box or safe deposit box at a bank. Consider keeping them online as well.
If you experience a theft:
- Refer to your checklist to determine which items have been stolen.
- Immediately file a police report.
- Determine a general amount of the loss based on receipts and other documentation.
- Report the loss to your insurance company.
- Consult with a lawyer before accepting an insurance offer, signing anything, or speaking to a claims adjuster. A lawyer can advise on how to proceed for your best benefit.
New Jersey Insurance Lawyers at Herold Law Can Help With Your Insurance Theft Claim
Dealing with insurance companies after a theft or other damage can be frustrating and exhausting. They will often try to delay or deny paying you for the coverages you have rightly purchased. Our New Jersey insurance lawyers at Herold Law, P.A. can protect your rights as you seek to get the full value of your theft claim. Call us today at 908-647-1022 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in Warren, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the state.