What you need to know about freeze-up
Freeze-Up losses have become one of the most sensitive perils to process because of the wide interpretations insurance carriers are placing on the “maintenance” and “care” language listed in their policy forms.
Although there is no language that requires a policyholder to service their heating system with date specific regularity, an insurance company adjuster or their preferred mechanical vending contractor can claim that your heating system and or its components’ were not properly “maintained”, which opinion can jeopardize your coverage.
In addition, “reasonable care” can play the same roll in denying claims if an insurance adjuster feels that you failed to exercise “reasonable care” of your dwelling when leaving for “extended periods”, which term is also undefined in an insurance policy. The decision to deny a devastating freeze up claim can be decided by insurance claims adjuster based on his interpretation of your statements. During sub 0 weather conditions many carrier adjusters believe that an “extended period” could be a weekend away.
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SHOULD YOU DRAIN YOUR WATER SYSTEMS
Some insurance policies require you to drain your plumbing system during an “extended absents”, however in cases where your property is heated with steam or hot water baseboard (Radiant Heating), it is not possible to drain your plumbing system as doing so could subject your building and or personal property to damages from deep freezing, not to mention the fact that it could take several days to warm your building (walls, floors, ceilings & contents) for habitability.
BOILER WATER PRESSURE
In addition, all boiler systems (open & closed) require water pressure (usually a regulated feed from a heated water source such as a domestic hot water heater) in order to maintain the system. With this type of system a water main cannot be shut down.
Water damage can go undetected while you are away at work for the day, or for weeks while on vacation. Repeated thawing and refreezing of pipes day and night can render multiple avenues for water to travel throughout your structure on multiple levels soaking both building materials as well as personal and or business property.
When a freeze-up occurs it may affect many items in your home including but not limited to computer hard drives, canned and bottled foods and damages to your appliances and clothing just to mention a few contents.
REPORTING PIT FALLS
There are many serious pitfalls policyholders encounter when placing freeze-up claims. Written and implied exclusions may come into play depending on the first report a policyholder files with its carrier.
AMBIGUITY, SPECULATION & INTERPRETATIONS
Answering ambiguous questions and or speculating can produce a multitude of possibilities for excluding your coverage’s. In an effort to stem payouts carriers have changed the landscape of insurance settlements by expanding exclusionary clauses to include never before interpretations of policy language.
In years past the term “failing to maintain heat” meant running out of oil or an interruption of utility services due to a nonpayment a/k/a “turn off” of utility services.
Carriers are now using the same language to exclude hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for claimants who failed to service their heating systems. As you may already know insurance carriers retain the services of large engineering firms to write in-depth reports to unjustly deny covered claims, which reports have been a subject of recent FBI fraud investigations.
GUILT TRIP SETTLEMENTS
Although there is no requirement, carriers fault policyholders for failing to maintain what they or their vendors decide should have been reasonable care to prevent a freeze-up. Even though there is no contractual requirement, after a freeze up loss carrier insurance adjusters guilt trip policyholders into believing that they should have had a family member, friend or neighbor regularly check in on your property while you are away and they usually use the policies broad interpretation of the reasonable care clause. This flawed theory puts policyholders on edge (a guilt trip) and it is meant to imply negligence on the policyholder’s part in order to give the carrier the upper hand during settlement negotiations. Many clients tell us that their carrier’s adjuster made them feel as though they did something wrong when in actuality, they didn’t.
CATASTROPHIC FREEZE UPS PERIODS
During multi-state catastrophic freezing events when it is nearly impossible to find restoration firms to perform emergency services, carriers routinely deny resulting mold claims citing policyholders failure to timely mitigate their water damages. We can help.
GETTING HELP FOR ALL OF YOUR NEEDS
One of the benefits to having a public adjuster is that most are affiliated with restoration cleaning service companies who assist public adjusters and their clients. Using your carrier’s restoration vendors may spell problems as they tend to clean your damaged items rather recommend replacing them.
ENRICHING THE VENDOR
Needlessly cleaning only enriches the carrier’s restoration vendor, cuts into your content insurance money while saving your carrier from paying you to replace your damaged property. In any event you should hold your insurance and or public adjuster responsible for the vendors they recommend to you.
Don’t wait until you have a problem with your carrier, protect yourself with proper representation.