Apr 02 2014
When we were in the process of adopting I thought nothing could possibly be as intrusive or unsettling as the home study. Ours was private and domestic and we literally just needed a home study from the agency so I know that ours was actually less invasive than others can be. However, when we had to fill out the whole application packet as if we were becoming clients and one of the many questions asked “how many people did you date in high school?” I was absolutely certain nothing could ever be that invasive. I still don’t know what in the world that had to do with being a good parent all of these years later. Maybe one of my high school boyfriends can tell you.
I was very, very wrong. When your house burns down and the cause is not something your insurance company can sue someone for, you will come out of that feeling like you have been turned inside out and examined in every possible uncomfortable way, I am pretty sure having your skin peeled off and turned inside out is more pleasant. About two weeks after our house burned we got this packet from the insurance company. It had forms in there giving the insurance company permission to probe every possible aspect of our lives. We had to sign medical release forms, employment information release forms (for the last 3 employers), bank release forms, tax return release forms (for the last 3 years), etc… They even wanted personal and work related references. Being in the profession I was in, I was immediately skeptical of all of this. We weren’t buying a house or applying to adopt another child, we weren’t asking them to loan us any money or trust us with anything that wasn’t already owed to us. We paid our premiums, our house burned down. The end, right? Wrong. Apparently an electrical fire is suspect. Basically they wanted an appliance to have failed that they could blame our loss on. Because the appliance they thought started the fire was so burned they couldn’t prove it, they decided to make our lives a living Hell. They gave us about $10,000 over the course of 10 months to replace everything we owned. They barred us from our house while they were investigating, and they rented us a house on a month to month basis. They sent us hotel towels, bed linens, silverware, pots, pans, etc… and furnished our house with what we might need. We had 4 forks, 4 spoons, 4 knives, one sharp knife, one bread knife, one pot, one pan, 4 plates, etc… They were kind enough to send a used coffee pot. They also sent an inventory list that we were to check off upon receiving said items and along with it another that we were to check off the items when returning them. That task took very little time I can tell you.
It’s not that I was ungrateful for any of it, of course I was thankful they sent us the basics, but they didn’t even scratch the surface of replacing what we’d lost, all of this was a month after our fire, by the way. We stayed with my parents for a month so they didn’t rush to find us a place to live. They also didn’t care what was going on at the other house other than that we stayed out of it so they could investigate. They didn’t care that the doors and windows were blown out or that the roof had a gaping hole in it. However, our policy was very clear in that if anyone was hurt on our “property” we were liable. It would be almost 8 months before someone from the insurance company finally told me “of course you can secure it from further damage and protect yourselves from liability” I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know my neighbors had called the police about potential vandals multiple times by then. They also didn’t care that we were still paying a mortgage on a house we didn’t live in. Nor that we had to continue to pay HOA dues, and the best part? Escrow payments to THEM to protect our property!! All of this while we were paying utilities in a rental house and trying to replace things like clothes and food out of our own pockets. What they DID care about however was that my husband lost his job the day before an electrical fire destroyed our lives. Since he lost his job the day before, he MUST have somehow from across town, tweaked the wiring IN THE WALL and burned our house down in his despair. Yes, they said that to us. Multiple times, both via insinuation and flat out accusing. They also accused him of having read a book by a fiction writer that would have aided him, a book that didn’t come out until well after the fire.
If they can’t sue someone, they will blame someone and if there’s no one standing there, they will blame you. Six months in to this mess our landlord decided he wanted to move back in to his home. They refused to pay to move us. They would pay rent on another house, but they would not pay deposits or any rent due at signing and they certainly wouldn’t pay for a truck to move THEIR rental belongings that we had to inventory when/if this nightmare was over. They wouldn’t pay utility deposits or cancellation fees, etc… $5000 out of our pocket later we were moved and again on a month to month lease. In the 7th month we found an attorney. We took other steps prior to this just to be clear. The Wyoming Insurance Commission “lost” our file, TWICE. Turns out, state law says an insurance company has 90 days to approve or deny and pay out a claim in our state, period. Turns out, our insurance company was the biggest violator of this law state wide. Turns out, you can file complaints that are lost, but once you hire a lawyer the insurance commission can’t help. Turns out, once you hire a lawyer the insurance company does as well. The investigator actually called me a liar the day I told her we hired an attorney. She told me “we hear that all of the time but until we have something in writing from ‘said attorney’ we continue as if there isn’t one.” He sent her a letter the next day. We heard from their attorney within 3 weeks.
They couldn’t prove the fan started the fire without further expensive testing, but they couldn’t prove it didn’t, but they were pretty sure since they couldn’t prove it and sue Holmes, it must have been an intentional electrical fire, we needed to prove it wasn’t and do so before 12 months was up and they no longer had to pay our rent and they could take back their hotel linens and household goods. I could go on and on and on about this process, but you get the gist I’m sure. We were destroyed by the fire but we were devastated in many more ways by our insurance company. The people who are supposed to protect us in this scenario. Finally, after 6 hours of depositions and their attorney telling them that they better settle before we renamed their company, they settled. 10 long months later.
They did not pay our legal fees, they did not apologize, they did not pay our deposits, they did not pay one penny more than our policy required. They did however, send a letter the same day as our settlement check letting us know our rental provision had been expended and they would no longer be paying our rent and we had to return all rental household goods and linens and could be charged for anything that was missing. I have not until now spoken in depth about this series of events outside of my family. I also have not gotten over it. I am still very angry and we are still digging out from under the mess they put us in. Our mortgage company worked with us, thank goodness. However, they can’t keep your credit from being destroyed. They also don’t want to waste time attempting to foreclose on a burned down property. No one else worked with us. A large portion of our settlement went to paying the bills that piled up after the fire and because of the fire and the insurance company’s disregard for us. When we were all said and done we did not have enough money to rebuild (nor did I have the heart to do so) and our credit was not good enough to buy something else, even with a large down payment.
Welcome to our lives today. We are in our seventh house since the fire and that doesn’t count the times we moved in and out of my mom and dad’s house. We are still digging out from under the mess that began that day. We are unsettled and we really have no end in sight. When you secure a one year lease and have to scrape to come up with deposits again and again, it makes it difficult to save for a secure future. I can’t even explain to you how I feel about all of this. What I can tell you is that people will kick you while you are down and then step on you on their way past. People will take advantage of you when you are desperate to find your place in the world, when you are looking for stability, and people can be greedy, sketchy, and downright awful in any situation. We have been the victims of this in more than one way during our journey. We have yet to come out the other side.
Recently, I am angry. I am angry for my kids who have no childhood home, I am angry that my daughter has been in three schools in her three short years in school, I am angry that we lost the house we put our blood, sweat, and tears in to and that we have yet to be able to even attempt to replace it. I am angry, and I am hurt, and I am feeling very unsettled. I am also sick, so that doesn’t help I know. However, I would really love to know when we will be settled again. When and how will we ever start to pick back up from this thing that has controlled so much of our lives and be able to start truly rebuilding what we lost? When? How? Because right now, I don’t see an end in sight. We just want to go home and at this point no such place exists. There is no place we belong as of yet and it’s starting to really feel like there never will be.
We are getting very good at packing and moving all of our belongings and let me tell you, we don’t have near as many as we did at one time. We desperately want to be settled, we NEED to be settled for our sake but also for our kids. How do we get there? Because I honestly just don’t know.