Going Up in Flames: Property Owners and Fraudulent Claims

24 July 2014
Comments: Comments Off on Going Up in Flames: Property Owners and Fraudulent Claims
24 July 2014, Comments: Comments Off on Going Up in Flames: Property Owners and Fraudulent Claims

At times, it is hard to fathom how many families across Michigan are able to weather the brutal economic times we have had this past decade. For many families, working a second or third job is not a way to supplement income, but a way to just barely make a monthly rent or mortgage payment. For some families, their folks may have had to come out of retirement to keep things afloat. One truth is certain amongst all of us Michiganders, in that these rough economic times have made us all take a long, deep look into our financial decisions and the potential repercussions they may have for ourselves and our families down the road.

Insurance fraud, mainly property insurance fraud, has been the hot crime of the past decade, which amounts to nearly $1 billion in fraud in Michigan. So, what makes a property claim “fraudulent?” Consider this most recent news article on ClickonDetroit.com featuring quotes from Criminal Defense Attorney Neil Rockind of Neil Rockind, PC. The story usually begins with some communication like barbershop shooting suspect, Larry Walker II’s, jailhouse letter addressed to his girlfriend. In that letter, Larry Walker II spells out the makings of a fraudulent claim, such as: “hiring an electrician to work some things for us” and to “make it look like the [property] caught fire from ‘electrical work’ and not arson.” According to the Insurance Institute of Michigan, over 50% of all property-related fires in Wayne County have been deemed as “suspicious arson,” causing property owners extreme grief in processing their legitimate claims for property loss!

The pressing question now for property owners is what can I do to properly make a claim in the unfortunate event of property loss? Well, the planning starts now in the unfortunate anticipation that property loss could happen in the future. First, it may behoove you to save receipts for valuables as documentary proof of “actual value.” The Michigan Supreme Court mandated in 1992 that all Michigan homeowner’s insurance policies must provide “actual cash value” of the lost property. Simply, do not leave it to chance and let the insurance companies calculate your losses. Second, making sure your property is “up to code.” It is extremely important that property owners should keep their property free of building violations, such that it would bar any claim for property-loss benefits. Third, routine inspection and maintenance of all appliances, such as: furnaces, ovens, stoves, to name a few are extremely important. Perhaps keeping a log of whom, what appliance and when the inspection last occurred or was last serviced can be the difference from your claim being deemed “suspicious.”

Many think they can make a quick buck from fooling insurance companies into paying property-loss benefits. DO NOT fall into that trap. Insurance fraud is a felony in Michigan, in which one could potentially face a prison sentence, $50,000 in fines, and mandatory restitution.

To see the full article featuring quotes from Criminal Defense Attorney Neil Rockind of Neil Rockind, PC, please see:

http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/detroit-barbershop-shooting-suspect-finds-trouble-behind-bars/27031450

By: Fahd S. Haque, Associate Attorney for Moss & Colella, P.C.