OLD AND NEW DAMAGE
My clients often find themselves in the difficult predicament of finding new wind or hail damage, but the insurance company calls it old damage that is not covered. What to do? Does the existence of old hail or wind damage result in no coverage for the new damage?
New Damage Intermingled with Old Damage
The existence of old damage should not, standing alone, result in no coverage for new damage. An insurance policy covers all damage occurring within the policy period. If the new damage is intermingled with old damage an insurance policy ought to cover it. Said another way, I have never read an insurance policy to exclude the co-mingling of old and new damage.
Insurance companies may argue that all visible damages old damage. In that instance, the property owner should demand an insurance appraisal. An insurance appraisal is an out-of-court dispute resolution process for resolving the amount of an insured loss. I more fully described that process here. The two key questions at an appraisal will be how much of the damages old and new, and the cost to repair the new damage.
Some insurance companies refuse to appraise. The remedy for property owners is to file in court and ask a judge to compel an insurance appraisal. There is ample law and every jurisdiction where I practice to compel an appraisal.
Old Damage vs. Wear and Tear
Bear in mind that insurance policies do exclude coverage of “wear and tear”. If the only damage a property owner seeks to replace is degraded shingles there are a few insurance policies to cover that damage. However, damage to old property is covered. If it were any other way only new structures with no wear would receive insurance coverage.
Remember that insurance companies accept premiums for coverage of older property. Insurers had an opportunity to look at the property and determine whether it was worthy of coverage. Having made that determination, and having excepted premiums, there ought to be coverage for old property. When facing a “wear and tear” argument it may be useful to document what the property looked like when the insurer bound coverage. For example, an inspection report created at the time the home was bought and the insurer bound coverage can be useful to establish what the insurer knew.
Clients often ask me for advice in how to establish that visible damage is new. The answer to that question for shingles is relatively straightforward. I turn to engineering papers and weather records found online. Engineering papers establish what is old or new damage to shingles. In short, the newer the hail damage the darker the bruising appears. Newer hail damage ought to be photographed as soon as possible and in a way that shows the true color of the bruising. That will help establish the age of the damage.
Weather records are important. The larger the hail stones the greater the chance for serious damage. Government websites routinely record the size of hail in a given area. Sophisticated contractors, public adjusters and attorneys nowhere to turn for data that shows the ferocity of the storm.
Contact me if you need help establishing old and new damage.