Common Signs of Cast Iron Pipe DamageMany property owners have cast iron plumbing systems without realizing it, and even those who know their properties have cast iron pipes when wear and tear or damage happens. Fortunately, there are ways to recognize issues with cast iron pipes, even when they are beneath the floors or within the walls of a property. If you notice any of the following in your property, they may signal cast iron pipe damage:
- Discolored water: When cast iron corrodes, it comes apart in tiny flakes, leaving water with a yellowish or brownish tint when it pours from the tap.
- Sluggish drains: Breakage or deterioration of cast iron pipes can result in the buildup of residue, which can noticeably slow water drainage.
- Plumbing backups: In extreme cases, slow drainage may lead to backed-up plumbing, which occurs when standing wastewater accumulates in the home.
- Unpleasant odors: If cast iron pipes develop cracks or holes, smelly gasses like methane can escape into the home and have noticeable, lingering odors.
- Damp spots: When water escapes from damaged cast iron pipes, it can settle on the floors, walls, or ceiling, slowly destroying other building materials.
- Mold growth: Mold thrives in moist, stale environments, such as parts of the home that become waterlogged due to leaks from cast iron pipe damage.
- Pest infestations: The warmth and moisture of standing water from leaky cast iron pipes may also attract insects, mice, and other pests.
- Foundation issues: Over time, water can erode concrete, stone, and other foundation materials, dangerously weakening the structure of your home.
- Lawn growth: If cast iron pipes that run under your lawn leak water into the ground, you may notice patches of unusually lush vegetation above the leaks.
Filing an Insurance Claim for Cast Iron Pipe DamageRepairing property damage from cast iron pipes can easily cost property owners tens of thousands of dollars. Repair costs could reach six figures if burst pipes, leaks, or flooding lead to structural damage. Few property owners have the cash to afford these large-scale repair projects, which is where property damage insurance policies typically come in. Unfortunately, filing an insurance claim for property damage due to cast iron pipe failure is often far from straightforward. Due to minor inconsistencies and honest errors, many insurance providers issue partial or complete denials for perfectly valid claims. As such, following the correct procedure for your insurance claim is vital. Let's take a look at what you can expect from the insurance claims process for cast iron pipe-related property damage:
- Notifying the insurer: Your first step should always be to report known or suspected cast iron pipe damage to your provider and any other insurance company that may be liable. Most carriers require policyholders to report covered events within specific time windows, and failure to notify per the terms of your policy may serve as grounds for denial. You should always report cast iron pipe damage as soon as possible, even if you aren't sure your policy will cover it.
- Informing the police: In some cases, you may also want to report the damage to the police. For instance, if you have reason to believe that another party's negligent or intentional behavior damaged your cast iron plumbing, it's a good idea to inform your local authorities and obtain a copy of the official police report. Suppose a vehicle collided with your property and destroyed external cast iron piping. In that case, report the accident to the police and obtain the police crash report if a similar scenario occurs.
- Reviewing your policy: Any time you believe a given insurance policy might cover your property damage losses, you should obtain a copy and read through it carefully. Your policy may require you to follow specific steps to initiate and pursue your claim, and the last thing you want is to have your claim rejected due to preventable errors. If you feel uncertain about the meaning of a specific policy provision, contact your insurance provider or a trusted attorney to walk you through it.
- Making temporary repairs: You don't want to begin fully renovating your property's plumbing system before you speak to the adjuster. Still, you may need to complete more minor repairs immediately to mitigate some damage. Many insurance policies explicitly require policyholders to take reasonable measures to prevent additional damage after a covered event. Suppose you neglect or refuse to make preventative repairs after a cast iron pipe failure on your property, your insurer may deny the claim because you did nothing to avoid ancillary losses. Save receipts and damaged items from any out-of-pocket repairs you pay for or handle on your own.
- Taking an inventory: Before collecting from your policy, you must demonstrate the extent of your losses to your insurer. You must document all real and personal property that sustained damage from the cast iron plumbing failure. Write up an inventory of each ruined item or structure and consider taking photographs or video recordings of visible damage. Be sure to preserve documentation, images, and physical evidence for your claim in a safe and well-organized spot.
- Completing paperwork: Once you are ready to file a claim for reimbursement, you may need to complete a significant amount of paperwork. Some carriers may require you to complete a Sworn Proof of Loss (SPOL) form, a signed and notarized affidavit describing the nature of any damage to your property. If you have grounds for a specialized claim, such as a business interruption claim for a commercial property that flooded after a cast iron pipe burst, you will likely need to complete and submit additional paperwork.
- Working with adjusters: Within a few days after you submit the initial paperwork, your insurance carrier should assign an adjuster to investigate and handle your claim. The adjuster will review the evidence you presented with your claim, evaluate the cast iron pipe damage, and determine whether the insurance company is liable and, if so, how much your policy should pay you. Prepare to cooperate with the adjuster, who may require access to your property and financial records. However, watch what you say to the adjuster whenever you interact since they may use anything you tell them to justify the denial of your claim.
- Obtaining estimates: After the insurance adjuster investigates the damage to and from your cast iron pipes, you should seek repair estimates from dependable professionals. Most insurance companies will want to see at least two different quotes before allowing repair projects to proceed. If your provider disagrees with the estimates, it may insist on conducting an independent appraisal. Remember that even when the insurance company approves repairs, you may have to pay the estimated cost upfront and claim reimbursement after the fact.
- Negotiating a settlement: When you've repaired or replaced your cast iron pipes, the contractors who completed the work will probably bill the insurance company directly. However, not all contractors work this way, so you might need reimbursement for out-of-pocket costs. If the insurance company accepts your claim and chooses to pay in full, you can get the check and move on. If your provider disputes the charges, negotiations might be necessary.
- Filing a civil lawsuit: In most cases, insurers settle property damage insurance claims out of court because both parties want to avoid the time and expense of going to trial. However, if your provider will not accept responsibility or negotiate in good faith, you may have no choice but to sue. An attorney can help you negotiate aggressively for the money your policy entitles you to and will not hesitate to take your insurer to court if they refuse to act in good faith.
How Can a Cast Iron Pipe Damage Lawyer Help Me?Insurance claims for cast iron pipe damage often require many unique considerations that do not apply to other property damage claims. Damage to plumbing can also spread quickly, and some property owners even need to replace cast iron pipes entirely. If your cast iron pipe damage claim becomes complicated or hard to manage, it's a good idea to seek assistance from a property damage lawyer. An experienced residential insurance claim attorney could help you by:
- Reviewing all insurance policies that may apply to your cast iron pipe system to determine what types of repairs they cover, your deductible, and limitations or exclusions
- Investigating the source of the damage to your cast iron pipes and any subsequent damage to other real or personal property
- Gathering valuable evidence in support of your cast iron pipe damage claim and determining which parties may be liable for repairs or replacements
- Working with plumbers, property appraisers, real estate agents, and other experts who can offer professional opinions regarding the causes and effects of the damage to your cast iron plumbing system
- Obtaining insurance paperwork, policy documents, proof of ownership papers, repair estimates, financial records, and other documents to support your claim
- Managing necessary case documentation, details, and deadlines on your behalf
- Communicating with the insurance adjuster and other attorneys representing the insurance company as you negotiate for the compensation you deserve
- Taking your cast iron pipe damage claim to court and representing you at trial, if the insurance company refuses to cover a legitimate claim