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How UPA Helped Maximize a NJ Family’s House Fire Insurance Settlement


On September 3rd, 2022, a fire destroyed the Pinecliff Lake home of April and John Santangelo of West Milford, NJ, where their family had resided for 19 years. The insurance adjuster from their major carrier surveyed the premises, stating it had been a ‘no-fault’ electrical fire. He also stated that they would be ‘covered 100%’, and promised their issue would be resolved within five weeks of their fire damage claim submission. Assured that they had excellent house fire insurance coverage, the family was hopeful for a quick settlement so the rebuilding of their family’s home could begin. A swift return to normalcy was especially important for April, a cancer survivor who had recently undergone eight major surgeries, including the removal of a kidney only two weeks before the fire. It was imperative for her to avoid any additional stress in her personal fight to regain her health.

The Challenge

The Santangelos contacted United Public Adjusters & Appraisers as well as a local contractor for estimates for their rebuild. It was determined that to replace the existing premises, with no additions, would incur a cost of approximately $510,000. However, when their house fire insurance carrier presented their settlement offer, with depreciation their property insurance claim settlement amount was only $295,000, clearly not enough to rebuild their family home. The settlement figure was also considerably less than the total dollar amount in premiums that the Santangelos had paid to their insurer over the past 19 years for coverage. Frustrated, the couple reached out to their insurance agent, a neighbor, who confirmed that their coverage for their house alone in terms of the premiums they paid, exclusive of personal property, was $491K plus an additional 20%. The Santangelos were bewildered and wondered how it was possible for their home to have a premium valuation of almost $500K plus an additional 20% yet the settlement from their fire damage claim was about half that amount. Their insurance adjuster’s response was that even a total home loss may not justify the insurance carrier having to pay out the total policy limit as the settlement amount.


United Public Adjusters & Appraisers immediately went to work on behalf of the Santangelo family. The firm prepared their detailed property insurance claim settlement rebuttal, which included photographs and an itemized list of the damage and asset losses. Their extensive documentation was submitted yet as time passed there was no response from the insurance carrier’s adjuster.

Next, Philip Maltaghati, UPA’s President, and his team prepared a YouTube video featuring the couple in front of their heavily fire-damaged home. As they detailed their story, including their numerous attempts to receive a just settlement from their insurance carrier to begin the rebuilding process, the camera additionally panned their home’s interior. The structure as well as most of their possessions clearly had been totally destroyed by the blaze.


By this time, the couple’s YouTube video had received about 7K views. However, beyond their initial settlement, their insurance carrier had not responded with a revised offer for their fire damage claim to resolve their issue. At this point, Maltaghati reached out to a New York area News channel, Eyewitness News. Their ‘7 on your Side’ reporter, Nina Pineda, took up the family’s plight. Their story appeared as a news segment as well as on their website, But it was Pineda’s Tweet to the insurance carrier regarding their house fire insurance claim that brought results. The couple’s insurance carrier assigned their case to a higher level adjuster. Within two weeks, the couple received an additional check for $89K- enough to begin the rebuilding process. Their carrier stated that they will continue to work with the couple through UPA to “to make sure they (i.e. the Santangelos) get all the benefits they’re entitled to under their insurance policy.”

Conclusion: The Santangelos are grateful to everyone who assisted them to obtain a higher property insurance claim settlement offer. Without intervention by United Public Adjusters & Appraisers as well as Channel 7, “We would have lost this home and sold this property, (and have had to) start somewhere else,” said April.

“Without Nina and 7 On Your Side and our public adjuster we wouldn’t have been able to build the basics of our house, we so appreciate it,” John concluded.

Stated Philip Maltaghati, UPA: “First, I want to thank Channel 7 On Your Side for showing up because after you showed up State Farm sent a manager, found a lot of mistakes, and increased the offer within a couple of weeks.”

To learn more about how United Public Adjusters & Appraisers can assist you, contact our team to learn more about our range of services today!


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