Can I file a lawsuit against a neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance company regarding my losses?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can I file a lawsuit against a neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance company regarding my losses?

My neighbor’s house, that is attached to our house, had a fire and my house sustained smoke damage as a result. Since then the insurer has underestimated the values of the cost of damaged personal property and damage to my house. Based on estimates from multiple contractors, the damage is estimated close to 60k. The insurance company has so far paid 25k towards repairs and 10k towards personal property. We are working with a public adjuster so he has his take from the amount paid out. If the insurance does not cover the entire cost of rebuild/replace, can I file a lawsuit against my neighbor’s policy for the difference and any punitive damages?

Asked on July 28, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You cannot file a lawsuit against the neighbor's insurance: their insurance is *their* insurance and does not owe any duty or obligation to you; rather, their only obligation is to defend in court and/or pay any court judgments against them, or (if the insurer voluntarily chooses) to settle the case ahead of time.
You would have to sue the neighbor him/herself in court--again, you have to sue the neighbor, not his insurer; his insurer pays for him IF you win. But to win, you would have to prove the neighbor was *at fault* in causing the fire--that he is,  that he caused the fire through unreasonable carelessness, like smoking in bed or leaving a pot cooking unattended on the stove. If the neighbor was not at fault, he is not responsible for your loss and you will not get any money.
Note that even if the neighbor did cause the fire through carelessness, you could only get compensation for your costs or losses, to the extent not paid by your insurance; you cannot get "punitive damages" in a case involving carelessness.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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