Homeowners’ Insurance Claims Files Are Important, but Tough to Obtain
When a lawsuit is filed, both sides have the opportunity to get the facts of the other side’s case. This includes being able to obtain documents that the other side will use to assert claims, or put up defenses.
When it comes to lawsuits against homeowners’ insurance companies, the claims file for the adjusters that handle claims contain important documents that can help a homeowner prove a case, or refute an insurance company’s defenses.
Claims Files and Work Product
However, despite the information it contains, and the value that a claims file may have in resolving disputed facts between the homeowner and the insurance company, getting a claims file in a lawsuit can be very difficult.
In almost every case, an insurance company will object to a homeowner’s request to produce a claims file on the basis of what is known as work product. Work product is information that is created by a party in anticipation of litigation, or with the reasonable anticipation that there may be litigation.
For example, assume a store keeps a log of how often its floors are cleaned. It keeps this log every day, no matter what. The log is not kept for anything related to a lawsuit, and thus, could not be work product.
However, now assume that the store writes an incident report after a customer falls on a slippery floor. That incident report is not created all the time, but only when there is the chance that litigation could happen. The incident report is likely covered by the work product privilege.
Although a claims file is created any time anybody makes any type of homeowners’ insurance claim, courts have held that an insurance company’s claims file is work product, and does not have to be turned over the homeowners who request them.
Other Ways to Get Information
Just because an insurance company can legally refuse to hand over a claims file does not mean that a homeowner has no way to obtain vital information needed to prove the homeowners’ insurance claim.
For example, a homeowner’s lawyer can question anybody involved in the process of repairs, or in decisions about denials of coverage. A roofer’s name may appear in a claims file, but that does not mean that a homeowner cannot ask the roofer questions.
Identification information can also be obtained by the homeowner. For example, a homeowner can ask, and an insurance company must disclose, names of those who evaluated the claim, adjusted the claim, or who performed any type of work or evaluation for the insurance company. Once those names are obtained, those people can be questioned by the homeowner.
There are some things in a claims file that an insurance company may want to use to defend itself at trial. Those items have to be turned over. An insurance company cannot claim that documents are privileged and refuse to turn them over, while at the same time using those same documents to support its defenses at trial.
If your insurance company is denying coverage for needed repairs to your home, or is refusing to pay what is needed to repair damage to your home, we can help. Contact the Miami property damage insurance attorneys at Velasquez & Associates P.A. today with any questions you may have.