You don’t need to hire a lawyer to file a standard homeowners insurance claim or to negotiate a higher settlement with your insurer.
But you might want to consult a lawyer if your claim is expensive, complicated, or is taking longer than legally allowed depending on your state laws.
Most insurance lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning anywhere from 20% to 45% of the claim settlement may go to them.
Before filing a lawsuit, you might want to try contacting your insurer’s claims department or filing a complaint with your state’s department of insurance instead.
When to hire a lawyer for a home insurance claim
You might want to hire a lawyer for a home insurance claim if you’re dealing with an expensive or complex claim and you think a lawyer will be able to negotiate a larger settlement than you could on your own. A lawyer can also help if you’re dealing with a claim where fault is difficult to establish or you’re dealing with a lowball settlement offer that’s wildly different from what you were expecting.
It also might be time to hire a lawyer if your claim payout is taking longer than legally allowed based on your state’s insurance regulations. Depending on where you live, insurance companies have anywhere from five to 90 days to make a payment after accepting your claim. You can find a full state-by-state list of how long your insurance company has to make a payment here.
Keep in mind that most attorneys will provide you with legal advice before you even hire them to work on an insurance claim. It doesn’t hurt to meet with a lawyer and ask them to look over your insurance policy. They can likely explain some of the technical jargon so you’re better prepared if you decide to negotiate with your insurer on your own. While some attorneys might offer to do this for free, others might charge a one-time consultation fee depending on how complicated your claim is.
Customer satisfaction scores for home insurance claims hit 5-year low
A combination of near-record high natural disasters, serious supply chain issues, and continued workforce challenges have caused overall customer satisfaction with home insurance claims to hit a five-year low, according to J.D. Power’s 2022 study. Most insurers' scores fell due to more complicated and slower claims processing and communication issues that plagued the industry.
Can I sue my insurance company for denying my claim?
Suing your insurance company for denying a claim should be a last resort. The American Bar Association notes that many legal matters can be handled by consumers on their own, without needing to hire an attorney. Insurance companies stick to the terms of your policy, so the answer to whether or not you have a lawsuit on your hands is likely in the policy itself.
What type of lawyer should I hire for a home insurance claim?
If you decide to move forward with hiring a lawyer for your home insurance claim, it’s best to find one that specializes solely in insurance law.
You can start by asking friends and family for referrals. Even if they only know attorneys who practice a different type of law, they can likely refer you to a colleague who has experience with insurance lawsuits.
Another place to find an insurance lawyer is through the American Bar Association’s list of state bar associations. You can also check with your employer to see if they offer legal assistance benefits — many do through their employee assistance programs.
How much does an insurance lawyer cost?
Insurance lawyers typically get paid on a contingency basis, meaning they may take anywhere from 20% to 45% of the claim settlement, depending on if the case is resolved in litigation or court. If you already have a fair settlement offer, you could end up costing yourself some of your payout if you hire a lawyer.
This is why before hiring an attorney, you should determine if it makes financial sense. You may have to pay a consultation fee for your first meeting with an attorney and, as we mentioned, they could take a cut of your claim settlement if you do win. States have different laws and regulations when it comes to property insurance, so your home state may also be a factor on whether or not you have a viable lawsuit.
Steps to take before hiring a lawyer for a home insurance claim
We recommend exhausting all other options before suing your insurance company, since it can lead to expensive legal bills whether you win the lawsuit or not.
Here are a few steps to consider taking before getting lawyers involved:
1. Talk to your insurance agent or claims adjuster
If you aren’t satisfied with your claim settlement and believe you are owed more, try talking to your insurance representative about it. You can also negotiate with the claims adjuster and provide more evidence of the property loss. The more evidence you have, the better — so be sure to report any witnesses or photos of the damage.
2. Speak with the claims department of the insurance company
You may also want to consider taking your claim dispute to the claims department of your insurance company. You should provide them with evidence of your complaint and the issues you're having with the adjuster or settlement offer.
3. Hire a public adjuster and independent contractors
Public adjusters work independently or for a third party, so they don’t have any ties to insurance companies. If you believe you were low-balled by the claims adjuster your insurer sent, consider hiring your own public adjuster. You may also want to hire your own contractor to get a second opinion on the cost of repairs.
4. Contact your state department of insurance
Every state has a department of insurance (DOI). You can file a consumer complaint through your state’s DOI website or over the phone. A representative will investigate your complaint and help resolve the issue between you and the insurance company.