Personal Injury

Be proactive when it comes to home insurance: Haté

By Tony Poland, AdvocateDaily.com Associate Editor

Failing to properly insure your home, or not knowing what’s covered when making a claim, can be costly mistakes, says Toronto personal injury lawyer Rohan Haté.

Haté, a partner with McPhadden Samac Tuovi Haté LLP, says he has dealt with insurance claims where homeowners could have come out with limited or no coverage if they hadn’t consulted a lawyer.

“I had one water damage case recently concerning a cottage up north that was situated close to a lake. They had an endorsement for water coverage, and despite that, the insurance company denied the claim,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“Unless a lawyer gets involved, the insurance company is likely not going to change its decision and pay for the damage.”

Haté says in his case, the homeowners claim was being denied because of an exclusion in the coverage.

“Exclusions are not meant to be read broadly,” he says. “Anytime there’s ambiguity in an insurance contract, the benefit of the doubt goes to the insured, and the insured often doesn’t know that.”

Haté says homeowners may “sometimes just throw up their hands and say, ‘Well, the insurance company denied me,’” and accept it. But that can be shortsighted, he says.

“The insurance company generally sends out its own contractor to assess the damage, who will send a report back to the insurance company, and many times that report is undervalued,” Haté says. “If you had someone give an opinion or counterposition, you might actually get the appropriate value of what the damage is to your property.”

Haté says it’s important to remember that the people assessing the damage to your home may be independent contractors, but they rely on the insurance company for future work.

“In many cases, they’re going to provide a quote that the insurance company is going to be OK with,” he says.

Haté says if problems arise with a claim, it’s not always because of something the insurance company did.

“You’re trusting your insurance company, but you’re also trusting that your broker will properly advise you about the coverage you need,” he says. “I’ve dealt with many insurance company denials, but if your broker didn’t properly inform you about coverages and exclusions in your policy, you may have a claim against that broker.”

He recommends doing your homework before committing to a policy.

“Understand what your deductible is and what kind of exclusions there are, and also determine what the common risks are in the area where you’re purchasing your home,” Haté says.

If, for example, the area where you live has a history of sewer backups, you may need extra coverage tailored to that, he says.

Haté says if your home has been damaged and you need to file a claim, you should contact your broker and submit a proof of loss to the insurance company.

“Allow the insurance company to do the investigation, but you should consider an independent review of the damages,” he says. “Keep in mind that you should consult with a lawyer as soon as you hear from the insurance company that they’re not covering the damage. Don’t sit on your rights.

“It’s still worth legal consultation for peace of mind when you’re dealing with serious damage to your house.”

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