A firefighter inspects the interior of one of the buildings burned this Friday morning.Jorge Gil (Europa Press)

This Thursday the biggest fire in the history of Valencia occurred. A 14-story building located in the Maestro Rodrigo and Rafael Alberti building, one of the residential areas of Nou Campanar, was devoured by flames. The event was catastrophic: at least four dead, fifteen people missing and more than a hundred families found themselves homeless. In just half an hour, the building constructed by Facebook in 2008in the middle of a real estate boom, was completely burned down.

The people affected find themselves in a complicated situation. Faced with the unknown of what will happen to neighbors’ homes, experts recommend seeking legal advice. These are the different avenues that victims can explore to claim the damages caused by this disaster.

In fact, the country’s main insurers, such as Mapfre, admitted to this media that they were already working to advance compensation for those affected by the Valencia fire.

Who is responsible for the damage caused by this incident?

First of all, and before making any payment, the insurer must know the cause of the fire and whether it was caused intentionally, by negligence or if the fire was accidental. Most politicians do not know whether the fire was intentionally set.

The first thing the victim must do is contact the insurance company as quickly as possible to obtain compensation. For Miguel Relañoco-manager of Clyde & Co Spain and expert in insurance and damage law, the quickest way to make a claim is through the multi-home insurance. “It is the typical insurance that covers the damage that your house, your furniture, may suffer due to a risk like this of fire.” However, warns the expert, this policy does not repair the damage bodily injury: “Those who suffered damage I must take action against the person responsible for the fire,” he explains.

In this direction, Mariano Herrador, lawyer specializing in insurance and director of the VIIth International Congress of Damages, believes that during the construction of the building in 2008, it was “very difficult to prove” the liability of the builder and the architect because “the coverage by the ten-year l The insurance has already passed. This policy protects and guarantees for ten years that owners of newly built housing be compensated for material damage suffered by their building and which is due to the construction itself or which affects the structural elements.

Another way is to go to fire insurance, which is mandatory when the house is financed by a mortgage. Every victim of the Valencia event must take into account that fire coverage is generally included in all home insurance policies, as well as other add-ons that may be incorporated or optional. As Mariano Herrador explains, it is essential to examine the conditions for subscribing to individual insurance, both individual and general. Only in the event that we have taken out this policy, the insurer will be responsible for the damage. But it must be taken into account that the insurance “only responds within the limit of the insured amount”, according to Mariano Herrador.

If you do not have insurance, no one will be responsible for the material damage caused, unless the Government, by royal decree, accepts some form of assistance.

Who is responsible for bodily injury coverage?

The bodily injury claim depends on the type of policy taken out by the home insurer. For example, there are insurance policies that only cover home damage and others that also include bodily injury.

In the event of a claim for the death of a victim, explain Efren Diaz, lawyer from the Mas y Calvet law firm, will be responsible for the incident and will be responsible for covering both the personal loss and the moral damage due to the death of the loved one. The lawyer emphasizes: “It is important to know that, normally, there is no fixed amount in terms of compensation in the event of death and that everything will depend on the policies that are signed.”

It is also possible to claim moral damages caused by the accident, such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety or loss of housing. To do this, the affected party must provide an expert report demonstrating the existence of this damage and their extent. These can be devastating, according to Díaz: “In these cases, people wonder why I didn’t do anything to save a baby or its father and the moral consequences caused by these events are very serious.”

It is appropriate to ask ourselves what, if any, fault the neighbor of the apartment where the fire started from was at fault. According to Miguel Relaño, if this circumstance could be proven, he would be considered responsible for the disasters and would have to take responsibility for all the damage caused. “Here, the losses will amount to millions. This neighbor, logically, will not have the solvency to deal with all of this, even if his multi-risk policy includes civil liability guarantee,” explains the expert.

What is the procedure with the insurance company to repair the damage?

In cases where there is insurance covering fire risk, the insurer will send an expert to the victim who will make an assessment of the damage which will be transmitted to the insurer, who will then make an offer of compensation. As this expertise is commissioned by the entity, the insured does not have the right to receive a copy.

In the event that the party concerned does not agree with said expert report, Legalities advises you to make use of the right granted by article 38 of the Insurance Contracts Act. The victim of a fire can appoint another expert to discuss the amount proposed by the insurer. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, there is always the possibility of going to court and having a legal expert appointed.

Can you contact the Insurance Compensation Consortium?

Mariano Herrador assures that “in principle, we cannot contact the Compensation Consortium because it is not a catastrophic risk”. To be entitled to compensation from the consortium, the damage had to be caused by risks legally considered extraordinary.

These may be caused by natural phenomena such as an atmospheric cyclone storm (tornados and waves with speeds greater than 120 km/h), an extraordinary inundation, those produced by the sea, the earth, the sea, the volcanic erupcion, the cay of aerolitos. , among others.

The consortium also covers damage due to acts of violence resulting from terrorism, rebellion, sedition, riots or popular unrest, in addition to the actions of the Armed Forces or Security Forces and Agencies in peacetime.

Should those who still have a mortgage continue to pay it?

The answer is yes. The fact that a disaster like the Valencia fire was caused does not mean that the owner of the house is not responsible for paying his debts. As Miguel Relaño explains, the mortgage “is a loan that the neighbor is obliged to repay within certain deadlines. And no matter how much the house is gone, “the debt continues to exist,” he comments.

If the house has a contracted mortgage, the owner has the obligation, according to mortgage law, to have at least fire insurance, the contracted value of which must be the first valuation of the house, explains Legálitas. This insurance generally covers the container, that is to say the building itself, without covering its contents or the land. Normally, the bank requires that the home be insured for the appraised value excluding elements that are not insurable by nature, notably the land.

It is not obligatory, although it is common, for the bank to appear as a beneficiary in home insurance taken out directly with insurers. The fact that the bank is a beneficiary means that in the event of a fire like the one in Valencia, the insurance compensation will go to the financial company and not to the mortgagee.

A recent example is what happened with some of the people affected by the La Palma volcano. Many policyholders found that their settlement money went directly to the entities with whom they took out their mortgage. Insurance intermediaries warn consumers of this irregular practice and the importance of being well informed.

What happens if the person concerned is a tenant of the accommodation?

If the victim is a tenant and does not own the house, he or she can claim the lost furniture from the house, provided that it is his or her property and is insured. In the event that the apartment is empty, it would be necessary to see what type of insurance policy is in force on this house, explains Miguel Relaño. “There are times when the tenant takes out a home insurance policy to cover, for example, the contents, and other times they also insure the risks of the mainland even if it is not their property.”

Likewise, we must also take into account the policies that landlords take out, tenants also have policies and then there is the policy that the landlord may have, which offers “double cover” against damage. “There may be two policies, one for the owner and another for the tenant, which will have to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis to resolve the problem,” explains Relaño.

It may happen that there are two insurance policies that cover the damage, one belonging to the owner and another corresponding to the tenant. This is a case of double coverage in which “we will have to analyze case by case to resolve the problem,” explains Relaño.

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