One of the first tasks that must be tackled when a fire claim is reported, is to establish what caused the fire. The three main reasons for this are:
- Policy Liability: Policy liability will not be granted until this important question has been answered satisfactorily. If the fire has been deliberately lit by the Insured or on the Insured's instructions, then the claim will be denied.
- Recovery: An investigation into cause can provide enough evidence to allow a recovery in full or in part against a negligent third party.
- Risk Management: By establishing the cause of the fire, measures can be put in place to prevent a recurrence.
Things are not always what they appear. In a recent fire, which occurred in the early hours of the morning in a restaurant, the cause of the fire was not readily apparent. A number of 'red flags' appeared, suggesting possible arson for fraud. The major flags were:
- The entire building was destroyed, including the floor. This often indicates that an accelerant has been involved.
- Only 5 months before the fire, the Insured had taken out business interruption insurance for the first time in 15 years of trading.
- Another of the Insured's businesses was recently sold.
Photograph 1: A restaurant building and its entire contents, completely destroyed by fire.
Photograph 2: A completely burnt out floor can suggest an accelerant, such as petrol, has been used to assist the fire. Note the small distance between the earth and the underside of the floor. This played a role in the actual cause.