Vancouver Insurance Lawyers Advising on Fire Damage & Property Loss

Fires and other incidents leading to property loss leave more than physical devastation behind. The claims arising from these sometimes catastrophic events give rise to serious emotional and financial consequences and involve an intricate web of legal complexities. Common sources of contention during the claim process include an insurance company’s denial of the claim or disputes about the valuation of lost or damaged property.

Meridian Law Group provides practical, robust legal solutions to insurance companies and insureds in fire damage and property loss claims. The firm’s insurance litigators employ skillful pretrial negotiation strategies for early resolution whenever possible while protecting the clients’ legal options for trial.

Grounds for Denial of Fire Damage & Property Loss Claims

Fire damage and property loss claims in British Columbia can be denied on several grounds, primarily based on the terms of the insurance policy and the applicable statutory conditions and regulations. Some common reasons for a claim’s denial include policyholder misrepresentation, expired limitation periods, lapsed policies, and exclusion clauses.

Misrepresentation by Policyholder

An insurance policy may be declared void (and a claim denied) based on misrepresentation by a policyholder at the time the insurance was bought or when a claim was made.

The Insurance Act of British Columbia sets out certain statutory conditions deemed part of almost every insurance contract in the province. The first statutory condition relates to misrepresentation and states:

If a person applying for insurance falsely describes the property to the prejudice of the insurer, or misrepresents or fraudulently omits to communicate any circumstance that is material to be made known to the insurance in order to enable it to judge the risk to be undertaken, the contract is void as to any property in relation to which the misrepresentation or omission is material.

Some examples of misrepresentation include failing to disclose prior claims relating to the same property or providing inaccurate or falsified information about the property’s value.

Expired Limitation Periods

Fire damage or property loss claims must be filed within a specific timeframe (“limitation period”). For most claims in British Columbia, the applicable limitation period is two years. This two-year period begins to run when the claimant first discovered the claim (i.e. when they knew, or reasonably ought to have known, about the harm or loss giving rise to the claim).

As limitation periods are rarely able to be extended, it is critical to seek the advice of an experienced insurance lawyer and file a claim as soon as the existence of a potential claim is discovered. Early filing of a claim ensures both the insurer and policyholder’s rights are preserved.

Failure to Pay Policy Premiums

Insurers have the right to deny a claim under a policy that has lapsed due to non-payment of premiums (or has expired for other reasons). Policies may be cancelled due to non-payment, even if the insured was previously diligent in making payments on the policy for years.

Exclusion Clauses

Exclusion clauses are a critical part of any insurance contract and define the scope and limitations of coverage under the policy. These clauses identify the risks or circumstances for which the insurance company will not provide coverage or compensation.

Common examples of exclusions in British Columbia include damage or loss caused by:

  • The policyholder’s failure to maintain the upkeep of, or take steps to reasonably protect, the property;
  • War or natural disasters (sometimes referred to as “acts of God”), such as tsunamis, earthquakes, flooding, or hurricanes;
  • Intentional, criminal, or fraudulent acts by the policyholder;
  • Pest infestations;
  • Any significant changes in risk not communicated by the insured to the insurance company as required by their policy or statutory conditions;
  • Faulty design or poor workmanship; or
  • Gradual loss through inevitable wear and tear.

Disputes About Compensation & Property Value

Another common source of dispute between insurance companies and their policyholders is the amount of compensation to which an insured is entitled after suffering damage or loss. The parties may disagree about the valuation of the property and whether the amount offered by the insurer is sufficient to cover the insured’s losses (including the cost of the repairs required or the fair market value of destroyed items).

Disputes about compensation may be addressed through a number of legal channels, including alternative dispute resolution processes (such as negotiation, mediation, or adjudication).

The insurance litigators of Meridian Law Group vigorously pursue the best possible resolution for clients on either side of fire and property loss disputes. The firm is experienced in all forms of dispute resolution and provides tenacious advocacy in court when matters proceed to litigation.

Meridian Law Group: Providing Cutting-Edge Advice in Fire Damage & Property Loss Claims Throughout B.C.

Since 1988, the insurance litigation lawyers of Meridian Law Group have developed a lasting reputation for excellence, including their representation in claims arising from fire damage and property loss. The firm has an extensive history representing some of the largest insurance companies in Canada and their policyholders in complex claims disputes.

Based in downtown Vancouver near the courthouse, Meridian Law Group has been a mainstay of the British Columbia legal community for over 30 years. The firm represents clients across British Columbia, Canada, and worldwide. To schedule a consultation, please call (604) 687-2277 or reach out online.