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Working toward a successful subrogation after a fire claim

Fires can devastate families, destroying their belongings and leaving them with next to nothing. Many Texas families depend on a check from your insurance company to help them get back on their feet. One of the first steps they may wish to take is clearing out the rubble and debris and bringing in contractors to repair and restore what the fire damaged.

However, if you and your company plan to initiate a subrogation process, your goal is to reclaim the money you paid out in the claim. For the best opportunity of a successful subrogation, fire investigators say there are certain factors to keep in mind.

The details make the difference

While you may certainly understand how subrogation works, it is possible that the insured parties do not. It may be helpful to explain to them that, as soon as they submitted their claim to you, they relinquished their right to sue anyone who may be responsible for the fire, and that your company now assumes that right to sue. Subrogation is one way you can keep costs low for your customers, and once they understand this, they may be more willing to cooperate by preserving the evidence.

After reaching an understanding with the insured, you can take other steps to improve your chances of a successful subrogation:

  • Work with the restoration vendor to begin cleanup as far away from the fire's origin as possible. This is essential to ensuring that restoration crews do not discard critical evidence with the debris.
  • Engage a licensed, certified fire expert who can be on the scene as quickly as possible. In order for the testimony of such experts to carry sway, it is important that they perform their duties according the guidelines established by the National Fire Protection Association.
  • Allow your investigators and experts to keep an open mind and let the scientific evidence lead them to theories about the cause of the fire.

The evidence you collect to build your case for subrogation will likely include details about the origin of the fire. Elements to consider include the pattern of the fire and evidence of electrical arcing. Your investigator will probably examine evidence of the fire's behavior -- how it grew and traveled throughout the structure. Witnesses may also be important to your investigation, and the statements of the insured may be essential to your case.

Representation from the beginning of the process

The gathering of evidence and assembling it into a solid case for subrogation is a delicate matter. Every area of your case will be under legal scrutiny. Even in the simplest situations, having legal counsel on board as early as possible in the subrogation process may go far toward the success of a claim. Waiting until later in the investigation may mean losing experienced assistance in the selection of experts, the gathering of evidence and the management of unique matters that may require legal consideration during the investigation.

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