Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About The Insurance Claim Process
Do you have questions about commercial and business insurance litigation, business claims law, bad faith insurance litigation, industrial insurance claims litigation, condominium insurance claims, church claims, apartment claims, first party bad faith insurance claims, and marine insurance claims? To discuss your case, contact The Voss Law Firm, P.C. toll free at 888-614-7730.
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What can I do if my claim for marine wind damage has been denied due to “poor maintenance?”
Windstorms can cause a number of unpredictable damages to boats and marine property, and marine policyholders could be left to file claims for losses that range from minor cosmetic issues to extreme and costly repairs. Unfortunately, they are not always able to be successful with their claims on their own—and they may even be blamed for the damages from the storm.
Two Steps to Take If Your Lack of Maintenance Is Being Blamed for Windstorm Damage
If you’ve honestly taken poor care of the vessels and marine property you own, then your claim may be legitimately denied—but what happens when you feel certain you were vigilant in maintaining your property? While many insurance companies may be willing to play by the rules, there are some insurance companies that deny legitimate claims of wind damage and blame the policyholder for overlooking reasonable maintenance of the vessel. And, while it can be very difficult to push through these kinds of unfair tactics and get the coverage your marine business pays for, it is possible.
Here are two steps you can take if an insurance company is denying a marine property damage claim due to unfair accusations of poor maintenance:
- Get an independent assessment. Although the insurance company may have sent teams to investigate and assess your windstorm damages, it’s worth hiring a team of your own if you’ve run into disputes over the cause and extent of losses. By working with a qualified contractor of your own choosing, you can make sure that all problems and potential causes have been thoroughly investigated and documented.
- Contact an insurance litigation attorney. Running into disputes over marine insurance claims can make recovery from a windstorm more complicated than it needs to be, but you can get real answers about your policyholder rights and unfair claim denials. By getting into contact with an experienced insurance litigation attorney, you can make sure that you are maximizing your claim and protecting yourself from potential tricks and traps.
Ultimately, it is up to you to get informed and get the help you need with a claim dispute. For more information about insurance claims for boats and marine businesses, request your free copy of our book, Your Basic Guide to Marine Insurance. You can also contact our legal team directly by taking advantage of the Live Chat button on this page.
How can my small marine business push for a fair outcome after an insurance claim for losses has been denied?
If you’ve been trying to resolve a claim for losses under your marine insurance policy and just can’t come to a resolution that works for you, it’s worth reaching out to an experienced policyholder attorney to review your case. Every marine business has different needs and different coverage, and marine insurance policies can be very complicated. When you start running into additional complications like denials, delays, or insufficient offers, it’s time to bring in a legal professional who has experience with these kinds of claims and can effectively protect your interests.
While you may feel that it’s obvious that your claim is legitimate or worth more than the adjuster has offered, even legitimate claims can be a struggle to resolve successfully. A skilled policyholder attorney can lend additional leverage to your claim when the going gets complicated, and he or she can help you take the steps to maximize your claim, support your case, and reverse an unfair denial under your marine insurance coverage. The insurance company has a team of highly trained legal professionals working on your claim, and the best way to navigate challenges is to hire a highly experienced legal team that can work on the side of your marine business.
You can avoid serious mistakes, delays, denials, and traps by arming yourself with information and insider tips for handling insurance claims. Start learning more today by requesting your free copy of our book, Your Basic Guide to Marine Insurance, or contact our policyholder attorneys directly for personalized help with your questions and concerns.
Should I sign a confidentiality agreement from the insurance company after a marine loss?
In many cases, signing a non-disclosure agreement could unnecessarily complicate your marine insurance claim. Without knowing more about the details of your insurance coverage and losses, it’s difficult to provide accurate and useful guidance on these matters. However, if you have any doubts about signing any kind of document related to a marine insurance claim, it is always appropriate to consult with an experienced policyholder attorney. An attorney can help you carefully review:
- Non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements. Before you sign a non-disclosure agreement, realize that doing so could limit your leverage later on and weaken your marine insurance claim.
- Settlement offers. Before you accept a payment from the insurance company, make sure that you know what your claim is worth, what it will take to recover fully from your marine losses, and that you are taking full advantage of your coverage.
- Any document you don’t fully understand. Marine insurance is complicated even for those in the industry, and it helps to bring in a professional legal team to review any insurance-related documents for accuracy, effectiveness, and any potential limitations of your negotiating power.
It can be difficult to work toward a full recovery after a marine loss when you face delays, complications, and mistakes with your claim. For answers to your questions and help negotiating your claim, request your free copy of our book, Your Basic Guide to Marine Insurance, or reach out to our team for immediate, one-on-one assistance with your concerns.
What documents will I need to file a marine insurance claim for damage to a vessel?
There are a number of documents and records that will be necessary for filing a marine insurance claim for damage to a vessel, and we strongly recommend that you consult with a professional legal team if you have any questions about what you will need in order to successfully file a claim. Every claim is different, and having experienced legal support at your disposal can speed up the claims process and ensure that costly mistakes are avoided.
In general, however, you should start getting prepared for your insurance claim by gathering:
- A copy of your marine insurance policy
- Copies of all paperwork related to the vessel and claim, including the Bill of Lading, the copy of protest, the certificate of survey, and the letter of subrogation
- Photographs of damage to the vessel or equipment
- Photographs of damaged or incomplete cargo
- Copies of any other communication regarding the incident and losses
- Photographs, evidence, and other documentation
Once you’ve gathered this information, share it with the attorney who is handling your claim for offshore losses. An experienced legal professional can help you organize your documentation, rectify any missing documentation, and navigate the process of filing your marine insurance claim.
For more information from our legal team, request your free copy of our book, Your Basic Guide to Marine Insurance Claims, which is designed to help you understand and navigate your marine insurance coverage and avoid common mistakes and delays.
What is general average as it pertains to maritime law?
General average is a long-time maritime law concept that splits the losses of a vessel between all invested parties equally—under certain circumstances.
More specifically, if a captain must jettison or destroy some of the cargo aboard his or her ship in order to secure the safety of the vessel, the crew, and the remaining cargo, it does not matter who the damaged or destroyed cargo belonged to specifically. Instead, everyone involved with the ship would pay for the losses equally.
For example, if a vessel must jettison cargo to prevent capsizing, it is important that the crew works immediately and quickly to throw cargo overboard in order to protect the ship, save the crew, and save the remaining cargo. They should not need to stop and consider whose cargo they are jettisoning. Because the jettisoned cargo saved the remaining cargo as well as the ship, it is sensible that all cargo owners make up for the lost cargo equally.
Is there ever a time when general average is not used?
There are some cases in which general average is not used. For example, if someone is directly at fault for the damaged or lost cargo, they may be held fully responsible for the expenses in some cases. In addition, if an accident at sea or a delay causes an indirect loss, the law of general average is not used. Finally, general average is not used if the ship is never in direct peril or if the loss of the cargo does not save the ship from peril.
Do you have a question about a general average claim or another maritime claim involving lost or damaged cargo? Call the Voss Law Firm today to speak with one of our attorneys: 888-614-7730.
How does the issue of cargo accumulation affect marine insurance?
Cargo accumulation is a new trend in the shipping industry. Ships are getting bigger, storage facilities are getting bigger, and more containers are being moved and kept in fewer places. Although cargo accumulation can mean saving money in some ways, it is also leading to catastrophic losses when something goes wrong. A damaged ship, a fire, or a delayed shipment could mean the loss of a significant amount of cargo.
When shipping large amounts of cargo at one time, shippers are putting lots of eggs in one basket. When a loss event takes place, companies stand to lose millions in one fell swoop.
While many companies believe that their marine insurance protects them from cargo losses, not everyone understands that cargo accumulation has taken place only in recent years. Insurance coverage has not grown as quickly as the boats have. If a catastrophe takes out a large amount of cargo, it is possible that your insurance policy won’t cover 100 percent of your losses.
How can you protect against these issues? Prevention comes in two different strategies. First, be sure that you have enough insurance coverage for the business you are doing. Although it may be painful to pay higher premiums, protecting against a large loss event is vital. Secondly, consider the dangers that come with cargo accumulation: are you taking too many risks with your cargo? Are you trying to move or store too much at once?
Marine insurance is only getting more complex as the shipping industry grows and changes. Having a knowledgeable, experienced Texas marine insurance attorney at your side could greatly help when you need to understand your policy or file a claim. To speak with a lawyer at the Voss Law Firm today, call our team and schedule a free, private meeting: 888-614-7730.
What is a bill of lading, as it relates to marine insurance and the COGSA defenses?
If you are dealing with a marine insurance claim, the subject of a bill of lading may have come up. A bill of lading is issued by carriers who use any and all modes of transportation, not just those that transport goods by sea. It is a document that serves as a confirmation of the receipt of goods on the part of the master or owner. It is the proof of shipment that includes the details of where everything came from, where it needs to go, and who is responsible for sending and receiving. Additionally, it serves as the proof of a contractual obligation on the part of both parties. The bill of lading also gives the title of the goods to the consignee on the bill. If anything happens to the cargo during shipment, the bill of lading may be extremely helpful in proving fault, if any.
Any bill of lading for transportation of goods by sea to and from U.S. ports in foreign trade must include a “clause paramount.” The clause paramount states which country’s legislation is invoked for the shipment. Each country has its own maritime laws. When goods are shipped internationally, it is important to which laws are being followed. The clause paramount for U.S. shipments can use the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA).
One thing is for certain: dealing with a marine insurance claim is no easy task. There are many laws and regulations you may not be aware of that can result in a big headache, and even a denied claim. If you have suffered a loss at sea, contact the Texas marine insurance litigation attorneys at The Voss Law Firm, P.C. at 888-614-7730. You can also download a free copy of our book, Your Basic Guide to Marine Insurance.
What are the 17 Hague/COGSA defenses?
The Hague/COGSA Act was developed to protect vessel owners against legal liability to shippers for circumstances out of their control. It was conceived during the post World War I era when vessel owners had little jurisdiction over their ships once they left port. COGSA, the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, limits vessel owner’s liabilities to US$500 per shipping unit. It also relieves all their liability to shippers in 17 situations known as the Hague/COGSA Defenses. This means shippers have no legal recourse against vessel owners when their goods are lost or damaged by these 17 causes.
The 17 Hague/COGSA Defenses
Neither the carrier nor the ship shall be responsible for loss or damage arising or resulting from:
- Act, neglect, or default of the master, mariner, pilot, or the servants of the carrier in the navigation or in the management of the ship;
- Fire, unless caused by the actual fault or privity of the carrier;
- Perils, danger, and accidents of the sea or of other navigable waters;
- Act of God;
- Act of war;
- Act of public enemies;
- Arrest or restraint of princes, rulers, or people or seizure under legal process;
- Quarantine restrictions;
- Act or omission of the shipper or owner of the goods, his agent or representative;
- Strikers, lockouts, stoppage or restraint of labor from whatever cause, whether partial or general: Provided that nothing herein contained shall be construed to relieve a carrier from responsibility for the carrier’s own acts;
- Riots and civil commotions;
- Saving or attempting to save life or property at sea;
- Wastage in bulk or weight or any other loss or damage arising from inherent defect, quality, or vice of the goods;
- Insufficiency of packaging;
- Insufficiency or inadequacy of marks;
- Latent defects not discoverable by due diligence; or
- Any other cause arising without the actual fault and privity of the carrier without the fault or neglect of the agents or servants of the carrier, but the burden of proof shall be on the person claiming the benefit of this exception to show that neither the actual fault or privity of the carrier nor the fault or neglect of the agents or servants of the carrier contributed to the loss or damage.
How do I make a marine insurance claim?
(A) SUBSTANTIATE YOUR CLAIM
A vital component of claims procedures is substantiating of the claim. The consignee must prove the claim was caused as a result of transit and occurred during the period of insurance coverage. Generally, follow the steps below to substantiate a claim.
1. EXAMINE EXTERNAL CONDITION OF PACKAGES: Upon delivery, examine the external condition of all packages before signing the delivery receipt. This may seem impossible with today’s business pace as it can delay trucks and cargo elevators. The trucking companies may charge you a minimal fee for the delay. However, when you thoroughly examine packages and note damage on delivery receipts, you protect your rights of recovery and minimize your losses.
2. NOTE EXCEPTIONS ON DELIVERY RECEIPT: All steamship companies, airlines, railways, trucking companies and harbor authorities must obtain a signature on a delivery receipt from the person or company taking delivery of cargo. All delivery receipts contain a clause stating the cargo was delivered in apparent good condition unless noted to the contrary. If your receiving department or cartage company signs a delivery receipt without noting damage, your coverage is at risk. By signing the delivery receipt without noting damage, you have legally acknowledged receiving the goods in “apparent good condition”. This destroys your chance to prove the goods were damaged before arriving at your premises and also destroys the chance that your insurance company will successfully recover the loss from the carrier. By signing the delivery receipt without noting damage, you are providing the carrier with a clean receipt.
It is important to note some tactics trucking companies may use to obtain clean receipts from you. They may try to convince you to sign for a visibly damaged package by saying it had been “opened by Customs”. Also, they may attempt to convince you a damaged package was signed for from the wharf or last carrier in damaged condition. You should not accept these claims until you have determined the goods are in proper condition. Remember, the consignee is sole judge in deciding how the packages appear and how they should be signed for. If delivery carriers attempt to prevent you from noting their delivery receipt, you should advise the trucker to hold the merchandise.
On future shipments, you should request your insurance company to send a surveyor to inspect the shipment on the trucker’s vehicle. Also, you should refuse a carrier if he/she suggests you sign for damaged packages “subject to inspection”. This notation does not imply that the package is damaged, and it becomes the responsibility of the consignee to prove when it occurred.
Finally, there is another reason not to sign for damaged packages. In the event your loss is not insured, signing for the damaged goods in “apparent good condition” jeopardizes your own rights to recover your loss from the carrier.
3. RECORD NUMBERS OF PACKAGES: When noting delivery receipts, record all case numbers that appear damaged. It is not enough to indicate “Five Cases Damaged” on the receipt.
You must record the numbers appearing on each case. For example: “Case #5, #6, #7 and #12 are in damaged condition”.
(B) DOCUMENTING THE CLAIM PLACES ALL CARRIERS ON NOTICE
Along with noting delivery receipts, it is vital to place all carriers “on notice” in the event of a claim.
The Voss Law Firm, P.C. represents clients on a local, national and international basis. We proudly serve companies and individuals along the Gulf Coast and around the globe on a contingency fee basis. Our law firm collects nothing unless we recover on our client's behalf.