How doI get the full cost to replace a barn from my insurer?

I had barn fall down due to snow. The insurance claim was for $78,000 but they only issued $45,000. Is there any way for them to pay the remainder? Estimates on the barn are $20,000 more without the electrical and roof.

Asked on March 16, 2011 under Insurance Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There is no way to answer this question in the abstract. Insurance policies are contracts; like any other contract, the parties to it are obligated to follow the contract's requirements--no more and no less. Therefore, the first key issue is what kind of coverage do you have? Is it replacement coverage, where the insurer has to pay the cost to rebuild/replace? Or does the insurer only have to pay the "value" of the barn at the time it fell down, which could easily be less than the replacement cost.

Once you know what kind of coverage it is, the next question is whether you agree with the insurer's factual determination. For example, say that it is replacement coverage and the insurer feels it only takes $45k, to rebuild. If that is not the case, you can contest it--insurers cannot arbitrarily determine what to pay, but again are bound by the policy. If the insurer has to pay to rebuild, then you provide documentation of what the building cost would be (e.g. estimates and quotes). If the insurer still won't pay what you deem is appropriate, then you could sue the insurance company to get the additional compensation you feel you are due under the policy--and there are attorneys who specialize or at least are experienced in doing this.

So first, deterimine what coverage you are entitled to; second, compare your estimates under that type of coverage (i.e. replacement cost or value) vs. what the insurer offers; third, document why you feel you should get more and see if the insurer will up its offer; fourth, if all else fails and you think you are owed more, consider a lawsuit.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.