Q

Do I need a lawyer for a home insurance claim?

A

You don’t need to hire a lawyer to file a homeowners insurance claim. You may want to consult a lawyer if your claim was denied, but most claim disputes can be handled between the insurance company and the policyholder.

Kara McGinley

By

Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Property and Casualty Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is an insurance editor at Policygenius, specializing in home, auto, and renters insurance. She's been writing about insurance since 2019, and her work and insights have been referenced in Kiplinger and WRAL.com.

Published February 22, 2021|4 min read

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Homeowners insurance claim satisfaction rates reached a record high in 2020, with over 88% of homeowners reporting feeling “satisfied” with how their insurance company handled their claim, according to the 2020 Property Claims Satisfaction Study by J.D. Power.

You do not need to hire a lawyer to file a standard homeowners insurance claim. When you file a claim, you work with the insurance company and a claims adjuster, who will assess the property damage and determine how much you’re owed. If you feel you’re owed more from the insurance company than their initial offer, you can negotiate directly with the claims adjuster or insurance company for a higher payout.

You may want to consult a lawyer if you’re filing a complex or expensive claim, because the lawyer may be able to advise you on what negotiations to expect before you speak with the insurer. If an insurer rejects your claim, an attorney may be able to help you appeal the claim denial. However, lawyers can be expensive and many claims disputes can be handled between the insurance company and the policyholder. There are measures you can take before hiring a lawyer too, like contacting your state’s department of insurance.

Key Takeaways

  • You don’t need to hire a lawyer to file a standard homeowners insurance claim

  • If you aren’t happy with the claim settlement, try negotiating with your claims adjuster or hiring your own public adjuster to get a second opinion on the price of repairs

  • Most insurance lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning anywhere from 20% to 45% of the claim settlement may go to them

  • There are steps you can take before filing a lawsuit against your insurer, like contacting their claims department or filing a complaint with your state’s department of insurance

When should I hire a lawyer for a home insurance claim?

You typically do not need to consult with a lawyer when filing a standard homeowners insurance claim. When you file a claim for property loss, insurance companies send a claims adjuster to your home to survey the damage. The claims adjuster consults with builders and contractors to determine the cost of repairs, and then consults with the insurance company on the payout.

If you think your settlement is too low, you can negotiate with the insurance company. Most times, insurance companies and homeowners are able to come to an agreement on the claim settlement.

However, there are a few other instances when consulting an attorney may be a smart option.

  • If the claim is expensive or complex. A lawyer may be able to give you tips before you negotiate with your insurance company. They may review your policy and advise you on what to keep in mind when negotiating the settlement.

  • If it takes an excessive amount of time to receive a payout. Depending on what state you live in, insurers may be required to settle your claim within a certain timeframe.

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.

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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.

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.

It’s important to note that consulting with an attorney is different from filing a lawsuit and suing your insurance company. You may be able to pay a one time consultation fee to ask for advice on your claim denial without filing a lawsuit.

Steps to take before hiring a lawyer for a home insurance claim

You should exhaust all other options before suing your insurance company — suing your insurer could result in expensive legal bills whether you win the lawsuit or not. There are a few steps you should 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 to the claims adjuster.

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.

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. 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.

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