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If your home was built before 1975, there’s a good chance you have cast iron pipes. Unfortunately, these pipes can corrode prematurely, causing thousands of dollars in damage. When this happens, your insurance company may not be willing to pay for a valid water damage claim.
Morgan & Morgan is here to help. Below you will find answers to some frequently asked questions about cast iron pipes and pipe-related water damage. If you have more questions, or if your water damage claim was denied, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Cast Iron Pipes FAQs
What If My Insurance Company Hired an Engineer or Plumber Who Said My Cast Iron Pipes Were Not the Cause of the Damage?
We will still review your denial for free. In almost all of the cast iron pipe cases we have won, the insurance company hired an engineer or plumber who said the loss was not covered. If your case meets our criteria, we will inspect your house and your plumbing with no cost to you. If your insurance company is wrong, we will tell you how we can help.
We Are Selling Our Home and the Inspector Found Water Damage. What Should I Do?
The discovery of water damage is not always a deal-breaker. Assuming that the buyer does not want to just walk away, it should be possible to negotiate an agreement. That could mean you offer to pay for the costs to clean up the water damage and repair the source of it, or modify the sales price to reflect these costs. In this situation, the ball is completely in the buyer’s court, although your willingness to make things right could go a long way toward sealing the deal.
You should also consider having your own inspection done by someone you trust. Differences of opinion about the extent and cause of the water damage — and whether the issue could be part of a larger, ongoing issue — are highly relevant to buyer-seller negotiations.
It can also be helpful to speak with an attorney during the home sale process, especially if you knew about or suspected the water damage. Failure to disclose defects to the buyer could create a legal dispute down the road. It’s best to avoid problems later with a quick legal consultation now.
I Cleaned Up the Water Leak and Had a Plumber Make Repairs. May I Still File a Claim?
Doing leak cleanup and repairs on your property does not invalidate an insurance claim, but not promptly contacting your insurer about the leak could. Insurance policies include duties that a homeowner must perform after a loss. One of them is giving prompt notice to the insurer. You are also expected to protect the property from further damage and to make reasonable and necessary temporary repairs to protect the property.
Proactively dealing with a leak is not only within your rights — it is your responsibility. This can include hiring a plumber to address the leak’s underlying cause, as well as hiring a water extraction company to do professional cleanup. Take pictures of the leak and any damaged property and save receipts from any cleanup or repairs. More extensive repairs should be put off until the insurance company can send an adjuster to your home to take a look, but you can still get contractor estimates. Prepare an inventory of damaged or destroyed property and don’t throw anything away until the adjuster visits.
The exact meaning of “prompt notice” to your insurer has some wriggle room, but suffice it to say you should contact them as soon as possible to find out how to proceed within policy guidelines.
We encourage homeowners to speak with us before submitting a claim in order to protect their interests.
I Had a Leak More Than a Year Ago. May I Still File a Claim?
Your homeowners insurance policy specifies how long you have to file a claim. Most policies state that you must provide “prompt” notice of a property loss (or potential loss). While this term is somewhat ambiguous, prompt or timely notice can generally be understood as “reasonable” notice in light of the facts and circumstances of the loss.
There may be extenuating circumstances that prevented you from reporting the loss right away. For example, maybe you were out of town and came home to find the leak, or you found water damage in a property that you only use seasonally. But even in these instances, the policy may have a clause that allows it to deny a loss that goes unnoticed for weeks or months because the property should have been adequately monitored.
The insurance company may be more likely to forgive late reporting if it doesn’t impede their ability to investigate and assess the water damage. Pictures of the damage and receipts for professional services probably won’t be enough to secure coverage for a loss that occurred a year or more ago.
Assuming that the loss is a covered one and that the company does offer coverage, it’s also worth asking whether the loss is significant enough to warrant a claim, since claims on your policy can result in a rate hike or non-renewal. If the value of the claim is less than, or even slightly above, your policy deductible, consider swallowing the loss.
Read your policy for specific information about claims-filing deadlines and contact your insurance company with any further questions.
Who Should I Call First: a Plumber or the Insurance Company?
It depends on what the issue is. There’s no sense in contacting your insurer if there hasn’t been an actual property loss. That is, if a burst pipe, leak, backup, or some other type of plumbing system malfunction hasn’t caused any damage to your property, there’s nothing to discuss with the insurance company since they only pay for existing covered losses — not losses that may occur.
In fact, contacting the insurance company about a plumbing issue that hasn’t yet caused damage can put you in a tough position if that same issue causes a covered loss in the future.
An insurance company can deny coverage for losses that the homeowner expected or had foreknowledge of. You can’t claim that you didn’t know about a problem that results in a covered loss after you alert the insurance company to your concerns.
For concerns about an aging plumbing system, you may want to hire a plumber for a pipe inspection and consultation. Pipe replacement isn’t likely to be covered by insurance, but depending on piping age and condition, failure could be imminent and replacement necessary.
In the event of a plumbing breakage that results in water damage, first call a plumber to make repairs, then contact your insurance company about filing a claim. You have a duty to mitigate property damage and prevent further losses, and as long as you call the insurer soon after the accident occurs, you’re acting in accordance with the policy.
Not sure what you should or shouldn’t say to your insurance company? Have questions about what your policy does and doesn’t cover? Have a denied, delayed or underpaid claim? Contact our insurance dispute attorneys for a free case review.
How Long Will It Take to Replace My Cast Iron Plumbing System? How Much Will It Cost?
The answer to both of these questions is that it depends on the size of your home (or business). Replacing cast iron plumbing can range from $20,000 to more than $100,000.
Most home and business owners insurance policies are “replacement cost” policies. This means the insurance company has promised you that they will pay the full cost of replacing your old plumbing with new plumbing if there is a covered loss.
Multiple factors can influence these estimates, however, including:
- Home size
- Number of stories
- Ease of pipe access
- Piping material
- Amount of pipe to be replaced
My Insurance Company Denied My Claim. What Should I Do?
Claim denials are not always legitimate. It’s disappointing, to say the least, when you pay your insurance premiums on time and then are denied coverage when you need it. Following a denial notice, you should get in touch with your insurer and ask for a detailed explanation of why the claim was not approved. Mistakes do happen, and once you know the reason for the denial, you can double-check your policy to see if it’s due to a mistake or oversight on the insurer’s part.
Whatever you do, don’t go it alone. If you think you may have a claim, we will review your insurance denial for free. If your insurance company is doing the right thing, we’ll tell you. If they aren't, we will tell you how we can help. Either way, you are entitled to peace of mind.
Often, insurance denials are written in a way that makes you think there is nothing that can be done. But even if your insurance company hired an engineer or some other professional to inspect your home, you should still consult an expert to see if you have a case.
Almost every cast iron pipe case we have won started with the insurance company saying, “No.” But “No” is not the end of the inquiry; it is just the beginning.
If you think you may have a claim, please contact us for a free case review. There are never any costs unless we win a jury award or settlement. In most cases, we can force your insurance company to pay all of our attorneys’ fees in the event of an award.
Will the Insurance Company Pay to Repipe My House?
Maybe. If old cast iron pipes have caused any water damage in your home, then your insurance company is required to repair or replace the pipes. However, from a practical standpoint, if it is not possible to repair the pipes because of their age, the insurance company will be required to repipe the entire house.
Be sure to schedule a free case review if you have questions about what is and is not covered under your homeowners insurance policy.
Do I Have a Cast Iron Pipes Lawsuit?
You may have a case if:
- You already filed an insurance claim that was denied or resulted in a lowball settlement; or
- You suffered pipe-related water damage and have not yet filed a claim
You may be concerned about your pipes but have not yet suffered damage. In these cases, we encourage homeowners to contact us if a future loss occurs, as we may be able to help at that point. Currently, however, we are only accepting cases related to actual damage claims.
Over the past 30 years, our firm has recovered more than $9 billion for hundreds of thousands of clients. We are one of the few personal injury law firms with the resources, talent, and experience to take on big insurance companies and win. Don’t wait; contact us today.
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