Suffering a Loss – Are You Getting All the Claims Benefits You Paid For?

Suffering A Loss – Are You Getting All the Claims Benefits You Paid For?

The biggest mistake most policyholders make after suffering a loss is relying on their insurance company to conduct a full, unbiased, and thorough investigation of their claim. Insurance companies have an advantage over their policyholders. Insurance companies handle every claim they get with their best interests in mind. They have a team of legal and forensic experts investigate claims with the goal of providing as little payment as possible. Insurance companies make their money through high premiums and the denial of claims.

Usually policyholders do not understand the claim process or what to do when a loss occurs. Most have never suffered a loss before and are willing to do whatever they are told. Without real knowledge of what they have agreed to, their policy coverage and exclusions, the insured may feel helpless when dealing with the insurance company’s settlement o­r denial of coverage. Far too often, the insured recovers far less than what the policy provides.

Not sure what your claim is worth? Contact Millard & Bragg today. 

Who Does Your Building Contractor Work For?

Who Does Your Contractor Work For?

You or Your Insurance Company?

Often times, your insurance company will invite a contractor to come visit the site of your loss.  In doing so, the insurance company may rely on that contractor to prepare an estimate to repair the loss.  It might even be suggested that you hire that contractor to perform the repairs. That way, the work will go smoother, faster and get you back into your home as quickly as possible.   

But is this really a good idea?  Sure, it will make things better for your insurance company, but how does that really help you?

Is it really in your best interest to let the building contractor and insurance company decide what is best for you?  Remember, the insurance company is obligated to pay you what it costs to restore your property But, the insurance company is also looking to save as much money as possible. It wants to close out your claim for the least amount of money  it is forced to pay.

The contractor gets its jobs from the insurance company, not from you. So, when it comes time to make decisions regarding the proper way to repair your house, they might be more inclined to do what your insurance company dictates to do rather than what you  expect to do.  

The Insurance adjuster will most likely suggest that you let that contractor do the repair, telling you how much easier it will be on you.  They might tell you your loss will be repaired faster and that the contractor will work everything out with the insurance company regarding payments, decisions and other matters.

This arrangement might be good for the insurance company, but it is not good for you.

First, you must understand that the contractor is essentially working for the insurance company even though its construction contract is with you. The contractor gets multiple jobs by being recommended by the insurance company. Whether it is via the insurance company’s “preferred contractor program,” or some other similar called program, the contractor might not be getting the job due to their professional merits rather thanits willingness to work with you.

The insurance company keeps recommending the contractor because the contractor has an allegiance with them.  But shouldn’t the contractor have an allegiance to you to assure your house is rebuilt as it should be?

The better thing to do is retain a construction consultant to determine what needs to be done to properly repair your property. Then, you should find your own contractor to make the repairs.  The insurance company is obligated to pay you to repair your home, not to tell you who you can and cannot use and what work you should and should not do.

If you need help, call us, we are happy to meet with you.

Millard & Bragg Attorneys at Law P.C.
Oregon and Washington Fire Claims Attorneys
503-352-1991      

 

Why You Need Our Help Insurance Attorneys Vs. Public Adjusters – Part 2

Why You Need Our Help

Insurance Attorneys Vs. Public Adjusters – Part 2

Because of the PA’s inability to practice law, they have no leverage should the insurance company not act in good faith. This inability to practice law potentially leads to  much lower insurance proceeds as public adjusters scramble to accept deals that will net something, even if you, the insured, is entitled to much more. Since the public adjuster’s ability to get paid is based on what they can negotiate, the public adjuster is looking out for his or her best interests, not yours.

Additionally, public adjusters are not subject to the same ethical guidelines as attorneys. They are allowed to solicit business in ways deemed unethical to attorneys. Public adjusters often take a percentage of your entire claim regardless of when you hired them.

Many Attorneys will accept a percentage of your claim from the point they begin working your case.  Some attorneys are willing to represent you several months after the loss. Attorneys are expert negotiators, they are trained to handle settlement terms, and know the latest insurance laws. An insurance company will often offer better settlements to attorneys to avoid the litigation process and attorneys are better able to reject bad offers. The power attorneys have to file lawsuits puts you on even ground with the insurance companies. They work for you.

When you retain Millard & Bragg, you have access to the best of both worlds. After years of being frustrated by his inability as an adjuster to help people gain the most out of their claims, Fred Millard became a lawyer to better serve business owners and families who need help with their insurance claims. If you have an insurance claim in Oregon or Washington and feel like your insurance company is being unfair, give us a call at 503-352-1991 or contact us

Click here to read Part 1

Why You Need Our Help – Insurance Attorneys Vs. Public Adjusters Part 1

Why You Need Our Help

Insurance Attorneys Vs. Public Adjusters – Part 1

You have just experienced property damage and loss resulting from a fire, wind, water, vandalism or other perils. You contact your insurance company to file a claim.  That’s just the beginning.  The insurance company advises that it will have an adjuster contact you.  The next thing you know, you get contacted by a Public Insurance Adjuster (“PA”).

Let us be clear, a PA is not associated with your insurance company. Although their title seems to infer that they are agents of your insurance company, they are not. Truth be told, you and a PA have equal clout with your insurance company.  Although PA’s will tell you that they understand your insurance policy better than you will, and that might be true, PA’s are not attorneys.  They are not licensed to practice law and certainly not qualified to give you legal advice.  Moreover, it is illegal for PA’s to give legal advice.

Public Insurance Adjusters are eager to have you sign a contract allowing them to manage your insurance claim.  They will tell you that there are difficulties in dealing with your insurance company.  They tell you that your insurance policy is a difficult document to understand, and without their expertise, you will be taken advantage of by your insurance company.  They tell you that their fee is “contingent” on how much money you collect from your insurance company.  They only get paid if you get paid.  Usually PA’s charge somewhere around nine (9%) percent of the amount you recover from your insurance company.  Although we know of some PA’s that charge a higher percentage, nine (9%) percent seems to be the going rate.

Although nine (9%) percent may seem nominal, keep in mind that most Public Insurance Adjuster contracts obligate the insured to pay the same percentage on monies the insurance company pays voluntarily.  In other words, if the insurance company declares your loss to be of a certain amount, the PA gets a percentage of that money before a finger is lifted.

I generally encourage prospective clients not to hire anyone right after a loss.  If your claim is legitimate, your insurance company will pay you some amount towards the loss.  It seems senseless to pay a percentage of what the insurance company voluntarily pays you.  On the other hand, if or when your insurance company declares your loss not to be covered or only partially covered, then it’s time to contact a lawyer, not a PA.  The reason is simple.  PA’s are not licensed to practice law.  They cannot help you force the insurance to pay more for a loss.

One of the frequent complaints we hear from clients who previously hired Public Adjusters is that the contract they signed requires them to pay the Public Adjuster a percentage of proceeds that they didn’t recover.  For example, if the insurance company decides to cut off benefits, the public adjuster has no recourse other than to recommend retaining an attorney.  Nevertheless, the Public Adjuster will generally continue to expect to receive a percentage of what is recovered by the attorney.

Public insurance adjusters are not lawyers.  They have no ability to challenge your insurance company when it says that your claim or part of your claim is not covered.  Public Adjusters only get paid if your insurance company agrees to pay.  If your insurance company agrees to pay, it seems pointless to hire a public adjuster.

Click here to read Part 2 

The Taylor Bridge Fire – What’s Next?

The Taylor Bridge Fire – What’s Next?

Picking Up The Pieces in Eastern Washington

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

The Taylor Bridge Fire that has destroyed many structures and land and evacuated hundreds in Kittitas County near Cle Elum Washington, is still being worked on to be fully contained. In all it has destroyed over 22,000 acres, 70 homes and nearly 200 structures. It has been estimated that there is going to be close to $500 million in fire loss insurance claims stemming from this tragic event.

The fire loss claims process will be long and hard for all involved. The claims for personal property lost in the fire will be the hardest for the victims. Insurance companies will be requiring detailed lists of inventory, pictures, receipts and other “proof” of value; most of which has been lost in the fire.

We know that now is a time when emotions run high and many decisions need to be made.  Those two things don’t usually mix.  Many people are displaced from their homes and businesses in much lesser living and working conditions than they previously had.  In the rush to settle claims, many bad deals are made, communication isn’t clear, and policy holders don’t know what their rights are.

Don’t get taken advantage of.

Not sure you are being treated fairly? Don’t settle, know your rights and review your insurance policy. If you feel you have not gotten the appropriate compensation for the value your home, business and belongings, we can help.

Millard & Bragg Attorneys at Law P.C.
Oregon and Washington Fire Claims Attorneys
503-352-1991

 

OTLA Features Fred Millard: Sheltering Victims in Insurance Claims

Note:  The following article was originally published in Sidebar, a newsletter published by the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association. Download the full article here.

OTLA Features Fred Millard a Portland, Oregon Fire Claims Attorney in: Sheltering Victims in Insurance Claims

He’s been a member of OTLA for over 10 years but most of you probably don’t know affable and unassuming Fred Millard. He stays under the radar, but is certainly no stranger to the countless victims of devastating property damage cases. A stalwart of the Guardians of Civil Justice program – Millard’s commitment to shepherding his clients in time of great loss and holding insurance companies accountable makes him our spotlight of the month.


Millard was a building contractor for 18 years and an insurance adjuster in Florida with his wife Heidi Gross. He is a partner at Millard & Bragg Attorneys at Law PC. Still very much a team, Gross runs the practice while Millard works the cases. Their journey to Orgeon and Millard’s path to becoming an expert construction lawyer is marked not only by changes of heart, but by major weather events.

In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida with massive force. Successful contracting business owner Millard found himself at the epicenter of devastated south Florida. He set up a satellite office to help shell-shocked homeowners. With the damages affecting more than 600,000 homes, Millard was quickly bombarded with displaced residents asking him for insurance estimates. He quickly discovered that he was a natural at negotiating insurance claims to get help for his clients. Devastated homeowners were literally lined up outside his office seeking his guidance and assistance in sorting out the value of their claims and making sense of a complicated claims process. Right then and there Millard decided to give up the construction side of his business, get his insurance license and he went to work trying to maximize supplemental recovery for the desperate residents of South Florida.

In 1996, exhausted and looking for their own renewal, Millard and Gross let the winds of change blow them across the country to California. They landed in Santa Clara where Millard, then 44-years-old, pursued his JD, on scholarship, from Santa Clara Law School. After his experience in Florida, he knew he wanted to do more to help every day citizens get what they paid for from their insurance carriers. He just wasn’t sure how or where. After graduating the couple decided California was simply too crowded. They rented an RV and drove around the Pacific Northwest looking for their new home. The only criteria – nothing too hot, nothing too cold. They found Oregon – just right.

In 1998, after taking a prep-course at Lewis & Clark, Millard passed the Oregon Bar exam. He accepted his first, albeit brief, job with Tarlow Jordan & Shrader. Millard then moved to the Metro Public Defenders office for 1½ years. Being the consummate business man, he knew he had to go for broke and hang up his own shingle.

Millard’s extensive hands on knowledge of the insurance culture and construction industry have been critical in the development of his construction and insurance related practice. His firm specializes in first-party insurance claims and most facets of construction litigation. “You have to be aggressive in handling these types of claims,” Millard warns his fellow practitioners. “From the very beginning, I always prepare my cases as though they are going to trial. Assumption and pre-conceived notions are common threads in the insurance culture. Adjusters are taught that many insured are trying to defraud the company and work from that assumption in most claims.”

A case near and dear to his heart involved a third generation family owned and operated potato packing factory in Merrill, Oregon. The business started in 1940 and according to Millard, “the family was true salt of the earth, honest and ethical people.” The factory suffered massive property damage from a fire and the insurance company immediately cried “arson”. Millard took the case on less than 1 month before the statute of limitations expired. The case was riddled with problems including a criminal indictment of his client, masterminded by the insurance company attorneys. Still, Millard’s gut told him to believe in his client’s innocence. “Ask yourself the two most critical questions in these types of cases: Did the plaintiff set the fire? Did the plaintiff conceal or misrepresent the facts of the case?” advises Millard. Millard answered no to both questions after talking with his client. “Assist in the investigation phase of every case, if possible. Don’t ever let your client submit to an exam under oath without representation.”

After 300 different filings and tremendous resources battling Country Insurance, the case finally settled with an excellent result for his client. All criminal charges were dismissed. In a town of 800, the stigma of committing arson and fraud took a hefty toll on his client. Beyond the recovery, Millard was most thankful for finally vindicating the family of any wrongdoing. “It takes a lot of time, money and most importantly caring to try these cases,” says Millard. “People literally fall apart after such devastation. Money can never replace what is lost and clients are never completely made whole again.” He also admits that there’s nothing more rewarding than doing exactly what he’s doing to help people in their time of crisis. His greatest asset – “really great clients”.

Millard offers some helpful hints for any property owner. His number one piece of advice is to do a narrated, videotaped tour of your house or office shooting all of the contents. Keep a copy of that tape offsite. Insurance companies bank on consumers being so overwhelmed with their loss that they forget items to claim. As for attorneys looking to do similar work, Millard urges OTLA members to stay connected. “Ask lots of questions and always seek out a few key colleagues to bounce ideas and information off of,” he advises. “New lawyers should always associate themselves with someone who is experienced.” Clearly, Millard has the experience and passion to help countless more Oregonians in their time of need.

Five Things You Should Do After a Fire

Five Things You Should Do After a Fire

1. Immediately Contact Your Insurance Company

You should expect to be contacted by an Insurance Adjuster within 24 hours of your call. If not, follow up. The Adjuster will make an appointment to examine the loss. To determine the value of property damage or loss, the adjuster will likely examine it with a Building Contractor.

You are not obligated to sign contracts or use individuals or services that the Insurance Company recommends. Do not sign any contracts unless you fully understand them and know who is paying and for what. The Insurance Company is obligated to pay for the repair or replacement of your property regardless of who you select to perform the work.


2. Expect your Insurance Company to Conduct an Investigation

You must fully cooperate with the investigation. The Adjuster will likely ask you to submit to a recorded statement. This may be over the phone or in person. If you are asked a question about something and you are not sure about the answer, do not guess.

You may be asked for copies of various documents like your tax returns or bank statements. If contacted by the insurance company’s attorney and asked to submit to an examination under oath, it is highly recommended that you retain your own attorney to represent you.

3. You Are Required to Prove What You Lost

The insurance adjuster will ask you to submit an inventory of your personal property that was damaged or destroyed. To recover the true value, take your time to describe every item in detail. If you can obtain purchase receipts, copies of credit card statements, owner manuals etc., it will greatly help your recovery. As well, pre-loss and post-loss videos and photos are extremely helpful.

If you need assistance, the lawyers and staff at Millard & Bragg Attorneys at Law P.C. are here to help you.

4. Relocate to a Safe Space, If Your Home or Business is Uninhabitable

Most policies provide benefits that reimburse such expenses at a later time. It is important to obtain a copy of your policy and read it. If you don’t understand it, ask us we can help.

During this time you must document all costs such as meals at restaurants, hotel/motel rooms, office space, additional mileage etc. Accurate records will help you get the reimbursement you deserve.

5. Do Not Navigate the Process Alone

Millard & Bragg Attorneys at Law P.C. is a Litigation Firm that Specializes in First Party Insurance Claims, Fire, Wind and Water Claims, Construction Law, Civil Litigation and Business Law. We help Individuals and Property Owners who have been the victims of Property Damage from a Fire, Flood, Storm, Accident, Theft, or Vandalism, as well as Individuals and Business Owners who need representation in Civil and Commercial Litigation.

” As a building contractor for 18 years as well as an insurance adjuster, I understand the insurance culture and construction industry inside and out. I have represented many injured parties at a time of emotional and economic devastation, helping to maximize recovery.”

Millard & Bragg, Attorneys at Law, PC

Need Help? Contact us to schedule your free consultation.

Fire destroys nearly $2M home in West Hills, Portland

No one was present as flames engulfed the $1.9M listed home in Forest Park Thursday Morning. Emergency units were called at 5:45am to handle the fire. There are no fire hydrants near the home so crews had to run nearly 2,000 feet of hose to connect fire engines to water tender trucks. The owners of the home are safe but were surprised and then saddened when notified of what happened, losing their home along with the memories accompanied with it.