A fire has devastated your home or your business. You turn to your "good neighbor" or put yourself "in good hands" only to discover that your insurance company is not part of the solution, but part of the problem.
First the interrogation, then the insurance claim denial.
Your insurer isn't helping you in your time of need. Instead, it is asking for voluminous documents, dragging its feet, fighting with you over living arrangements or continuing business expenses, hiring experts to investigate the fire scene, and snooping around asking embarrassing questions about you of your neighbors, friends, co-workers, or employer.
Worst of all, your insurance company is accusing you of setting the fire or engaging in some other type of fraudulent activity. It has hired an attorney to question you in a proceeding known as an examination under oath.
What are your rights? What can you do? How can you defend yourself when accused of arson or fraud?
Rutter & Russin has represented hundreds of policyholders just like you for nearly 30 years. The firm's lawyers worked for insurance companies investigating fire claims for several years before forming Rutter & Russin, which only represents policyholders, not insurers. Their experience "on the other side of the fence" gives them a unique perspective in these types of claims, and gives you the best opportunity to get your claim paid on a favorable basis.
Bob Rutter has written articles about fire insurance claims, lectured on fire and property insurance issues, and been involved in several reported fire cases. Most attorneys have never handled a fire claim; Bob has handled over a hundred.
Rutter & Russin knows how to defend you and establish that your claim is legitimate.
There was little dispute about the facts of the loss. The insured husband barricaded himself in the family home, threatened to burn the house and kill himself, and refused to respond to police requests for him to surrender. After an hours-long standoff, the husband did just what he had threatened to do—he set fire to the house and killed himself.
The innocent wife’s claim was denied because her husband had caused an “intentional loss.” We were hired by the desperate widow who had no place for her and her children to live. We learned that the husband had a long history of mental illness, confirmed this through numerous depositions of friends and family, obtained a psychiatric report detailing his mental illness, and provided the insurance company with a legal opinion that under Ohio law a mentally deranged person cannot form the requisite intent to commit an intentional act. The insurer never admitted that its coverage decision was wrong, but it paid the widow $560,000, enough for her and her children to pay off their old mortgage and get back on their feet.
The insured owned a home in southern Ohio. He lived there with his girlfriend and their two children. The evening of the fire the insured and his girlfriend got into an argument and she left with the children. The insured was home alone when a fire occurred, which completely destroyed the house. The insurance company denied the claim after its "experts" concluded that the fire was intentionally set and that gasoline remnants were found in the fire debris. Since the insured was home alone and the fire was intentionally set with gasoline, the insured must have set the fire — or so the insurer argued in court. Rutter & Russin first discredited the insurer's cause and origin expert by showing that he did not adhere to NFPA 921, the leading treatise on cause and origin investigation. Rutter & Russin then hired an independent chemist to analyze the samples found at the scene. The chemist conclusively established that the samples were not gasoline but the remains of common household cleaning products. The insurer paid the first and second mortgage on the property, paid the insured an additional $175,000, and allowed the insured to retain title to the land.
When fire destroyed the insured's house, he barely escaped alive. But that did not stop his insurance company from investigating him for arson and fraud. The insured thought he could handle the claim investigation by himself — after all, he had nothing to hide. Despite the insured's best efforts, the claim was denied because the insured did not fully comply with all of the insurer's onerous requests for information. He was forced to hire Rutter & Russin, who obtained a favorable settlement, but not until nearly two years after the fire.
The insureds purchased a home in a foreclosure auction for $3,000, a price well below the actual market value. When they sought insurance, the carrier insisted on insuring the house on a replacement cost basis — that is, the cost to rebuild the house. Shortly thereafter, the house sustained a fire, completely destroying it. The insurer suspected foul play and also wanted to pay only $3,000 if it honored the claim. Rutter & Russin successfully represented the insured obtaining a policy limits recovery of $175,000 within 30 days of receiving the case.
The insured was a mother of eight who lived in Toledo on a known gang street. Unfortunately, her nephew was convicted of murdering a rival gang member. As retaliation, the rival gang then burned the insured's house down leaving her and her children homeless. The insurance company, scrambling for a reason to deny the claim, asserted that the insured had made certain misrepresentations to the carrier about her living arrangements at the house, thus voiding the policy. In reality the carrier simply did not want to pay the insured's sizeable loss because she only purchased the property for $5,000. Rutter & Russin sued the carrier for breach of contract and bad faith, and obtained a substantial settlement on behalf of the insured.
A young couple had built their dream home in the Ohio countryside, but that did not stop the insurer from questioning whether they were involved in its destruction. The insureds had nothing to hide, so they fully cooperated with Allstate's investigators until it became clear that the investigation was focusing on them. Allstate hired an attorney to obtain voluminous documents from the couple and then to take separate examinations under oath from the husband and wife. Finally, seeing the writing on the wall, the couple came to Rutter & Russin for help. We navigated them through the process, presented circumstances to Allstate that helped exonerate the couple, and negotiated a settlement that allowed the couple to rebuild their home better than ever.
The insurance company was suspicious when the insured suffered his second arson fire in two months, this one totally leveling his warehouse. The insured was a young man with a limited income and little business experience. The insurance company demanded that he, his father, and the property manager all appear for examinations under oath, obviously hoping that it could take advantage of the insured's youth and inexperience and somehow prove that he had a financial motive to commit the arson. But with Rutter & Russin's guidance, the insured established with cell phone records and credit card receipts that he was out of the state when the arsons had occurred and that the warehouse's tenant had a felony record and had made threats against the insured because of a rent dispute. Rutter & Russin also located a witness who heard the tenant's threats and had seen the tenant removing the insured's property from the warehouse prior to the fire. Rutter & Russin provided the insurance company with all of the exonerating records, including the tenant's felony convictions, and the insurance company paid the claim in full.
When a popular Northeast Ohio restaurant burned down, all the owners wanted to do was rebuild it and get back into business. They turned to their insurance company for help, but, after a ponderous investigation and repeated examinations under oath, the carrier accused them of setting the fire and then lying about it, even though the local authorities had never charged the owners with arson. Rutter & Russin took on the carrier and proved to a jury that the insureds had nothing to do with causing the fire, resulting in a judgment for several hundred thousand dollars. Rather than risk an appeal, the insurance company agreed to pay the judgment plus interest and attorney fees.
The family was spending the night at a relative's house when their home burned down, but the insurance company decided their absence was no coincidence and denied their claim, asserting that they had conspired to burn down their house. Rutter & Russin took the case to trial, and a jury found against the carrier and ordered it to pay the homeowners what they were owed.