Natascha O’Flaherty, ESQ.
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An attorney from Granby who helped homeowners with insurance claims after the 2020 East Troublesome Fire said carriers are required by law to cover certain expenses and provide policy information in a timely manner.
As wind gusts propelled the Marshall Fire from one Boulder County residential neighborhood to the next on Thursday, Natascha O’Flaherty, a lawyer in Granby, was at work dealing with the fallout of another fire.
O’Flaherty was helping residents get insurance payouts for properties lost in the East Troublesome Fire. The disaster burned approximately 366 homes before jumping the Continental Divide into Rocky Mountain National Park in October of 2020.
More than a year later, she said, dozens of residents who lost homes still haven’t received full payouts from their insurance carriers.
“It’s maddening,” said O’Flaherty, who is working with Rep. Judy Amabile, a Democrat from Boulder, on legislative reforms related to wildfire insurance claims.
Wildfires in recent years, fueled by climate change, a decades-long drought and the build up of combustible materials resulting from fire suppression, have burned more land than ever before on record.
O’Flaherty hopes to help homeowners in Boulder County get paid what they’re owed under their policies in a timely manner. Fire victims, she said, have rights enshrined in Colorado law holding insurance companies to certain timelines and reimbursement policies.
The Marshall Fire, while relatively small in size, appears unprecedented in state history in terms of sheer structural destruction. In less than 12 hours, it destroyed more than 500 homes and businesses, according to initial estimates from county officials. A small grassland fire south of the City of Boulder swelled as gusts topping 100 miles per hour billowed the blaze across Highway 36 into Superior and Louisville, suburban communities in southeast Boulder County.
No deaths have been reported, officials said on Friday. But on Thursday night, about 100 evacuees set up cots inside basketball courts and weight rooms at the YMCA of Northern Colorado in Lafayette. Many had little more than a bag of clothes and their pets with them as they waited to return to their homes not knowing what had been lost.
As these residents and their loved ones consider what to do next in these early days of tumult and displacement, O’Flaherty, who has spent the last year reviewing insurance contracts, said many homeowners should get a head start as soon as today on filing insurance claims.
First, contact your carrier.
O’Flaherty said homeowners and renters should immediately let their carriers know about the property loss. They should get a claim number and request a contact for an insurance adjuster, an agent who investigates property damage.
Get a copy of your policy.
By law, companies have three business days to provide a copy of the insurance policy. O’Flaherty said residents should then request a separate certified copy, which carriers must provide within 30 days.
In the meantime, keep all your receipts.
This includes all expenses related to the evacuation, such as hotels, meals, pet supplies and clothing. These necessities are reimbursed under contents coverage and what’s known as additional living expenses, or ALE, coverage. O’Flaherty said ALE coverage may also pay for sheltering animals and livestock.
Claim your 30 percent.
By law, homeowners or renters who lost their primary residence are eligible for a payment of 30% of the value of their destroyed personal property without a written inventory. O’Flaherty said this money can help families replace urgent necessities, such as clothing.
Look for housing.
O’Flaherty said it may be a year or more before homeowners are able to rebuild. By law, ALE policies must cover the cost of temporary housing for at least one year. She said residents should contact their carrier and find out how much their coverage provides and how long it lasts. She said this could be used for rental costs. Or, she said, ask your carrier if it will pay a monthly fair market value of the home lost toward the purchase of a temporary home while you rebuild or whether the carrier will pay out the ALE coverage in advance.
O’Flaherty acknowledged finding another home won’t be easy. The hundreds of homes scorched last night will exacerbate a housing crisis across the Front Range. The neighborhoods surrounding the City of Boulder have helped provide residents more affordable housing options. More than half the people who work in the city commute into town.
“Rental prices will soar,” O’Flaherty said. “There are now hundreds of people scrambling for a new home.”
She said homeowners and renters can file complaints with the Colorado Division of Insurance if they have issues getting paid.
Natascha O’Flaherty, a full time Grand County resident since 2008, is deeply committed to helping individuals and businesses in the community with their legal needs. She brings 28 years of experience to the firm and strives to serve her clients with excellent legal representation to protect them, their families and their assets.
It was the similar mindset and similar areas legal expertise that connected Natascha with the founder of the firm, Crystal McDonough.
Natascha is a thoughtful, insightful and passionate advocate for her clients. Individuals and businesses rely on her to guide them through their issues and to establish a clear legal path forward as their families and businesses grow. In Granby her law practice is focused on contract law, business and estate planning. Natascha enjoys helping families and business owners and is strives to identify and effectively address issues before they arise.
The daughter of two college professors, Natascha inherited their love of teaching. She has spent over a decade teaching accredited continuing education classes to accountants, lawyers and insurance agents on a variety of topics: buy-sell agreements, 162 executive bonus plans, charitable remainder trusts, estate planning 101, estate planning issues unique to non-US citizens, 1031 and 1035 exchanges, long term care insurance contracts and disability contracts.
Born and raised in Austria, Natascha is thrilled to live in Grand County where she can enjoy being in the mountain environment that she so loves: hiking, biking, XC skiing, kayaking, snowshoeing and mountain biking with family and friends is how she spends her free time.
Business & Corporate Law
State of Colorado
Boston College, BA
Hamline University School of Law, JD
Professional Organizations & Affiliations
Elected Town of Granby Trustee, 2018-present
Grand Foundation board member, 2018-present
Appointed as the Hearing Officer for the Town of Grand Lake 2011-2018
Appointed as the municipal judge for the town of Grand Lake 2018-present
Colorado Women’s Estate Planning Council, past president and former board member
Denver International Law Society, past president and former board member
Editor of the Colorado Bar Association two volume book, Advising Older Clients
Chairperson for Buy-Sell Forum for Colorado Legal Education
Project Safeguard, former board member
East Grand Middle School Model United Nations coach, 2016-2019
East Grand Middle School Scripps Spelling Bee coach and coordinator 2016-2019
Middle Park High School “Chum with and Alum” creator and coordinator 2019- present
Elected board member of the Granby Ranch Metropolitan District 2010
Appointed by the governor to the Colorado Board of Pharmacy 1999-2004