Building Burned - Need Advice

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by miss_dee, Aug 20, 2006.

  1. miss_dee

    miss_dee Well-Known Member

    May 30, 2005
    This isn't a homesteading question, but there are lots of knowledgeable folks here, and I'm hoping y'll can offer some information for me. We have some property (the place where my son grew up and our future retirement home) that we rent out for now. We are 3 1/2 hours away. This place had a huge (1560 square feet) storage building in addition to the main house. Wasn't built as a storage building, but being used for one. We stored everything in there that we couldn't fit at our current small house. All of our family photos, Christmas ornaments and other things we collected in Germany, my wedding dress, all my husband's military awards and decorations, coin collection, record collection, baby books (both my son's and my husband's), 4-wheeler, riding lawn mower, push lawn mower, etc, etc, etc. Pages and pages of things.

    The man next door was burning brush, in dry, windy, parched Oklahoma, and went to work with it smoldering. Wind picked up, and now we have no more stuff. My husband went down there the next day to get the insurance information, and they didn't cooperate - wouldn't tell us (they had just moved in to the house, hadn't even made their first mortgage payment). The man said he didn't know if they had insurance, would have to ask the wife. The wife wasn't sure, would have to look at their paperwork. After a week of unanswered phone calls, the wife calls us and says her company says they only pay claims in Iowa. Still won't tell us the name of the company. We finally hired an attorney to get the information for us. Three letters from the attorney and they haven't responded.

    We have insurance and can file on that, but I don't think we should pay the price (either cancelled insurance or much higher premiums) due to somebody else's carelessness. We can go to court and get a judgment, but this guy is not a model citizen. Since the fire, we learned he's been in prison for meth use - he's a repeat offender), and just a few weeks ago he was in jail for beating up the wife. Not the kind of guy who works 9 to 5, so even if we were to garnish wages, I'm sure he won't work long.

    Our dilemma is whether to just go on and file a claim with our insurance company, or try to go to court and get the judgment. If we go to court, they'll be forced to provide all the documentation we need to file a claim if they have insurance. My fear is that they don't have insurance, and that we'll win a judgment we can't collect. So that still leaves us a burned building, no stuff, plus the attorney's costs and the cost of having the place cleaned up. To add insult to injury, we're still paying on the place - have 7 more years til it's ours. And if we win a judgment that we can't collect, then we can't file a claim on our insurance.

    What would you do? We want to do the smart thing, not the emotional thing. Right now I'm so angry I can't think clearly. The fire happened June 19, and we still havent been able to get it taken care of because we were hoping to force their hands with the attorney. So this huge pile of ugly rubble is still sitting there waiting to be cleaned up. The attorney advised us not to touch it so the insurance adjuster (when we actually thought there might be an adjuster) could see it. Thanks in advance for any advice.
  2. CatsPaw


    Jun 16, 2006
    Owen Co., Indiana
    Here in Indiana we have a state insurance commission. If an insurance co. is messing with you they are some one to go to. Get them involved and it can put added pressure on them. Also here in Ind. you can't buy a house without having it insured. At least a bank won't give you the money if it's not. So, I'm guessing they have insurance.

    I'm currently waiting for a job to start because the insurance co. for the client won't pay up. So don't feel alone.

    If the neighbor was at fault, they pay for it. Take thier new house if you have to. Don't care how nice they are or whatever. They burned your property. Lawyers, Commissions whatever, use'em and sue'em.

  3. WAB

    WAB Well-Known Member

    Nov 3, 2004
    Thats real easy to fix! :) Just visit the sherrif and a magistrate and sign a warrant on them for destruction of private property and what ever else you can think of. Most people would rather cooperate than go to jail. :hobbyhors

    You can also place a lien on thier property with the magistrate. Then they will have to settle with you before they can sell or do anything with the property. Might make a nice addition to your property? :rolleyes:

    they would hate to see me comming!
  4. neolady

    neolady Well-Known Member

    Dec 30, 2005
    Don't know if your legislation is the same, but I would bet that if you filed a claim with your own insurance company (coverage would be on off-premise goods), they would subrogate against the grass-burning-neighbour. Believe me, they would have the insurance information from them pronto. Talk to your lawyer about going this route. If they subrogate, they will pick up the legal fees. On the other hand, you may not have much coverage for off-premise goods. Check into your own policy.
  5. bostonlesley

    bostonlesley Guest

    What a sad thing to happen..

    IMHO, the only way to collect damages from him would be to sue him for the damages since you have proof that his actions caused the fire.

    If it were me, I'd get an attorney and file against him for the cost of the structure, asking the judge to stipulate that he has "x" number of months to pay those damages plus any lawyers fees + court costs.
    Also don't know why you cannot file a claim from your own insurance company if he doesn't pay ..who said you couldn't?
  6. The Paw

    The Paw Well-Known Member

    May 19, 2006
    Manitoba, Canada
    Neolady is correct. If your policy covers you, file a claim and give all the information to your insurance company, including your attempts to have them assume responsibility. In all likeliehood, your insurance company will recover from them or their insurance company. Your insurance company many decide it will cost them more in legal fees to recover from this party than they will actually get, but that is the insurance company's worry.

    While suing the neighbour, placing liens, getting warrants and messing with magistrates might sound gratifying, it is more aggravation than satisfaction. If they are "judgement proof" you may end up just throwing the money for your own lawyers into the bottomless pit, and lose more.

    Long story short, this is exactly why you have insurance.
  7. BellsBunnies

    BellsBunnies Well-Known Member

    Sep 18, 2004
    I would also contact my Insurance - they will sue the other's Insurance to recoop the loss.
    I was also file a complaint about it with the sheriff dept so If the things turn nasty you have a paper trail.
  8. Spinner

    Spinner Well-Known Member

    Jul 19, 2003
    If it happened to me, I would turn it into my ins. It shouldn't raise your rates since you were not at fault. If your policy covers this loss, they will pay you, then they will go after the neighbor. If your policy doesn't cover the loss or only partially covers it, then I'd get a lawyer and sue the h*ll outta the negligent neighbor. There may be criminal charges against him as well. Call the local forestry and find out if there was a burn ban in place. We are under one here and the penalty if very severe for anyone who ignores it, even more so when property damage such as this is involved.

    edited to add: whatever you decide to do, do it quick before rain, wind, animals, or negligent neighbors destroy any of the evidence. Get lots of pictures. Did the neighbor admit to the fire? Did your tenants tell you about it? Do you have any proof the neighbor did it? The neighbors story may change considerably as time passes. History has a way of being rewritten to fit the desires of the writer....
  9. wilderness1989

    wilderness1989 Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2006
    Effingham, Illinois 5b
    I've been involved in this type of situation when worked for a law firm doing insurance subrogation. Just file a claim with your insurance company and if the other guy has insurance let the insurance companies duke it out. [strongbad
  10. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

    Sep 13, 2003
    Whiskey Flats(Ft. Worth) , Tx
    ...................If you don't utilize the full coverage of your ins. then you've wasted all those premium payments for naught . They will pursue the case at their expense with their lawyers and collect as much as possible from whatever ins. coverage this person has . fordy... :)
  11. IDgoats

    IDgoats Active Member

    Mar 9, 2006
    My brother was an adjuster for 11yrs for a large ins company. file claim if they have ins. yours will cllect back from them. most banks won't give loan with out ins. you drop it they call loan. here you can't burn with out calling it in and getting burn permit.check it out might give you paper trail. also if you walk away from your burn and it does any damage your liable plus carries criminal charge.thats in my county in Id.

  12. PyroDon

    PyroDon Well-Known Member

    Jul 30, 2006
    S.E. Ks.
    If you have insurance file a claim with them
    They will then have the burden of suing him or his inurance company .
    It was an accidental fire in that it was not intended to burn down your building so your insurance should cover the damage . they will then file suit against the man insurance company . They have a better chance of winning than you do anyway . Plus it saves you a lot of head aches now and in the future .
  13. dennisjp

    dennisjp dennisjp

    Mar 2, 2006
    I think everyone so far is pretty much right, except one thing. You need to go ahead and file with your company before the weather destroyes evidence that your insurance company may deem neccesary for them to complete an investigation of the fire. Let the companies fight it out and I would go to the magistates office and file charges against the guilty party and as a couple has already said, start a paper trail.
    If you waste too much time before doing so, you may loose everything and not even be able to collect from your company. Good luck
  14. BeeFree

    BeeFree Well-Known Member Supporter

    Feb 22, 2004
    Ripley Co. Mo
    If this guy that managed to burn your property down has been dealing in meth, he has more than likely got money stashed away. Most of the meth dealers do.

    I would do what the others said about going ahead and turning it into the sheriff and filing with your own ins.
  15. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

    Aug 13, 2003
    I'd make the claim on your insurance. They will go after him and his, if there is any. I don't understand not making a claim...isn't that why you have insurance?????

  16. james dilley

    james dilley Well-Known Member Supporter

    Mar 21, 2004
    deep south texas
    Banks carry Insurance on the properties they loan on, So there should be Money for you some where. Call the Attorney generals Office where you live they should be able to tell you the Insurance Commisions phone number. And don't forget to get As many Photos of the area and the damage that you can ,Make 2 copies of the paperwork and photos.. For you protection..
  17. mkh100

    mkh100 Member

    Aug 11, 2006
    First off a disclaimer.....I am not an Attorney nor an Insurance agent, Info below is from personnal experience. I urge you to get qualified legal advice specific to your state and circumstance.....

    WOW, terrible situation. Im sorry for your loss. I thank God I have never experienced a loss to anything like a Fire. We have had losses due to Burglary and theft. I know its not the same thing.

    In my experience Insurance does not work quite the way some seem to think it does. Here in Florida we had a rash of Hurricanes the last couple years the first "charlie" brought down an unbelievable number of tree's. Many folks were surprised that their neighbors tree when it fell onto their house was then their tree and their responsability. I suspect that if this guy followed the law in how he went about his burn (or even mostly followed it) you have little claim against him. He can no more control the wind picking up than you could. And I doubt he meant to burn down your building.

    Your Insurance protects YOU against losses. The bad guy in your story will need deep pockets or Liability Protection for you to ever get paid from him. Only Liability or that portion of a policy that sets forth Liability protection would pay someone else for a loss. If he is doing his own brush clearing, and has not yet made the first mortgage payment he probably isnt Mr Moneypants.....and even if you won a claim against him the bank holds a first on his property so what do you expect to gain by a suit?

    You file the claim with your Insurance to cover your loss.....the real bad guy here is probably your attorney for not telling you this stuff before he took your money. YOur Insurance Carrier may drop you but if you have been with them for any length of time and dont have many claims this probably wont cause them to fire you as a customer. They DID sign on as your insurer remember, and they will be happy to collect premiums from you for a long time to come I suspect. They spread their risk around and mathematically planned for your event long before you had it. If their is some mitigation to occur with the perpetrator or his insurer they will see to it in most cases, it seldom will involve you beyond a statement or deposition....perhaps court if it should go to trial but even then unlikely to need your actual participation.

    Imagine if you had been out burning brush and the wind picked up.......yada yada yada....would you just stroke the guy a check from your account? what if you called your Insurer and found there was no Liability protection for you in this case? Hell, if no one actually saw the embers leave this guys fire and light your building up I dont even KNOW from a legal standpoint that its indeed what happened. Who put the fire out? Did a Fire Marshall investigate?

    Im pretty sure no one asked Mrs O'Leary to pay for the re-construction of Chicago, even though by all accounts it was her cow that started the Great Fire.

    Again I am sorry to hear of your loss, Money simply cant replace everything that is gone.

    Best Wishes,
  18. mkh100

    mkh100 Member

    Aug 11, 2006
    BTW who said anything about METH dealing? Huh?

    Try and keep yourself on topic when possible.

  19. ponyboy123

    ponyboy123 Well-Known Member

    Jun 5, 2006
    East coast, Canada
    "Since the fire, we learned he's been in prison for meth use - he's a repeat offender), and just a few weeks ago he was in jail for beating up the wife."
    Quote from original post
  20. AnnaS

    AnnaS Well-Known Member

    Nov 29, 2003
    Verndale MN
    Sorry about your loss. So many irreplacable things gone. Can't add anything re: insurance but thought I'd send you this link in case you didn't know about it:

    VA will replace lost decorations free (after a certain amount of paperwork, of course).