Obtaining a Homeowners’ Insurance Claims File Can be Difficult
When your homeowners’ insurance company denies your claim, you most likely will have to file a lawsuit to recover. Like any lawsuit, winning a homeowners’ insurance trial means getting the proper evidence that is needed before the trial. Unfortunately, too many insurance companies deny or lowball the claim, and then try to stonewall in providing discovery.
The Discovery Process
Discovery is the process where both parties exchange information about their case. The Plaintiff (the homeowner) will disclose whatever documents, statements or information he or she has, and the insurance company is required to do the same.
Parties only have to turn over whatever is requested by the other side. In many cases, homeowners’ insurance companies fight requests for their information by objecting that it is privileged and, thus, not discoverable.
The Claims File and Work Product
Common sense dictates that in a typical homeowners’ case that the claims file would be something the homeowner would want to obtain to prepare for trial. The claims file would have the company’s notes, information from the adjuster, and explanations as to why the company decided to deny or under value the claim.
But companies don’t readily hand over this information to homeowners because of a doctrine called “work product privilege.” Work product privilege protects any information that is prepared in anticipation of litigation. Work product also protects a party’s mental impressions or opinions about a lawsuit or claim.
It is the law in Florida that a claims file falls under this category and that an entire claims file is not subject to discovery. However, that does not mean that a homeowner can’t obtain necessary information.
Ask the Right Questions
A smart homeowners’ insurance attorney can ask other people, such as third-party contractors, for information or facts that may be in the claims file. Likewise, names and addresses of people who made decisions about a denied claim may be discovered.
An attorney may ask what is in a claims file without requesting its contents. For example, asking “is there a denial explanation” would be permissible even if it is not permissible to obtain the actual document with the explanation.
Anything that the insurance company intends to use at trial is not protected. Thus, an expert’s report from that expert expected to testify at trial would have to be turned over to the homeowner.
There may be documents in a claims file unrelated to the lawsuit, and thus, not prepared in anticipation of litigation. A homeowner’s initial application, policies and procedures, or other information about the relationship between the insurance company and third parties may have been produced long before the homeworker’s insurance claim was denied, and thus, is not protected.
Make sure your attorneys understand how to fight against insurance companies’ efforts to hide information. Contact the West Palm Beach homeowners’ insurance attorneys at the Celeste Law Firm today for a consultation if you are having trouble when making claims for homeowners’ insurance benefits for any repair or damage on your property.