Should I pursue litigation in homeowner’s claim?


Hi all-

Earlier this year I noticed damage to my roof. Per the recommendation of my State Farm rep I called a roofer who came out and told me that I have hail damage. There was a storm that came through here late last year and I did see hail, but didn’t notice any damage to my roof at the time. Of course…

If this happened during the storm you believe it did, what else got damaged? Your car would have dents all over it. There’d be damage to other structures on the property. Hail tears apart plants and trees, too. The damage would not have been confined to just the roof of your house.

If nothing else was damaged, then the damage probably didn’t happen when you think it did. Sorry.

EDIT NOTE: Did you keep any records of any expenses you incurred with the cleanup or did you take photos? If not you have a major uphill battle to prove your case. Getting Farmer’s claims records showing that the roof was repaired could help.

Here’s what I’d want to know: Did State Farm pull a CLUE report that proves that the prior owner of that house had filed a hail damage claim, back before you bought it? There IS a central clearinghouse, and it’s very, VERY easy to tell if an insured actually did the repairs or not – by whether they ever filed for the ‘recoverable depreciation’. Or, heck, if the roof is only two years old.

Your home inspector probably isn’t as “good” as a roofer, at identifying hail damage. Most of them flat out don’t go up on the roof.

Here in the USA, you can hire that attorney (it will probably cost you more than the price of a new roof), and sue anyone you want. The question is, will you win. You’d need a CIVIL attorney, not a real estate attorney. And you won’t get ANY attorney to take this kind of case on a “no win no fee” basis.

It’s going to be pretty darned easy for the insurance company to “prove” that there was a claim prior to November 2009 that was NOT repaired, unless you can produce a receipt, or an obviously brand new roof on your house. If it were me, I’d ask the agent to get a copy of the CLUE report from when you bought the house, to see if there IS a prior damage claim on the property. If there is – don’t waste your money hiring that attorney, an insurance company ALREADY paid for the claim from that damage. State Farm doesn’t have to pay it a second time, the prior owner took the money already. Theoretically, you’d have a case to sue your home inspector, but most of the time those contracts state that just because he didn’t notice anything, doesn’t mean he can be held responsible for damage he didn’t notice.

If there isn’t, the burden of proof will STILL be on you, the plaintiff, to prove that the damage occurred AFTER you bought the house. And yes, the local weather service DOES send data on a daily basis, to a “clearinghouse” where weather can be checked. With NO data on that date showing any kind of storm activity . . . let alone hail . . . it’s going to be an uphill battle for you.

I’d bet dollars to donuts, the claim is prior to the purchase of your house, the old owner collected, and didn’t disclose the damage to you when you bought the house.

It is very rare for their to be hail damage to only one house. If there was hail damage, then there should be hail damage to enough other houses to show that there was hail in the neighborhood and that the weather report was wrong.

However, the real problem here is not the weather data, the age of the damage, or any of the other issues you mentioned. An insurance claim has to be for a specific incident that caused damaged, on a specific date, and has to be filed recently. “Late last year” is not precise enough. You are going to need to pinpoint when the hail was (perhaps by asking neighbors who also have damaged and filed claims when it happened). And, even if there has hail damage, it might be too late to claim it now.

My thought – if you didn’t notice the damage for a month, two or more, it’s got to be pretty minor damage. It’s probably cheaper to just fix it, than pay the deductible anyway.

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