February 21, 2015 • By Dennis Beaver
Picture yourself running your own little convenience store in a poor section of town with a large, highly superstitious, immigrant population.
It’s Christmas Eve, and normally lots of moms with their kids would be shopping, but now–fortunately — you are all alone.
Suddenly, a car crashes through the front door, headed to where you are sitting behind the cash register. Like a character from The Matrix, you perform back-flips and contortions, avoiding the car, but get one heck of a backache and nightmares.
Fortunately, the out of control car, your landlord, and your business have adequate insurance. Claims adjusters immediately arrange for repairs, so you’re only closed about a week.
But then something very odd becomes clear:
Many of your customers are frightened, some talking about a hex — a spell — on the building, and they have not returned, leading to a substantial reduction in sales.
You also sustained some type of a back injury, and have recurring, horrible nightmares, but have been trying to “tough it out” and not yet been seen by a doctor or psychologist.
To make matters worse, your own insurance company, which should cover lost income, announces that you only have 60 days to make a final claim. But at this time, how could anyone know what the loss will wind up being?
That real fact situation is currently facing Abe, our Central California reader. You and the Law has turned to Hanford attorney, Rissa Stuart for advice on how to deal with claims adjusters, and other steps Abe needs to take to prove his loss of income claim, beginning with good record keeping.
Good financial records +video surveillance evidence = solid proof
“Just as for an individual who may have been off work due to an accident and would prove lost wages with pay stubs from a employer, it’s the same for a business.
“Abe’s situation is unique and could greatly benefit by having more than daily till records and profit and loss statements. His store video surveillance system could play a critical role in proving these substantial losses by showing customers in the store over a period of months prior to the accident,” Stuart points out.
And once again, Abe was a lucky guy, as his video system has an enormous 8 terra bytes of storage, and had been running for almost a year. But what about this 90 day cut off limit?
’90 days to present the claim is unrealistic’
“An insurance company must allow adequate time for you to gather the facts and elements of proof which establishes your claim. Abe’s could easily require help from a forensic accountant, an economist and a cultural anthropologist to establish his present reduction of income and prove what could very well be a permanent loss of customers putting him out of business at that location.
“This 90 day limit to present his claim is unrealistic and sounds like bad faith. Abe is clearly being pushed around by a claims adjuster, likely an attempt to minimize what is paid out.
“That alone is reason to at least have a consultation with an attorney, but as there are three insurance companies involved in the incident, Abe likely cannot handle it by himself,” Stuart believes.
Toughing it our — delaying treatment — weakens the claim
Of course anyone going through something like this would certainly be affected, at least emotionally, and Abe could indeed have experienced some kind of a back injury.
“But if you are hurt, you see a doctor and you do this now. It’s the same thing with emotional injuries, as the longer you wait to be treated, the believability of your injuries can take a nose dive,” Stuart notes.
To superstitious customers the hex or spell is real
Just how serious, how real is the “hex” on Abe’s store and could this be the basis of compensation for lost business?
“It could be very real to his former customers,” anthropologist Dr. Phillips Stevens told us. He is associate professor of anthropology at the Buffalo campus of the State University of New York.
“In many communities all over the United States the belief in magic and the supernatural play a role in everyday life. If a belief in this ‘hex’ can be confirmed through interviews conducted by a cultural anthropologist, it would help to explain his loss of business,” Stevens believes.
Proving the reality of those fears to Abe’s former customers and others to whom the worlds of magic and the supernatural are real then raises one determinative question:
“If Abe cannot somehow convince his customers that it is safe to return, then what?”
In that event, it will be one of the most interesting cases that any lawyer will ever have.
Cross my heart and hope to die!
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.