A recent fire loss serves as yet another cautionary tale in making a coverage decision before all of the evidence has been gathered. All of the usual red flags were there: a fire at a business in the dark of night; the insured admittedly at the property immediately beforehand, with no viable alibi at the time of the fire; and a financial outlook that was bleak at best.

The direction this claim was headed seemed a foregone conclusion — until a week later when the electrical engineer concluded the fire was accidental, much to the surprise of everyone involved.

Prejudging claims is all too easy. On a subconscious level, we rely on years of experience to give us a useful feel for the issues and a sense of how best to approach a claim. The danger is when that experience leads us to oversimplify — or worse, to impulsively make decisions based upon suspicions rather than the evidence.

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