Liability in a fire spread from my neighbor's home?

by Anonymous
(New York)

My home was destroyed in a fire spread from my neighbor's home. I had property damage and loss. He is covered by homeowner's insurance including personal liability coverage. I am not covered by an insurance carrier.

The reports on the incident from the fire department indicate the cause of the fire was from the neighbor's kitchen due to "unattended person" and "equipment unattended." I am asking 2 questions:

1. Is my neighbor liable for this fire?

2. If so, how can my damage be recovered? Should I submit the liability claim directly to my neighbor's insurance? Or should I demand or sue my neighbor to recover my damage?

Thank you for any information you can provide for this situation.

Visitor Question:
Disclaimer: Information provided in our response is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Under no circumstances should the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Our response does NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Always get a formal case review from a licensed attorney in your area.

ANSWER for "Liability in a fire spread from my neighbor's home?":

Anonymous (New York):

From the facts you present, your best course of action would be to file a property damage claim with your neighbor's homeowner's insurance company. Ask your neighbor for the name, policy number, and contact information for the insurance company.

Presuming the police and fire department responded to the fire, contact both departments and request a copy of the fire department incident report and the police incident report. These reports will be helpful with your claim.

At this point, there doesn't seem to be any reason for you to sue your neighbor. This is especially true if your neighbor cooperates by supplying you with his homeowner's insurance information.

In the event your neighbor does not cooperate with your filing a claim with his homeowner's insurance company, you can then consider filing a lawsuit against him.

However, unless the damage is substantial, retaining an attorney might not be cost effective. In non-personal injury claims, most attorneys will not accept cases on a contingency fee basis. As a result, you would have to pay the attorney on an hourly basis.

If the amount of the property damage is $5,000.00 or less, you can file a lawsuit in one of New York's Small Claims courts. For more information on the policies and procedures for New York Small Claims Courts go here.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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