(Written by John Fox)
As a former defense attorney for an oil company who has defended refinery accidents and explosions, it is highly likely that there will be many property damage claims as a result of the massive explosion which occurred at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Oil Refinery around 4 am this morning. The refinery is located at 3100 West Passayunk Avenue in South Philadelphia. As reported by Philadelphia Patch News, following the explosion, a large butane fire broke out. The accident caused shelter in place orders for several hours due to smoke from the refinery. After air quality testing, the Philadelphia Health Department said there is no immediate danger in the area. The fire was contained by about 7 a.m., however it is still not under control. No major injuries have been reported.
Property Damage Claim Options
Property Damage Adjustment Companies
It is highly likely that property damage adjustment firms will scour through the neighborhood looking for clients for the purpose of presenting claims to Philadelphia Energy Solutions. These companies are not lawyers and they are not an insurance company. They will, however, “adjust” your claim to calculate the damages your property may have incurred as a result of the explosion. If they have enough clients, they will bundle the claims and present them to Philadelphia Energy Solutions for reimbursement. In return, they will charge a fee for their service. The fee is usually a contingency fee based on the amount that they recover on your behalf.
If you do not choose to submit your claim through a damage adjustment company, your other option is to make a claim with your homeowners’ insurance and let the insurance company adjuster inspect the damage and value the claim. Although you might incur a deductible, depending on your deductible, it may not be as much as the contingency fee charged by the adjustment firm.
Preserving the Evidence
Take pictures of any damage, including cracked windows, drywall, and foundations. Be careful not to inflate the damages, as it will raise alarms with the oil company in paying the claim. The neighborhood surrounding the refinery is an old neighborhood and it is likely that the foundation issues were already present.
I anticipate that the oil company will retain blast experts to define the strength of the blast as it moves outward from the refinery. The purpose of retaining these experts is to argue that the force of the blast could not have caused damage as the distance from the blast extends outward. Therefore, do not expect to jump on the bandwagon with a property damage claim. Each claim will be individually evaluated.
In summary, my advice is to go with the homeowners’ insurance company if you have a claim. If you do not have homeowners’ insurance, your next best option is a property damage adjustment company. If you have been injured as a result of this explosion, contact Fox Law today for a free case evaluation.