Today’s question is one lawyers get quite often after a hurricane stops blowing, flood waters recede or a tornado subsides. This potential client is asking what she could have done after a storm to protect her family’s pocketbook from being ravaged by a shoddy contractor’s work.

Natural disaster damage to a home is normally covered under your homeowners or flood insurance policy, but what about additional work that is required when the initial repair work is done improperly? What then, who pays to repair it? The solution is easy if you follow a few simple rules. So, let us tackle today’s question from this homeowner who after the hurricane is caught between what seems like a piss-poor-plumber and the insurance company’s adjuster. Our goal is to avoid more litigation over lousy work and faulty appliances.

Question: How do I find an Attorney for a product liability problem?
Question Detail: I lost my house due to a hurricane and had it rebuild. My house has flooded twice in less than a year due to a product defect. I want to explore going after the manufacturer, but every I contact is looking for permanent bodily harm. What is the best way to find an attorney that is serious?

Answer: You don’t need a product liability lawyer, what you need is a trial lawyer who understands implied and express warranties. It’s been a while since I’ve looked a good products case, but if my memory serves me a product liability claims has to have personal injury. That doesn’t mean you can’t sue and collect money damages, but you need a different legal theory. I believe the theories you want to have evaluated would be express and implied warranties. Keep the paperwork you were provided with whatever it was you have replaced. You may have to contact the vendor (plumber?) that installed the leaky valves; which brings up another thought. Maybe the valves weren’t defective but were improperly installed. Did you consider that? Maybe you should.

Keep the valves that are leaking, because they will need to be examined.

You see your problem may be one of just not enough damage to make this case economically feasible. I don’t know but its one aspect of your claim a lawyer will need to consider.

Last but not least of the options is to re-file with the insurance company that covered the hurricane loss. Just because the hurricane damage is fixed doesn’t mean the insurance claim is over and done with. Re-file the claim with the property insurer. But most important is to stay involved as the work is being done.

Good luck.

Evidence you’ll need in your toolbox:

  • Insurance policies
  • Plumbing invoice
  • Part you believe is malfunctioning
  • Photographs of the part as installed
  • Leaky part photographs
  • Damage repair invoices
  • Photographs of the damaged property
  • Cancelled checks showing you paid for the damage (if available)
  • Warranties and owner manuals

The 20 things to do to protect yourself after a storm:

  1. Stay involved
  2. Follow the work as it progresses
  3. Test every appliance before you sign off
  4. Don’t pay any invoice for work until you’ve actually looked at the work
  5. Visit the job site to keep an eye on the work as it progresses
  6. Visit the job site to keep an eye on the workers and can see the quality of work
  7. Complain to the GC and the insurance adjuster when you see work that is of poor quality
  8. Take photographs of the work in progress
  9. Read the plans or look at the drawings
  10. Review the contract setting up the job
  11. Obtain copies of all warranties and owner manuals that go with every appliance being replaced
  12. Demand the original documents you’d get if you purchased the appliances yourself
  13. Demand that you be allowed to select the appliances that will be purchased (remember this is about more than color selection, it’s about kind and quality.)
  14. If extended warranties are offered purchase them
  15. Make sure the Release from the insurance company includes a qualifier that releases your insurance company, only if the work done was done right. (Good and proper workmanship)
  16. Hold back funds in escrow for work not performed properly
  17. Don’t just assume all the work being done was done right. Look at the work, test the appliances and demand shoddy work be redone.
  18. Take the time to carefully examine the work as it's being done, don't just assume it's being done right.
  19. By being involved the workers will assume you'll be inspecting their work and will do a better job.
  20. Stay in contact with the adjuster and don't just expect the adjuster to manage the project.

Stay involved!

National Storm Damage Center

Steve Lombardi
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Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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