A church in San Jose recently recovered a precious crucifix from the fire-damaged building, even though nearly everything else around it—included the building itself—was heavily damaged or lost. Although the unexpected recovery of the sacred object is considered a blessing by parishioners and church leaders, the church sadly lost many other treasures and items significant to the congregation in the blaze. Unfortunately, many churches sustain devastating damages after fires that affect property with sacred, historic, or artistic value. While some items may be miraculously recovered once the fire has been put out and cleanup begins, many places of worship are forced to face the reality that all of their congregation’s treasures have been destroyed.
Fires Create Questions About Insurance Coverage of Precious Property
While many places of worship have insurance coverage to help pay for the costs of a serious fire, coverage for some church treasures—such as pipe organs, artworks, stained-glass windows, sculptures, and more—can be disappointing. These kinds of claims can represent huge costs for repair or replacement, and they are sometimes fraught with challenges, such as:
- Differences in how some precious items are covered. Some of the most treasured features of a church are sometimes a part of the building itself, but the insurance coverage may treat it no differently than any other property. This can become an issue when items like pipe organs or historic flooring materials are destroyed, and the settlement only includes the costs of removing it or replacing it with new materials.
- Changes in value over time that don’t match policy coverage. Artworks and other treasures can change in value over time, and this can be a problem when policyholders don’t adjust their coverage accordingly before a blaze.
- Questions of replacement and repair of unique and valuable property. When a precious feature is destroyed, insurance companies may only pay for repairs rather than the full cost of replacement. For example, if a fire destroys stained-glass windows, the policy may only cover the costs of filling it in with plain glass or bricks.
- Staggering costs of removal and restoration. The Holy Cross Catholic Church in San Jose was able to recover its crucifix thanks to the assistance of highly trained rescue crews using ropes and a fire-engine ladder to life the object from the charred remains of the building. However, some church policyholders don’t have access to the help or resources to salvage precious items.
Settling Disputes With the Insurance Company After Fire Damage to Precious Church Property
While you can’t force the insurance company to cover losses that aren’t covered under the terms of your policy, you can maximize your claim and demand fair payment for losses of significance after a devastating fire. If you are having trouble recovering the full costs of fire-damaged church property, or if you are stuck in a disagreement over the terms of your coverage, don’t hesitate to reach out to our office today for immediate help and a free review of your concerns.