There I went ahead and said the word. So many people are scared of this word, but it is something worth discussing in the context of a home fire loss.
Generally speaking, your insurance company is not going to assume that you committed arson. This is an important point. Sometimes a fire will be your fault, but it’s nothing intentional. I’m amazed at how many people do not report fire loss to their insurance company, or simply walk away when an insurance company refuses to pay. The reality is that fires are caused by accidents and accidents do happen.
Arson means something much more specific here in Louisiana – it is when you intentionally try to set fire to your house. Very few people actually try to set fire to their house. This makes sense. People need somewhere to live.
Insurance companies are aware that arson is one of the primary ways to deny a fire claim in Louisiana. As a result, they may try to look for a reason that you might want to burn your house down. They may ask for your finances. They may ask if you previously filed for bankruptcy. They may ask you about your emotional state. They do all these things to try to find some reason that you might cause harm to your house.
Arson is a crime.
Here’s the reality: Arson is a crime. It is investigated by state authorities with the power to do so. If you are not found to have committed arson on your property, it will be more difficult for an insurance company to deny the claim based on any allegation related to arson.
This seems like a very simple subject, and the reality is that it is a simple subject. Nevertheless, I never cease to be amazed by how few people want to tackle this issue. I’m not going to go through a laundry list of causes of fires, because the last thing I want is your insurance company claiming that you saw this article and intentionally set fire to your house. There are a lot of accidental causes of fire. I would never suggest that anyone intentionally catch their house on fire, but accidents are going to happen – maybe not to you, but to someone.
In fact, our office has had the privilege of representing people affected by fires. In several of these claims, the insurance company has at least implied that the homeowner intentionally set fire to his/her own home. In each one of those cases that implication has gone nowhere.
The reality is it’s very hard to prove someone set their own fire intentionally. It’s very hard to prove that someone would set fire to everything they loved. It’s very hard to prove that someone would destroy all their own memories. It’s very hard to prove that someone would destroy their own family home. The reality is that it’s very hard to prove these things because it very rarely happens. Most people are not callous. Most people are not that cold. Most people are not so desperate for money that they are willing to destroy their entire life to make a few quick bucks (and, frankly, how often does anyone get a “quick buck” from an insurance company).
While it sounds scary when the word “arson” or “special investigation” is thrown around by your insurance company, this is a natural but unnecessary reaction. Get an attorney and let him/her guide you through the process.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention arson by others. Sometimes an ex, an angry coworker, or even a hateful person may set fire to a home. If you did not have anything to do with it and did not ask them to do it, then again, an insurance company is going to have a hard time denying the claim. Don’t be scared, just get help.
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Galen M. Hair, an aggressive and relentless litigator, is licensed in multiple states and boasts clients from around the world. This unwavering success to continual improvement has led him to be named as a Super Lawyer Rising Star, a Top Lawyer by New Orleans Magazine, the Pro Bono Publico Award and numerous other accolades.