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

Buyer Beware!

Recently, we were called to investigate damage to a residential air conditioning unit. The allegation was that the unit was destroyed by fire.  Upon examining the unit, no evidence of fire was found.  That is, there was no evidence that any wiring or controls were burned and the compressor and condenser were both undamaged (as far as fire was concerned). However, during the examination of the unit, the compressor was found to have blown a terminal and caused its destruction. Most HVAC technicians will recognize this scenario. The possibility of lightning causing the damage was also explored and eliminated because there was no lightning in the area at the time of the compressor failure.  Instead of replacing the compressor, the homeowner had the entire unit replaced with a unit of greater capacity.  In doing so, the homeowner assumed that the insurance company would pay for the new installation which amounted to more than $8000.00.  Without a covered loss, the insurance company denied the homeowner’s claim leaving the homeowner to  absorb the entire cost of the new installation.   The lesson to be learned here is that you do not want to commit to a major purchase unless you can handle the expenditure if your insurer denies your claim. In this case, the cost to replace the compressor and recharge the unit would have been in the neighborhood of $1200.00 to $1500.00, which is significant lower than the new unit.

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