When a homeowner files a claim for property damage, the insurance adjuster may try to get by with recommending an inexpensive patch or replacement of only a portion of a wall, roof or carpet, which can result in a mismatched and unsightly repair. A line-of-sight rule provides guidance to insurance adjusters by telling them how far the insurer must go to restore the property to its pre-loss condition.
Meaning of Line of Sight
According to a May 2012 article in Claims magazine, which was reprinted on PropertyCasualty360.com, the principle of indemnity says that damaged property should be restored to its pre-loss state. That's no problem if matching materials can be found to repair or replace the damage. When a match is not possible, the insurer often argues that a patch or replacement of just the damaged area is sufficient. Line-of-sight guidelines say otherwise. The rule is that any area in a direct line of sight from the observer's eye must have a reasonably uniform appearance once repairs are completed. For example, if a section of tile is damaged and a match to the original tile cannot be found, the entire tiled area in the viewer's line of sight must be replaced.
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Line-of-sight guidelines apply to both the exterior and interior of a residence. Outside, coverage under a line-of-sight rule includes walls, paint, trim and roofing. Inside a home, walls, trim, molding, counters and floors are covered. Carpeting is also covered. If a section of carpet can't be replaced that is a reasonable match in appearance, the insurer has to replace carpet in the entire room. Furniture also falls under the line-of-sight rule. Suppose the sofa of a matching set including a love seat is ruined by smoke or water damage. Unless a matching sofa can be found, the line-of-sight rule means the love seat must also be replaced, even if it is undamaged.
Laws and Limitations
Some states, including Florida and California, have line-of-sight laws. In states that do not, insurers may write a line-of-sight provision into homeowner's policies. You have to read the policy to see if this applies in your case. There are limits to line-of-sight guidelines, however. For example, a doorway or hall may be considered a break in the line of sight, even if the area beyond is visible. An insurer might have to replace carpet in an entire room but not adjacent rooms or hallways, even if the carpet being replaced doesn't match the carpet in those areas.
Know Your Rights
Insurance adjusters can try to convince you to accept a partial repair. If state law or your policy uses line-of-sight guidelines, you are entitled to a full restoration of damaged property to its pre-loss condition. Be prepared to go over the insurance adjuster's head if need be. Keep in mind that a line-of-sight rule is not a blank check. If the insurer can produce a reasonably uniform appearance without replacing entire walls, roofs or furniture sets, it has the right to do so.