Homeowners’ insurance or commercial insurance policies generally cover residential house fires.

House fires can be of two different types:

(1). Your Own Home Burns Down by your Own Fault.

Electrical fires from faulty or old wiring can cause house fires. Leaving the burners on or carelessly using appliances can also cause house fires that can burn your own house down.

Who do you sue: You make a claim against your own insurance company under the terms of your homeowner’s insurance company. This breach of contact is generally called a first party action. The process starts with making an insurance claim first to try to resolve the matter short of a lawsuit.

(2). Your House Burns Down When the Neighbor’s House Fire Spread.

Another variation is where your neighbor’s house burns down causing damage to your home. Or the structure next to your house starts to burn and spreads. In this case of a third party causing your house to burn down you will have a claim against them and their insurance company for the fire damages.

Who do you sue: You would make an insurance claim against the neighbor’s homeowners’ policy of insurance. Or if the neighbor claims that some third party in addition to them or separate from them caused the fire, you would make a claim against both of them.


Coverage. First you must determine which insurance company or companies are responsible for the fire and determine if they are covering the fire event.

               Apportionment of Fault with 2+ At-Fault Parties/Insurance Carriers. It is easy if one insurance company is totally at-fault, but if there are two or more at-fault insurance companies you will determine the percentage of fault against both of them.

               By Agreement or Judge/Jury Makes Decision. The percentage of fault against two or more insurance companies for starting the fire can be by agreement, or you can force the issue through litigation were the jury or judge makes the ultimate apportionment decision.

Valuation. The insurance company will want proof of valuation before paying a dime. You will need to document the lost, destroyed or damaged fire item before paying anything.

              Policy Exclusions. Often there are specific exclusions for guns, jewelry or other specific items commonly lost in fires and caps are placed these items in the policy itself. See the actual policy in dispute, especially if you are making a claim against your own insurance company.

Spreadsheet. You will need to create a spreadsheet of every item you are claiming is damaged by the fire and prove up a replacement or repair value.

Expert Testimony on Valuation. As the owner you can testify to the value of the personal property or you can bring in expert witness testimony. Even if you can testify to the value of your own personal property, it can be more persuasive to bring in a third party independent expert to value the property for the jury or judge–whoever the fact finder is.

LITIGATION LAWSUIT TYPES. Utah Fire Insurance Claims Law Firm

If you can’t resolve the fire damage claim, either because the insurance company is disputing coverage or valuation, you may have to file a lawsuit. Here are the types of lawsuits you can file in a Utah fire case.

(1). Breach of Contract. When you have a valuation or coverage dispute with your own homeowners insurance company you likely will sue them for breach of contract.
Privity of Contact. You are in privity of contact because you are their insureds and the insurance company is the insurer. Both parties are in privity of contract because they both are direct signatory parties to the insurance contract.
Breach of contract are not tort claims.

(2). Bad Faith. A less common lawsuit than breach of contract, but certainly used frequently in Utah. Bad faith lawsuits assert that the insurance company failed to treat their insured reasonably. Bad faith insurance lawsuits refer to a carrier’s attempts to not pay, or refusing to pay a legitimate obvious claim or other tactics and actions on behalf of the liability insurance carrier that show bad faith. Obviously it is more complicated than that, but bad faith applies to life insurance, car insurance and homeowners insurance.

Bad faith lawsuits are torts and first party relationships. Breach of contract lawsuits are contract based and are also first party.


A fully litigated Utah fire case can take a year plus easily. Here are some basic timelines:

–Triggering fire event. Your Provo, UT house burns down and the insurance company is refusing to pay or pay reasonable value. Your neighbor’s house burns down, spreading to your home.

–Claims Process of Valuation and Coverage Investigation.

a. Coverage Investigation. Upon a triggering event the applicable homeowners’ insurance company will start a coverage investigation to determine if the insurance company is legally obligate to pay. 30 days or so.
b. Valuation Process. Once coverage is determined, the claims adjuster and insured will start valuating and documenting the destroyed or damaged fire items.

6 months depending on size of the fire.

–Negotiation of Value of Fire Damaged Good. Months.
Once coverage, itemization and valuation are roughly complete the insured and homeowners’ insurance company will start to negotiate on the value and amount of money the homeowners’ insurance company will pay. This is a back-and-forth process of settling on a monetary value to close the insurance claim and have it fully adjudicated.

–Lawsuit. Start-to-Finish, Easily 1 year plus.
If negotiations between the fire damaged party and the applicable insurance companies break down a lawsuit must be filed. Fully litigated fire insurance lawsuits can easily take over 1 year to complete.

Complaint. State the types of actions brought against the insurance companies or at-fault parties.

Answers. The responding parties have 21 days to answer the lawsuit and ask for a jury trial or bench trial.

Plaintiff’s Initial Disclosures. 14 days after defendants answer the lawsuit.

Defendants’ Initial Disclosures. 42 days after the Plaintiff’s file their initial disclosures.

Fact Discovery. Depending on the size of the case, fact discovery can be up to 210 days. See Utah Rules of Civil Procedure 26.

Expert Discovery. Around 42 days after fact discovery is over.

Mediation. Mediation can be requested at any time, but often is agreed to by the parties after fact and expert discovery closes. Or mediation can be ordered by the court before a jury or bench trial date is issued by the court.

Jury / Bench Trial Date. Getting bench trial dates after fact, expert and mediation is over can take 6 months depending on your jurisdiction. COVID 19 really backed up all the jury trials and is still causing long delays in getting a jury trial date as of 01/08/2023.


Shortened an already long process by hiring attorney early. An attorney will now how to cut to the chase and get the documentation the insurance company needs to value and pay the fire claim. Further if the insurance company is refusing, hiring an lawyer early will start the lawsuit process faster. Short cutting endless fruitless negotiations with the insurance company.

Save your stress and time. Hire an attorney early.