Amin Ahmed, recoveries solicitor at Crawford Legal Services UK, unpacks an escape of water claim with a successful outcome for our client (the home insurer) and its policyholder.
This case highlights the benefits of our ‘One Crawford’ integrated claims solutions, where solicitors work side-by- side with Crawford adjusters. In general, when it comes to insurers recovering from the at-fault party, it’s often not always possible due to a lack of evidence. But when CLS is on the case from the beginning of claims, this vital evidence is what we are skilled at preserving in the event it’s needed at a later date.
Crawford Legal Services UK (CLS) was instructed to handle a recovery claim arising from an escape of water. The incident took place in a semi-detached residential property while the owner and occupier (‘the Claimant’) was at work. The escape of water was noticed by a neighbour who witnessed water pouring through the front door of the property and immediately notified the Claimant. The leak was traced back to a failed braided stainless steel hose installed under a basin in an en-suite bathroom on the first floor. As a result, significant water damage was caused to the Claimant’s property.
After carrying out some preliminary enquiries with the adjuster at ‘first notification of loss’ (FNOL), CLS acted quickly by immediately contacting the Claimant to ensure the failed braided hose was not disposed of or tampered with and kept in a safe location. Once the braided hose was secured, CLS instructed a forensic expert for an informal opinion on the cause of failure. CLS immediately arranged for pre-paid secure packaging to be sent to the Claimant via a specialist courier and the braided hose was in the expert’s possession within two days.
Upon initial inspection which included a molecular examination, the expert was of the view that the braided hose was manufactured using a poor grade of stainless steel which lacked sufficient levels of chromium and nickel. The expert also advised that the braided hose should not have corroded at the rate of which it did and certainly not within the 14 months since it was purchased and installed by the Claimant.
CLS made further enquires with the Claimant and established that the hose had been purchased as part of a bathroom vanity unit from a national bathroom supplier (‘the Defendant’) and the Claimant had installed the braided hose himself. CLS requested the purchase receipts and invoices for the vanity unit from the Claimant and the Defendant’s terms of business were downloaded from their website and kept on file.
CLS reverted to the expert and sought advice on the impact of the self-installation as the Claimant was not a qualified plumber and it was advised that there was no evidence of defective install and this did not contribute to the failure of the hose.
CLS drafted a Pre-Action Protocol Letter of Claim which was served on the Defendant. A substantive response was not forthcoming, so county court proceedings were issued for the full reinstatement costs of the property as well as the Claimant’s uninsured losses. The Claimant pleaded a cause of action in breach of contract under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, the Sale of Goods Act 1979, breach of express terms and negligence.
The Defendant failed to respond to the claim in time, so Judgement was entered. Subsequently, the Defendant instructed Solicitors to set the Judgement aside and file a Defence. The Defendant denied liability and alleged defective install by the Claimant. The Defendant also denied that the braided hose was not fit for purpose and put the Claimant to strict proof. The stage was set for the experts to enter the arena.
The litigation continued and expert evidence was permitted by the court, with both parties to instruct their own. The braided hose was disclosed to the Defendant and their expert was provided with an opportunity to examine the hose. Expert reports were then exchanged between the parties. Both experts concluded on the same point; there was no evidence of defective install and an inappropriate grade of stainless steel was used on a hose that was likely to corrode in a relatively short period of time in an environment such as a bathroom.
Following the exchange of the expert reports, CLS applied pressure on the Defendant to settle the claim immediately as they no longer had any reasonable prospects of defending the claim. The Defendant was left with no other option but to agree and the claim was settled shortly afterwards.
Preserving an insurer’s right to recovery following an escape of water is entirely dependent on one critical thing: evidence.
This particular claim highlights the added value of using the ‘One Crawford’ integrated claims solution with lawyers working alongside adjusters from day one.
In this case, legal services were involved from FNOL. The braided flexible hose, which was of paramount importance to this outcome of this claim, was secured by our solicitors and retained, then sent to an expert at a very early stage. This had a direct impact on the prospects of recovery. In other circumstances, the significance of the braided hose from a recovery perspective may not have been fully appreciated at FNOL and could have quite easily been overlooked.
If you have any questions about this particular recovery or any general escape of water queries, please contact:
Partner, Crawford Legal Services UK
Read more about how CLS tackles recoveries.