How to make Gas company pay for water damage they caused?
October 24, 2008 8:57 PM   Subscribe

The Gas Company installed a new meter this week and broke my sprinkler line. My house and garage are now slightly flooded and laminate flooring that was just installed 1 month ago is ruined. How to I make the Gas Co. pay for the repairs?

Three or four days ago the Southern California Gas Company installed a new gas meter at my house while we were not home. This evening I noticed that my dining room floor and garage were flooded with water right around the area of the gas meter. Upon inspection of the area outside by the gas meter I can see that a sprinkler (which is about 1 foot away from the gas meter) has been completely broken off the water line. It appears that this has let a high flow of water fill up in the planter and leak into the house and garage.

Can someone please help me follow the proper steps to ensure the Gas Company takes responsibility for this and handles cleanup & repair costs? I have few items in the garage that have been ruined, but more importantly we just installed laminate flooring in the dining room a month ago and it is also ruined now.

Any help/advise would be greatly appreciated to handle this right away.

posted by sirhensley to Law & Government (12 answers total)
Here's what I'd do:

Get it repaired (at your expense initially, since this needs done anyway). Call the gas company, and inform them that they owe you the cost of the repair bill. If they pay up, great. If not, get a lawyer and have him start harassing them.

Or, you could just sue them first and skip the part where they say they didn't do it.
posted by Netzapper at 9:04 PM on October 24, 2008

The easiest thing to do is make a claim with your insurance company and they will collect from the Gas Company. That is why you have insurance.
posted by lee at 9:04 PM on October 24, 2008

If I make a claim with my insurance company wont it affect may rates moving forward regardless if the Gas Co pays up or not?

My concern is that the home had a water leak on the opposite end of the house before we purchased it and as a result we had a hard time finding a company to insure us (on top of the fact that we are in a high-fire zone).

I am not saying I wont take this route, I am just trying to ensure that this is the best route.

Also, do I need to have someone from my insurance company come out tonight to take care of this or do I wait till the morning (or wait till Monday)?
posted by sirhensley at 9:34 PM on October 24, 2008

yeah don't do the insurance route... save that for catastrophe's as it's a great way to get your coverage canceled otherwise.

I'd go with 'call a lawyer'. Although I like Netzapper's advice, you run the risk of having the Gas Company refusing to pay the repair bill because you obviously could have found a way to get the repair work done at a lower cost.

I say call a lawyer.
posted by matty at 10:28 PM on October 24, 2008

first thing is to document everything. i would call in a floor company, get a free estimate to repair or replace the floor. write out complete lists of everything that was damaged, photos, and estimates of repair costs. i would also make an immediate effort to find out the name of the driver, the license number of the truck, the exact time of the job, witnesses that saw the truck by the broken sprinkler. the more info you have, the better it will go

i would also call my insurance agent. you should talk to your agent because every homeowners insurance policy, and your local law is probably different. make your insurance agent earn their part of your monthly premium. say: this is what happened? i don't know if I want to make a claim yet. what do you think? what would such a claim do to my premium?

i would also call the gas company. fax or email your info to someone at the gas company. they may well have a set process for dealing with such claims.

but a key thing is to document everything well.
posted by Flood at 10:37 PM on October 24, 2008

You could try just asking first. If you don't like their answer, let them know that your lawyer will contact them. In any case, it can't hurt you do document as much as possible. Be sure to take some photos, keep good notes of who you talk to and when, etc. If you do decide to lawyer up, you'll want as much evidence as possible. Good luck regardless.
posted by esome at 10:37 PM on October 24, 2008

so far, some bad advice for you has been given.

call the gas company. they deal with things like this from their subcontractors all the time. they will send an adjustor out, make an offer to you, then you will decide if you like the offer, or if you want to make a claim on your insurance, or privately sue them.

first step of course is to contact them, and definately NOT go ahead and have non-emergency repairs done. let the process work if you want anything out of them.
posted by dripped at 11:45 PM on October 24, 2008

posted by docmccoy at 12:17 AM on October 25, 2008

Pretty poor advice all around for the most part.

First step: Contact them - Either the subcontractor or the gas company directly.
Second step: Tell them what happened.
Third step: Let them fix it.

If step 3 becomes the stopping point, then consider paying to have it fixed while you lawyer up and prepare to deal with stuff. Document everything.

Doing anything other than this will give the gas company plenty of ways to avoid having to pay - And quite legitimate ones, too, such as no evidence of the extent of the damage, no contact so they could make a good faith attempt to repair or replace things themselves or otherwise negotiate recovery and repair.
posted by Rendus at 4:01 AM on October 25, 2008

Call the gas company. They should have contacted you first, for one, so you could locate any buried lines on your property. Their subcontractor has insurance specifically for this sort of thing.

I work for a plumbing company, and we've hit surprise electric lines (YIKES!), mislocated fiber optics, etc - one time shutting down an entire three-story medical office building - and insurance just took care of it. The contractor, not yours.
posted by notsnot at 4:05 AM on October 25, 2008

The gas commpany may have broken a sewer line when working in front of my house. They came back and dug it up and replaced it. No problem. They have contingencies for these accidents.
posted by Gungho at 5:43 AM on October 25, 2008

Start snapping photos and keep detailed documentation of absolutely everything. That's the first step...
posted by drstein at 11:38 AM on October 26, 2008

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