Two-year anniversary of East Troublesome represents legal deadlines for victims |

Two-year anniversary of East Troublesome represents legal deadlines for victims

A burned chimney is visible through the trees at the Columbine Lake neighborhood north of Grand Lake in this 2020 file photo. The western side of Columbine Lake was hard hit by the East Troublesome Fire.
Eli Pace/Sky-Hi News archive

East Troublesome Fire victims will face deadlines for their ability to receive certain benefits and sue their insurer this week on Friday, Oct. 21, the second anniversary of the fire. The Grand Foundation, which has worked with victims since the fire, sent out emails to alert them to the deadlines earlier this year.

The benefits set to expire include additional living expenses, which insurance companies pay to victims to cover costs they incur, like the cost of rent for wherever they live while they rebuild their home. Other benefits could expire as well, like the ability to make an extended replacement cost claim, but Natascha O’Flaherty, an attorney with Never Summer Law, emphasized the importance of the living expenses.

“The rent is the big one because some people are obviously in this environment paying really hefty rent,” O’Flaherty said.

Victims can request to extend their time for benefit payouts based on a bulletin issued by the Colorado Division of Insurance. It instructs insurers in the state to consider “all of the circumstances affecting the claim including those not directly caused by the catastrophic disaster,” which can include weather issues, labor and material shortages, and delays from the insurer in providing estimates and payments.

For future fire victims, the deadline for benefits will work differently because of a law partially inspired by East Troublesome victims. The Insurance Coverage For Loss Declared Fire Disaster Act, which became law in June, updates the standards of coverage for insurers in Colorado in many ways, including requiring insurers to allow two six-month extensions for additional living expense coverage if the policyholder experiences any delays in rebuilding their home.

Statute of limitations deadline

Insurance policies can set the statute of limitations at two years after a disaster, which is why victims’ ability to sue their insurer could also expire Oct. 21. Victims might file lawsuits for things like breach of contract or statutory violations.

There are situations where the statute of limitations can be extended, but if insured people do not file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires, O’Flaherty said their claim will be forever barred. 

“Bottom line, they just — they need to quickly talk to a lawyer,” O’Flaherty said.

The Grand Foundation has worked with East Troublesome victims in many ways, including navigating their insurance coverage. Foundation executive director Megan Ledin said the organization brought in case managers for that purpose and many victims have requested money for attorney’s fees from the foundation.

Ledin said only 134 building permits had been issued by the end of August for the nearly 380 homes destroyed in the fire. According to a February Sky-Hi article, 94 permits had been issued by the end of 2021.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the number of building permits that have been issued.

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