Explosion, then a fuel fire…
Continuing with our tradition of receiving assignments that made the morning news, we received this interesting file which was reported by the several news stations before it was ever reported to the insurer.
The insured had a vintage 1986 Maserati Bi-Turbo, a Smart Car, and two late model Honda Goldwing Trike Motorcycles, among other collectible items stored in her garage. As a preventative maintenance technique the owner stated that she normally starts the care and lets it idle for several minutes on a bi-weekly basis to help keep the engine lubricated and in working order. On the eve of this particular accident she went out and started the motor up, then went back inside with her grandchild. Shortly after a large explosion occured that “shook the house” and the insured came out to find her garage going up in flames.
Mrs. Insured was keen to safety and took her grandchild across the street to a neighbor’s house where she then called 911. The Denver Fire Department‘s Station 16 crew arrived 7 minutes and 15 seconds later according to their report. Unfortunately that’s a long time for a garage full of automobiles to be on fire. The fire had burned so hot that it melted the rear of the house, which was less than 30 feet away. The garage was badly damaged, but surprisingly, not a total loss because a large part was constructed from masonry brick and block which were fairly heat resistant, as opposed to a wooden frame which is not.
In our scene investigation, it appeared that the fire originated at or near the Maserati and there was a hole approximately 2.5 feet in diameter on the roof of the garage, as shown:
In this case it was only necessary to substantiate the items and costs included in our estimate of recorded damages because the carrier hired a special cause and origin specialist. The auto was insured through a different insurance carrier than the structural coverage, therefore a good investigator may find evidence proving the Masterati was the cause which would then open up recovery through subrogation.
The garage roof, windows, doors, electric and HVAC were clearly a total loss as shown in our photos. Interestingly the policy coverage for this file was exceedingly shy of the amount necessary to repair the entire structure. One cause for having made so many news headlines was that a fireman was struck my a bullet as heat set off ammunition that was stored in the garage. No injuries were report as there was no significant velocity behind the round.
This type of claim would normally be a good candidate for an errors and omissions suit naming the insurance agent who sold the policy because the agent failed to update or review policy limits for several years. It’s unfortunate that Underwriting had failed to recognize this condition. However, in this case the agent happened to be directly related to the insured and she was not interested in pursuing such a claim against her sibling/agent.
With all of the news crews documenting the story, we were shocked that a public adjuster hadn’t been involved in the file before our arrival. Our file was turned around in less than 72 hours and the insured received policy limits of $26,000.00 for Appurtenant Structure Coverage (B) the same week as we received the file.
Phillip Crimaldi handles fire and explosion damage insurance claim adjustments and repair estimates for Peak Claims throughout the nation.