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Assessment

fire, policy, particulars, property, time, assessor, claim and notice

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ASSESSMENT of Fire Losses is the term applied to the process by which is ascertained the amount payable under fire policies in respect of claims for loss by fire. The insurance company is generally represented in such matters by a person retained and paid by it, whose profession is that of an assessor of claims. Apart from such assessors, who are in the sole employment of the companies, there are professional assessors who practice independently, and whose services are available to the public in the same way as are those of any other professional man. But in ordinary cases the services of a public assessor are not required. The companys assessor, though retained and paid as aforesaid, is nevertheles1 in a position of trust between his office and the atemred, and should endeavour to preserve a conduct of the assessment fair to all parties concerned. But as soon as the assured introduces into the assessment a public assessor to act on his behalf, the relationship of trust is at end, and each assessor becomes in effect an agent solely for his own principal. Assuming a fire to have taken place, property neing destroyed thsreby, which is the subject of insurance, the assured should take immediate steps to obtain the indemnity payable by the ...nsurance company in respect thereof. His first business will be to take his policy and read it through very carefully. Amongst the points he should first note are : the time allowed in which notice of the fire must be given to the company ; the time for delivery of particulars of his claim ; the evidence required thereof ; if the policy is valued, what are the specific valuations.

Notice of the fire must be given within the time limited by the policy. Most probably the condition is that this notice is to be given forthwith ; but even if a few days are permitted, it is most inadvisable not' to give the notice immediately. To delay is to create a circumstance which may give rise to suspicion in the mind of the assessor, and so perhaps make the assessment a matter of keen dispute from the beginning to the end. The notice having been given, the assured should deliver particulars of the claim. This also must be done within the time fixed by the policy—as a rule, within fifteen days. There is no evading the obligation to deliver the particulars of claim, for the condition to do so has been held to be one precedent to the enforcement of any claim arising out of the policy. Such

was found to be the case by a pawnbroker who had insured in the Norwich Union Office for on his shop, and £1000 on the pledges. He did not deliver his particulars, although required by the policy to do so within three months ; and consequently in an action he brought against the insurance office, the latter succeeded at the pawnbroker's cost. And the rule is the same, even in cases where the claim is for a total loss and for the full amount of the policy. Particulars of the claim must therefore in all cases be delivered. And if the time linkited for the delivery thereof is expressed to be of the essence of the contract,,to fail to do so within that time would be to lose all right to indemnity at all. These particulars should be in writing and drawn with care. It may be that a statutory declaration is required verifying their truth ; in such case, this should be delivered with the particulars, or the latter drawn in the form of and embodied in a declaration. Amongst the points in respect to which they should satisfy the company are :(a) the fact of the destruction of the property by fire; (b) the value of the property so destroyed ; (c) the parts of it subject to specific valuation by the policy; (d) the existence or otherwise of other insurances on the same property ; (e) the amount claimed. Generally, as to the rights of the assured, reference should be made to the articles, FIRE INSURANCE and AVERAGE.

But with particular reference to the principles and process of the assess leant we will now deal. First, as to destruction by fire. Here there should be no difficulty in an undoubted case of fire ; but the policy will probably be such as to allow destruction by lightning, or by explosion of gas without burning, to come within the meaning of the term fire. The more important considerations are those involved in the second and last points just enume rated. The rule is that the value that can be recovered in respect of property the subject of insurance against fire, is the actual value of the property immediately prior to the fire. Nothing more than this can be recovered ; no profits, no expenses—not even remuneration for the assured's efforts in endeavouring to extinguish the fire. Particulars of the property destroyed must be set out in items, with full details as to nature and value.

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