Preserving Fire Scene Evidence
We are frequently consulted on fire loss claims. In such cases it is critical to make sure that key evidence, including evidence being held by others, is not lost or misplaced. When we are hired to assist with a claim we promptly send a letter demanding that evidence held by others be preserved. Too frequently however, we find that we are consulted after essential evidence has been lost, or destroyed. In fire loss cases days and hours are critical. If an appliance shorts out and starts a fire, but your insurance company bulldozes the fire scene the day after the fire, the evidence needed to hold the appliance maker liable may have been irreparably compromised.
In hindsight, everyone can see the importance of timely consulting an attorney right after a fire loss to help preserve evidence. It is our suggestion that you never give permission to anyone to alter a fire loss scene, or to alter the scene yourself, without first consulting an attorney. In addition to sending letters asking that evidence be preserved, an attorney can apply for a court injunction if necessary mandating that a party preserve and maintain evidence for discovery and trial. If a party fails to preserve the evidence for discovery or trial after receiving a properly worded letter, or being ordered by a court to do so, in many cases a court ruling can be obtained that the lost or destroyed evidence would have tended to prove fault on the part of the party that destroys evidence after being asked to preserve evidence.
Always consult an attorney at the earliest opportunity after suffering a loss, it costs nothing to do so, and just may be the decision that ensures that you make a successful recovery for your loss.