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How to Analyze Insurance Documents in a Fire Investigation:
Loss Notice

Joseph Toscano
VP, Fire Investigation Specialist
American Re-Insurance Co.

The Loss Notice shows the first report of the fire to the insurance company and is usually sent in by the agent, after being notified by the insured. It can contain important information about when and how the insured learned of the fire. The time when the loss was first reported to the insurance company may take on significance relative to the other activities of the insured on that day. It may contain information from the insured which contradicts his later testimony in a recorded statement or Examination Under Oath.

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1. The reported date and time of the loss are critical. They should be verified as accurate. If there is a discrepancy, it should be determined why the discrepancy exists. You may also analyze the date and time in the context of your known timeline of events to determine if the notifications was unusually quick, slow, or otherwise of interest.

2. The description of the loss and the damage estimated should be consistent with the information known at the time the loss was reported. Also, the amount of damages initially reported may indicate the insured is over-stating the claim.

3. Other insurance may create a financial motive. Undisclosed other insurance may indicate a fraudulent scheme. The remarks may provide other information about the circumstances of the loss or the insured's discovery of the loss.

4. The loss is usually reported by the insured. This establishes the information as a statement of the insured which is generally admissible evidence at trial for all of the information reported about the loss. A loss reported by someone other than the insured should be investigated and explained.

5. The person receiving the loss report must be established and confirmed to make the information reliable and admissible. It is often a clerical or secretarial person in the office.

6. The loss notice is seldom signed by the insured. If it is, it confirms the authenticity ad accuracy of the information.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

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