coin-anim
image image image image image image
from Firehouse.com by Karen Facey

I recently joined “the dark side" after I left the public sector as a fire marshal to become a fire investigator for Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance. While we collectively banter and joke about people leaving the public sector and starting their private sector careers, the reality is we all have the same needs and motivation. Ask any first responder, and they will likely tell you they love what they do because they get “to help people.” Ask any private fire investigator why they investigate fires and they will also answer “to help people.”

Read more...

Foundations of the Laws of Thermodynamics

The branch of science called thermodynamics deals with systems that are able to transfer thermal energy into at least one other form of energy (mechanical, electrical, etc.) or into work.  The laws of thermodynamics were developed over the years as some of the most fundamental rules which are followed when a thermodynamic system goes through some sort of energy change.

HISTORY OF THERMODYNAMICS

The history of thermodynamics begins with Otto von Guericke who, in 1650, built the world's first vacuum pump and demonstrated a vacuum using his Magdeburg hemispheres.

Guericke was driven to make a vacuum to disprove Aristotle's long-held supposition that 'nature abhors a vacuum'.  Shortly after Guericke, the English physicist and chemist Robert Boyle had learned of Guericke's designs and, in 1656, in coordination with English scientist Robert Hooke, built an air pump.  Using this pump, Boyle and Hooke noticed a correlation between pressure, temperature and volume.  In time, Boyle's Law was formulated, which states that pressure and volume are inversely proportional.

CONSEQUENCES OF THE LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS

The laws of thermodynamics tend to be fairly easy to state and understand ... so much so that it's easy to underestimate the impact they have.  Among other things, they put constraints on how energy can be used in the universe.  It would be very hard to over-emphasize how significant this concept is.  The consequences of the laws of thermodynamics touch on almost every aspect of scientific inquiry in some way.

Read more...

A publication of The Italian Association of Chemical Engineering Online at www.aidic.it/cet

The evolution of fires in confined space such as chemical and pharmaceutical warehouses is characterized by the complex interaction between the combustion process, the enclosure and occupants, which has to be managed when coping with fire emergency and, more in general, for fire safety. This paper proposes a quick, decision-making tool based on adversity scenarios and more specifically through the definition of four main elements: i) the potential fire spread categories, which describe the potential paths and extents of fire propagation; ii) the thermal load expressed as hot gas layer temperature; iii) the available safe egress time (ASET) for people to leave the enclosure, which is essential for organizing people evacuation; and iv) other specific hazards. The proposed tool can be usefully adopted to improve the level of information to interested stakeholders (building owner, fire service, etc.) concerning both the fire hazard and the building fire performance. 1. Introduction Fires constitute one of the most important hazards from chemical and pharmaceutical warehouses. They can give rise to serious damage to people as well as to the environment and they can cause extensive economical losses. For these reasons, in order to assist the management to identify the most suitable countermeasures (both organizational and technical), it is useful to have a tool that allows identifying in advance the potential adverse situations that could characterize the analysed system. In the present work, two indicators describe the potential fire-induced adverse situations, the first is a qualitative description of the potential fire, and the second is a quantitative evaluation of the thermal load on sensible targets, based on Hot Gas Layer Temperature (HGLT). The assessment process is based on the inspection of the workplace (Dusso et al., 2015): the workplace is divided into cells, i.e. single rooms or enclosures, or in more in general, subsections of the same workplace separated from those adjacent by physical elements as walls or floors and - in the open - barriers or separation distances. Then, important information regarding the characteristics of the stored materials, the storage conditions and the features of the enclosure such as floor area, ceiling height, openings should be collected.

Read more...

Successful Litigation Relies on Proper Analysis

by Roman Kickirillo, P.E., CFEI, CVFI, Donan Engineering Company, Inc. Nashville, Tennessee

The investigation into the cause and origin of motor vehicle fires should be considered a separate field of study than structure fires. Although the basic Fire Science remains the same, there are important differences in the interpretation and analysis of fire patterns and other evidence. An understanding of these differences before litigation begins can avoid lost time and expenses later in the process. There are very few absolute rules in vehicle fire investigations, but one always holds true: If your expert’s analysis is incorrect, the opposing side will be more than happy to let you know about it - at the worst possible time.

Read more... 

From Out of the Abyss...

This week’s article from the past is titled Incendiary Fires Can Be Spotted and was written by Benjamin Horton, CPCU, who was President of the National Adjuster Traing School in Louisville, Kentucky..  It is taken from the Decembe 1968 Vol. XVI No.5 issue.

Incendiary Fires Can Be Spotted 

White Paper

Study by: Albert Simeoni, Zachary C. Owens, Erik W. Christiansen, Abid KemalExponent, Inc. USAMichael Gallagher, Kenneth L. Clark, Nicholas SkowronskiNorthern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, USAEric V. Mueller, Jan C. Thomas, Simon Santamaria, Rory M. HaddenSchool of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, UK

Albert Simeoni, Zachary C. Owens, Erik W. Christiansen, Abid Kemal Exponent, Inc. USA Michael Gallagher, Kenneth L. Clark, Nicholas Skowronski Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, USA Eric V. Mueller, Jan C. Thomas, Simon Santamaria, Rory M. Hadden School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, UK

ABSTRACT

Two experimental fires, with contrasting intensities, were conducted in March 2016, in the Pinelands National Reserve (PNR) of New Jersey, United States in order to provide a preliminary assessment of the reliability of the fire direction indicators used in wildland fire investigation.  The experiments were part of a larger project intended to measure firebrand production in a forested ecosystem.  As part of this project, fire behavior, as well as the environmental and fuel conditions were also measured.  Two burn parcels, covering an area of approximately 30 hectares each, were ignited from unimproved forest roads which delimited them.  The forest canopy was comprised primarily of pitch pine with intermittent oaks.  The understory contained a mixed shrub layer of huckleberry, blueberry, and scrub oaks. In order to explore a wide range of indicators, objects such as bottles, cans and small fence elements were planted in the burn area, and photographed before and after the fire.  To obtain an accurate measure of pre- and post-fire fuel properties, fuel load, fuel bulk density, and fuel moisture content were also measured. In addition, environmental data (wind velocity and direction, air temperature and humidity) were recorded.  The fire behavior can be reconstructed using measurements of fire rate of spread, fire front temperatures, fire front geometry, and heat fluxes.  Video and infrared cameras were used to document the general fire behavior in selected locations.  This paper represents the first step in the analysis of the fire indicators and focuses on the more intense of the two burns and on the appearance of the macro- and microscale fire pattern indicators.  A majority of the indicators were assessed, although the configuration of the burn parcels, the ignition technique, and precipitation immediately following the fires limited a full study.  The results show that some fire direction indicators are highly dependent on local fire conditions and fire behavior and may be in contradiction with the general spread of the fire.  Overall, this study demonstrates that fire pattern indicators are a useful tool but must be interpreted in the frame of a general analysis of the fire, combined with a good understanding of fire behavior and fire dynamics.

Read more...



Practical Approaches for Recouping Good Faith Payments

Larry-Arnold-article

by: Larry Arnold

Faced with growing losses, insurance companies are focusing on fraud management and implementing risk mitigation controls, while at the same time remaining cognizant of their duty of good faith to policyholders.  So what happens when an insurer makes good faith payments on legitimate elements of an insurance claim but subsequently uncovers fraud in other elements of the claim?  Is the insurer entitled to recover all monies paid as part of the claim?  Or only the amount paid in reliance on the insured's misrepresentations?

Previously, there was no clear answer.  It was safe to assume that an insurer could recover monies paid on a claim under the right circumstances – the difficulty occurred when trying to recover payments made prior to the established fraud date.  For example, in California, the insurance code states, “If a representation is false in a material point, whether affirmative or promissory, the injured party is entitled to rescind the contract from the time the representation becomes false.”

Recent trial court rulings in favor of insurance companies, however, are changing the claims landscape.  These rulings will impact the way insurance companies handle genuine claims that are subsequently tainted by fraud, encouraging them to be proactive in recouping good faith payments.

Steps for Recouping

What options do insurance companies have to recoup these payments?  There are several avenues available.

Deny the Claim. When the SIU has completed a claims investigation and determined that an insured has breached the policy by materially misrepresenting facts, the claim can be denied – even the legitimate part.  Appropriate cases should be referred to law enforcement for prosecution.  In addition, the insured has a duty to present and prove the merits of the claim.  Failure to cooperate with insurance company representatives can independently result in denial of the claim.  This includes an examination under oath (EUO), which plays a key role in obtaining information.  Typically, the named insured (or others, as dictated by the policy) is required to submit to an EUO as a precondition for claims settlement.  Failure to do so can result in denial of the claim.

Void the Policy. An insurer may void or cancel its policy in the event of material misrepresentation or concealment of facts by the insured.  This includes fraudulent claims.

Litigation. If a policy is voided for fraudulent claims, insurers must then decide whether to sue the insured to recoup payments - even legitimate ones.  One advantage with litigation is that it allows for pretrial discovery process, including depositions and the ability to subpoena documents previously unavailable during the claims process.

A Case in Point

A recent case illustrates that insurance companies are entitled to recoup good faith payments when fraud is uncovered.  Here is some background on the case.

An insurer issued a fire insurance policy to the owner of a dry cleaning business located in Southern California.  A fire destroyed the business, so the owner submitted claims for replacement equipment, debris removal, damage to customer goods and loss of business income.  Based on these claims, the insurance company paid the owner $527,000.

However, during the insurance company’s investigation of additional claims, a forensic accountant uncovered inconsistencies in a laundry services contract submitted as part of the owner’s claim for loss of business income.  As a result, the owner was asked to sit for an EUO.  The owner declined and withdrew his pending claim.  The insurer then declined the claim, rescinded the policy and sued the business owner to recoup all loss payments.

At trial, evidence and witness testimony was presented that showed the owner had falsified the laundry contract and also inflated amounts paid for replacement equipment, debris removal, and payroll, among other items. Attorneys argued that the insurer was entitled to full recovery (payments made before the fraud occurred) for several novel reasons, including:

  • The outcome in Perovich v. Glen Falls Insurance Co. (9th Cir. 1968), where the court ruled that an insurer “may recover money paid in reasonable reliance on its insured’s fraudulent claim.”  The court held that the insurer was entitled to recover the full payment made under the policy.
  • Compelling the insured to return only a portion of the money would circumvent the purpose of the fraud statutes and create bad public policy.  The insured’s fear of losing even the legitimate claim payments should deter him from committing fraud.  An insured who knew he could recover the “honest” claims would be incentivized to calculate the risk of getting caught into his claims submission, determining that some things are worth lying about.

Though portions of the claim were legitimate, the judge ruled in favor of the insurer and its decision to rescind the fire insurance policy.  The insured was ordered to repay $452,064, which represented all payments less monies paid to customers who lost clothing in the fire and the policy premium.

Implications for Insurers

This decision is important as it reinforces the rights of insurance companies not only to decline a claim when fraud is uncovered but also to rescind a policy and sue the insured to collect good faith payments.  Previously, the law was not clear about what happens to monies paid as part of a legitimate claim, when fraud is discovered in a separate area.  It is now clear that fraud in part of a claim translates to fraud in the entire claim.

Claims managers should have an open discussion with claims adjusters and SIU team members, with the goal of establishing a claims review protocol that outlines what to look for and what to do if fraud is suspected.  This is critical, as claim adjusters are the first line of defense against fraud.  Once fraud is uncovered, insurance companies should not hesitate to consult with an attorney and pursue the insured in order to recover monies already paid.  In the end, both insurance companies and policyholders will benefit by reducing the high cost of fraud.

Larry M. Arnold, P.C., is a senior partner at Cummins & White, LLP.  He can be reached at (949) 852-1800, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Banner

Advertise Your Business Here!

 

CCAI Advertisers enjoy unprecedented exposure to professionals in the public and private sector with tens of thousands of targeted visitors each year looking to arson.org for critical information on the state of fire and arson investigation in the United States and worldwide!  

Banner ads should be formatted to 699 x 125 pixels, JPEG or animated GIF or Flash SWF, 100Kb or less. 

Annual advertising rates available.

Join CCAI Today!

Member Benefits:  

~Training in Fire/Arson
   Investigation
~Semi-Annual
  Training Seminars
~Regional Roundtable
  Meetings held
  throughout the State
~Fire Investigative Resources
~Networking between public
  and private agencies:
       Fire, Police, Insurance,
       Private Investigators,
       Attorneys
~Legal Updates
~Certification Development
~Annual Membership Card
~CCAI-CFI Program
~Field Training Exercises
~Videos on
   fire/arson investigations
~Members only area
~Attend Seminars at a
  greatly reduced rate!
~Weekly E-Newsletter
Last month May 2017 Next month
S M T W T F S
week 18 1 2 3 4 5 6
week 19 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
week 20 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
week 21 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
week 22 28 29 30 31
California Certified Fire Investigator

 

 

 

Location

1279 North White Avenue 
Pomona, California 91768 
Phone:  (909) 865-5004
Fax (909) 865-5024 
8:00 am - 5:00 pm 
Monday - Friday

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer

This is the official website of the California Conference of Arson Investigators.

The information published on this website... more... 

 

Login