Weather Related Damage

Now that spring is here, the possibility of severe weather is a constant threat.  Here in the south we have just gotten through three severe storm episodes in the last two weeks.  With the severe storms come the storm claims.  It should be noted that whenever a claim is submitted to a carrier, the damage has to be weather related.  In other words, the cause of the damage has to be connectable to the resulting damage.  Although this point might seem obvious, there are those people that don’t realize what this statement means.  Just because your a/c goes out after several days of rain doesn’t mean that it was struck by lightning.  Unless lightning is proven to have been present when the failure occurred (and it is possible), the failure was most likely caused by something else.  We recently investigated an instance where a homeowner claimed that his heat pump expired as a result of ice that formed during a winter storm in February.  Upon further investigation, it was determined that the breakers that controlled power to the heating side of the unit were old and worn to the point where nuisance tripping was occurring.  As a result, the unit would not operate for more than a few minutes before shutting down.  The condition of the breakers is shown in the photograph below.  It is also understood that not everyone can be their own technician but, remember, if your claim is submitted on the basis of weather damage, the damage has to be seen as sudden and accidental.  But, more importantly, the damage has to be “connectable” to the damage causing event.  It is further suggested that when a weather related incident is encountered, it is documented as thoroughly as possible. Examples of documentation include taking photographs of ice crushing pipes, burn marks left behind after a lightning strike, wind tearing off roofing shingles, flood water level marks left on walls.  Remember to make notes and document all conversations with people involved as well.        

Cracked and Worn Breakers

Gas Logs and Soot Damage

This is a subject that I have blogged about in the past.  Gas log sets are very popular with homeowners and tend to create or add to a warm atmosphere when used.  However, soot damage is continuing to occur because manufacturers continue to build log sets that burn natural gas or propane incompletely.  That is, unburned carbon is escaping in the combustion gases and settling on walls, ceilings, furniture, clothing and anything else that happens to present a cool surface.  The science of combustion of gaseous fuels is well known and by no means new technology.  It has long been recognized that a blue flame is indicative of the closest to complete combustion that can be achieved.  The secret is mixing enough air with the fuel to obtain the correct mixture.  When the correct mixture is obtained, a blue flame results.  In contrast, flames with yellow tips or long yellow flames are indicators of incomplete combustion.  These are the flames that produce unburned carbon that ultimately settles on various surfaces as soot.  There is nothing that a homeowner can do to change the burning characteristics of a log set as the appearance is an inherent design.  If the log set is installed in a ventless fireplace, 100% of the products of combustion will enter the living space.  As a result, all of the soot produced will also enter whatever space the set faces.  If the set is installed in a fireplace with a chimney, then it is possible to control the ventilation of the gases by opening the chimney damper and allowing the gases to escape.  Instead of entering the home, soot usually travels up the chimney and settles on the walls and damper instead of the interior.

If you are unlucky enough to have soot damage, I recommend doing the following: first, take plenty of pictures of the places where soot has been deposited.  It is possible that you might be called upon to prove that soot damaged specific belongings.  Second, notify your insurance carrier.  Homeowners policies usually give policyholders a toll-free telephone number to call in the event that a claim has to be filed.  If you can’t find the number, call your insurance agent.  Your agent also has access to the insurance carrier and can report the claim or tell you what to do.  Third, start making a list of the damaged items.  The adjuster that will be assigned to your case will need to have an itemized list of damages so that they can begin to prepare estimates for those things that can be repaired or will have to be replaced.  Fourth, be prepared to have the gas logs set become the center of controversy.  Your carrier will most likely want to have the set examined by an engineer in order to establish a product defect.  The manufacturer also has the right to examine the set.  In doing so, both sides will have questions and will want access to your home and specifically, the area where the set was located.  Both sides will need documentation in the form of the owner’s manual, purchase invoice, and the metal identification plate that comes with the log set and is NOT supposed to be removed.  Fifth, the log set will become evidence and must be preserved as such.  The engineer hired by your carrier will want to take possession of the log set and place it in storage in anticipation of further examination or for use in court, if the need arises.  Sixth, cases can take months if not years to settle.  So, don’t expect to get the log set back anytime soon after it is taken.  Seventh, if you replace the set with another gas log set, remember that the possibility of soot damage returns again.  The only way to minimize the possibility of soot damage is to limit usage times to short periods or stop using the set altogether.

 

How do you tell if your transmission was damaged in an accident?

Earlier this year, we were asked to examine a vehicle that was involved in a two vehicle accident and make a determination of the condition of the transmission pre-impact. The vehicle that was involved was a 2008 Buick Enclave that had already been repaired by the owner’s insurance carrier. The issue of the condition of the transmission arose after the vehicle had been returned to the owner and the owner subsequently drove the vehicle an additional 3100 miles. The transmission became noisy and then failed to move the vehicle after being placed in “Drive”. While investigating this incident, it was learned that the vehicle had been taken to a Valvoline Instant Oil Change Center where all the fluid levels were checked and documented. The transmission was found to have been “full” shortly before the accident occurred.   It was further learned from the body shop that repaired the vehicle that no transmission fluid came out of the transmission fluid cooler lines when the cooler and radiator were removed for replacement – the fluid level was already “low” when the vehicle arrived at the shop. Furthermore, after the new cooler and radiator were installed, no transmission fluid was added before the vehicle was returned to the owner. The vehicle left the body shop with the transmission at some fluid level below “full”. Normal wear and tear on a transmission is a very gradual process. The speed of the wear process is increased when the transmission is forced to operate without lubrication, which is the purpose of the transmission fluid. However, when there is documentation of the fluid level, the process of determining transmission condition becomes a lot easier. The damage to the transmission most likely occurred as a result the accident. The transmission was leaking fluid after the vehicle was returned to the owner.

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