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Beware spoliation of important insurance information

When you have an insurance claim, no matter how simple or straightforward it appears, begin to document and collect every communication you have with the insurance company, and make an over-inclusive documentation of everything relevant to your claim. If you had a fire, a tree that blew onto your roof or water damage from heavy rain, take photos and video as soon as it is safe after the event.

Your insurance company should do likewise and they are generally expected to collect all potential evidence or documentation relevant to a claim. They are also supposed to secure and preserve any evidence they have in their possession, should questions or disputes arise during the claims process.

This does not always happen, and it can lead to difficulty for a homeowner or other insured in proving elements of their claim. If the insurance company fails to keep relevant evidence, photos or communications and that material is needed during a court case involving the insurance dispute, it may be found to constitute spoliation. Spoliation is when someone destroys or loses evidence which is likely to be needed in a legal case and it is reasonably foreseeable that that evidence should be preserved.

This can lead to court sanctions, the most likely being that the evidence will be presumed by the court to have a negative inference for the party that destroyed or lost the material or communication.

Spoliation can occur in bad faith claims, where the insurer will attempt to deny a claim or delay inordinately paying the claim. They may state that they lack the material or have lost information or claims as a defense when insured's complain. This is why it is important to maintain your own copies of any information you supply to an insurer and keep copies of any communication, letters or other documents that they provide.

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