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Busted Sewer Pipe - Cable Company - Lost Renters - $20K Damage

Discussion in 'Homeowners, Fire, Casualty' started by BigMikeNC, May 6, 2020.

  1. BigMikeNC

    BigMikeNC Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Hello,

    Thanks in advance to anyone who can help!

    We have a rental home that is three years old. The cable company came into the neighborhood to lay a 5-inch cable for all the homes by the road, they ended up cutting into our sewer drain (see below).

    [​IMG]

    As a result, the sewage backed up into the home and did $24,000 in damages (I had two estimates to fix it from local companies)

    The cable company who did it came out and talked to the builder for the neighborhood and did admit to doing it.

    His insurance company called and said they may not cover it all and its best for me to file a claim with my insurance company.

    I called my company and they said....
    "Wow, of course they want you to file. If they admitted fault, you WANT to file with them.
    I would absolutely pursue them on this.
    You filing a claim should be the last resort.
    Let me know."

    At that point, I called a local attorney who said they may handle it but they want 40% of whatever they recover.

    What should I do to get my home fixed, replace the loss in rentals, and get this taken care of soon?
     
  2. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    You can file a claim with their insurance. There's no reason they shouldn't cover it.
     
  3. BigMikeNC

    BigMikeNC Law Topic Starter New Member

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    The cable company insurance agent emailed and said.....

    "I’m not sure why your carrier would tell you to file with us. I spoke with our insured contact. The last time he did work out in that area was in 2017 or 2018. He is in the process of pulling his records. Unfortunately liability is not clear on this claim especially with the lapse in time. Again our insured is pulling his records. Our insured did not admit fault to us. When there is a situation where liability has not been determined, your first party insurance company can handle and investigate. That is ultimately why you have first party coverage. It protects you against damages that occur at your property. If you retain an attorney please have your attorney to contact us. If you would like us to send our independent adjuster out to inspect the damages as we discussed earlier today please provide the address for the property that sustained the damages."
     
  4. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    When did this occur?
     
  5. BigMikeNC

    BigMikeNC Law Topic Starter New Member

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    The sewer water started backing up into our home in March - April of this year. You can clearly see from the image above the cable wire going through the sewer pipe. A plumber also came out to verify the issue was from this cable going into the pipe.

    Keep in mind this is the cable going through the entire neighborhood not just for my home.
     
  6. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    When did "[t]he cable company [come] into the neighborhood to lay a 5-inch cable for all the homes by the road [and] cut[] into [your] sewer drain"?

    You wrote that "[t]he sewer water started backing up into [your] home in March - April of this year."

    However, you also told us that the cable company's insurer told you that "'[t]he last time [the cable company] did work [in your] area was in 2017 or 2018.'"

    Something's not adding up.
     
  7. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    It's possible that the plastic sewer line was damaged in 2017 or 2018, but not to the point of failure.
     
  8. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    That's true. You always file the claim with the at fault party.

    UNTIL the at fault party starts giving you BS. THEN you immediately call the claims department at your insurance company to get it handled.

    Your insurance company has a contractual obligation to you and will go after the cable company when your claim is taken care of. Your insurance company has the lawyers, you don't need one.
     
  9. BigMikeNC

    BigMikeNC Law Topic Starter New Member

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    We don't know when the cable company came in to lay the wire, as Zigner said above the damage could have escalated over time.

    The cable company will check records.

    Clearly, from the image you can see no other wire went into the sewer pipe.
     
  10. BigMikeNC

    BigMikeNC Law Topic Starter New Member

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    The at-fault party is giving me BS before I file the claim. So what do you suggest? File with them and then get my insurance company to help or?
     
  11. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    No, your insurance company has no obligation to help you file a claim against somebody else. That's not what the policy covers.

    You file with your own company. The claim rep will investigate, verify the coverage, determine the repair cost. After the claim is taken care of, then your insurance company subrogates against the at fault party.

    I didn't realize that.

    If the house was built in 2017 then 2017 is a good bet. Did you buy the house new? Do you have the same insurance company now as you had when you bought the house? Did you ever live in the house or did you buy it to rent out from the start? Do you have a homeowners policy on the house or a landlord's policy? Either way, do you have sewer back up coverage? I'm starting to see some potential issues based on your answers to these questions.
     
  12. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    It's important that you understand that the cable company's insurer has no obligation to you. That insurer has obligations to its insured but not you.

    Your insurer, on the other hand owes obligations to you.

    It's also important that you understand the difference between a first-party claim and a third-party claim. You can make a first-party claim against your own homeowner's insurance, and your insurer will provide coverage (or not) subject to the terms of your policy. You will have to pay the first $X in covered damage, with $X being called a deductible.

    Your claim against the cable company's insurance is a third-party claim. No deductible applies, but the insurance only provides coverage if it is reasonably clear that the cable company is legally liable. While the cable company may have admitted to someone that it was liable, it apparently denied liability to the insurer, so the insurer is properly going to put the burden on you to prove how the damage was caused. If, in fact, the work that may have resulted in the damage was performed 2 1/2+ years ago, this may be a very difficult thing to do.

    Given what you have described, your best bet is probably to submit a claim through your homeowner's insurance. Your insurer may choose to pursue the cable company for reimbursement. However, you should not delay because the statute of limitations for suing the cable company appears to be only three years.
     
  13. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    I'm not advocating delay, but the discovery rule appears to apply here.

    NCGS 1-52. Three years.
    Within three years an action -
    (16) Unless otherwise provided by law, for personal injury or physical damage to claimant's property, the cause of action, except in causes of actions referred to in G.S. 1-15(c), shall not accrue until bodily harm to the claimant or physical damage to his property becomes apparent or ought reasonably to have become apparent to the claimant, whichever event first occurs. Except as provided in G.S. 130A-26.3, no cause of action shall accrue more than 10 years from the last act or omission of the defendant giving rise to the cause of action.
     
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  14. flyingron

    flyingron Well-Known Member

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    5" cable? Wow. Having run cable systems in a past life, I'd love to have seen that. I've never seen hard line over an inch in diameter and even that's uncommon these days as everything is going to fiber.
     
  15. PayrollHRGuy

    PayrollHRGuy Well-Known Member

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    I'll bet that is a fiber bundle.
     
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  16. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    I bet you're correct.
     
  17. flyingron

    flyingron Well-Known Member

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    5" is a lot of fiber. They put on only 2" ducts here. You can get a hundred or so fibers in a 3/4" direct bury cable. 5" is honking big even for conduit/duct.
     
  18. Foamback75

    Foamback75 New Member

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    If you look at the size of the lateral, which is probably 3 to 4" nominal size, then the data bundle is much smaller than the claimed 5"
     
  19. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    It doesn't look like 5" in the photo. Sewer lines are typically 4" making that red conduit about 2" in comparison.
     
  20. PayrollHRGuy

    PayrollHRGuy Well-Known Member

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    If the red pipe is a 5" the white is a 10". And it isn't'
     
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