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Insurance Law/controlled burn negligence


Hello Mr. Hromas,
Thank you for your time.
A land development company initiated a "controlled burn" yesterday of the field adjacent to my property.  Yesterday was a very windy day. I found out that the company did not obtain a burn permit for yesterday. Also, the fire was set and then not attended. The fire somehow spread to my property and burned down my storage building that has an attached shed, my RV, and my Jeep.  The siding on the back of my house was scorched but there was no interior damage in my house.  
My storage building contained probably 50 thousand dollars worth of antique furniture, tools, equipment and appliances.  These items belonged to me and my two daughters.  My RV and Jeep were old but in great condition.  I own the property and vehicles outright.  
I am working on a detailed inventory of the storage building contents.  My homeowner's insurance is going to cover the building and its contents and then seek reimbursement from the land development company.  The company's insurance agent told me that I would receive only the depreciated monetary value of the vehicles, building, and other properties.  I am very upset at that information.  I cannot replace everything if I am reimbursed at depreciated values.  I am also very upset that many sentimental items were destroyed in the fire.  There are many things that cannot be replaced.  
What can I do to ensure the company pays me enough to replace everything I lost in the fire and can I collect additional monies because the fire was caused by negligence?  I ask this because I am heartbroken about my loss.
Thank you for your time and help,


I am sorry to hear about your loss. This is a common problem with these types of burns.

Unfortunately, under the principle of LIABILITY, the only recovery you have from the responsible party is for the depreciated amount. This is called "indemnity" and is legally designed to ony put you back in the position that you were in bedore the loss occurred. That means that the "value" of your items is the depreciated amount.

If you have FULL REPLACEMENT COST (FRC) coverage under your own insurance, then once you actually replace the damaged or destroyed items, yoou can recover the difference between the original payment and what you paid to replace the item as long as it is reasonably close to the same thing you had. This is additional coverage that you paid an extra premium for on your own policy and your insurance company is bound to pay those amounts, regardless of what they recover from the negligent party.

For you to recover more than the depreciated value, you would have to get "punitive" damages out of a jury and that would be hard to do as a matter of law. While a lawsuit or even the threat of a lawsuit will often see a little higher settlement, it all depends on what the Carrier is willing to pay to make the lawsuit "go away". Sometimes they are looking at what they would have to pay in defense costs and try to cut their losses by paying a smaller amount than that.

I hope this helps explain things for you a little. Your own Carrier is required to try to recover your deductibe as part of the subrogation efforts against the liable party so make sure you get that whan the payment comes in.

Kevin Hromas
JD, EGA, RPA, PLCS, CPIU, HCRI-R/C, WIND® Umpire/Appraiser
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Kevin Hromas


I am a licensed, executive general adjuster currently holding a Texas resident P&C license (614250), New Mexico non-resident all lines license (248774), Oklahoma non-resident P/F/M license (A299561), Florida non-resident P&C license (E117051) and a National Flood Insurance Program certification (06040100). My areas of expertise involve property and casualty issues in both residential and commercial policies with regards to claims practices and issues. I deal extensively with Lloyd's of London commercial policies and various domestic carriers for residential policies.


After a 20 year career as a General Contractor, I was employed by Allstate Insurance as an adjuster in Texas, holding various postitions within the property claims department. After leaving Allstate, I specialized in handling losses associated with major catastrophes through-out the country. (Hurricanes Isabel, Charlie, Wilma, Katrina, Ike, etc., hail storms, floods.) I am currently retained as an expert by multiple insurance defense firms in Texas for issues in litigation. I am also a certified Umpire for formal appraisals.

Member - Society of Registered Professional Adjusters Fellow - Council on Litigation Management Member - Property and Casualty Association Member - Texas Independent Insurances Adjusters Association Member - National Association of independent Insurance Adjusters Member - Houston Claims Association

Claims Magazine ( and then search 'Kevin Hromas' for a full listing of articles and quotes.),,

JD - University of Houston Law Center - 1992 BA - Southwest Texas State University - 1980 AA - South Plains College - 1977 PLCS - Personal Lines Coverage Specialist

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Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's, London, Fulbright & Jaworski (Law Firm), Bracket & Ellis (Law Firm) Thamm & O'Briant (Law Firm) Sheehy, Ware & Pappas (Law Firm) Walker, Wilcox and Matousek (Law Firm) Financial Guarantee Underwriters

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