The New Orleans Fire Department has been steadily battling a Canal Street fire that been raging since early Wednesday morning. The fire looks like it will cause the total decimation of multiple buildings in downtown New Orleans, and with it the loss of several businesses.
Along with flooding, wind, and storm damage, fire is one of the most serious perils that a property owner or lessee will face. This is because damage from a fire, much like damage from a hurricane, can completely destroy a piece of property. Unless a fire is caught very early, it will quickly ruin a home or business. And, even if the fire department is able to respond, dousing a home or business in water, while necessary to stop the fire, can cause its own share of severe damage.
Making matters worse, it is all but impossible to salvage contents after a fire. Similar to mold, smoke and ash cause irreparable damage to clothes, furniture, and other belongings.
So, if your home or business has been damaged by a fire, what can you do?
Potential Fire Damage Claims
Your best bet is to file a claim with your insurance company to have them pay for the damages that you’ve suffered. After all, this is precisely the type of situation that made you purchase homeowners or renters insurance in the first place.
But, your insurance might not be enough. For one thing, insurance companies look for any way they can find to avoid paying claims, even if they are legitimate. Doing this exposes an insurance company to a possible bad faith claim but it does little to get your damages paid quickly.
Even if your insurance does pay, you still might not have enough coverage to cover all of your losses. If you find yourself in this situation, there is still the possibility of bringing a claim against the party responsible for the fire. For example, the fire may have been caused by the negligence of an outside company who was doing maintenance work on the property.
Or, as is more often the case, the fire may have been caused by another property owner or your lessor (if you are leasing the property). Claims against property owners can be hard to prove because Louisiana law requires you to show that they knew or should have known of the dangerous condition, that the damage could’ve been prevented with “reasonable care,” and that the property owner failed to exercise that care.