Ellen Shapiro knows about condos. She’s a partner at Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks PC – New England’s pre-eminent law firm focusing exclusively on condominium law. In her vast experience helping condominium communities, she’s seen just about every legal issue imaginable. When it comes to managing the insurance claims process, Ellen steers her clients the same way every time: hire a public adjuster. This advice is based on more than just her expertise as a leading condo lawyer – it stems from her personal experience, as well.
On Nov. 25, 1999, Ellen was hosting several dozen family and friends for Thanksgiving. Suddenly, her dog started acting strangely, refusing to go to the upstairs level of the house. One of the guests went upstairs to investigate, and quickly came back down to evacuate everyone.
The upstairs of Ellen’s house was on fire. A candleholder had shattered, causing the burning candle to ignite nearby curtains. Ellen lost many personal belongings and all of her clothing except for what she was wearing at the time.
Ellen knew about public adjusters because of her legal work. As a first step, she called Paul Winnick and immediately connected with SMW’s team.
“Diane (Swerling) came over to the house, and we sat in my bedroom,” Ellen recalls. “We took out every charred piece of clothing, right down to stockings and shoes. Diane reviewed every piece and assigned a price. Who keeps receipts for a sweater bought two years ago? Diane took over that element and made it easy for me.”
Ellen explains the effect of a major casualty loss as debilitating. “When you have a casualty loss, you are so overwhelmed,” she says. “Smoke, smell, rebuilding, contractors – SMW removed all of that from my shoulders. It was a godsend to know something was off my plate and in the hands of true professionals. Diane stayed with me the whole way, and ensured I received the highest level of recovery possible.” Since then, Ellen and the entire SMW team have maintained a close relationship.
Then, late on an evening several months ago, Diane received an email from Ellen. She rarely uses the lower level of her house, and several months had passed since she went down there. When she did, she discovered a water leak and the wall-to-wall carpet that was completely soaked. She didn’t know when the leak had started.
She promptly called a remediation company to come clean and dry the space – and hopefully ward off any mold. The company extracted water, and then her insurance carrier sent out an adjuster to examine the damage.
“I had a bad feeling about the process, but I didn’t want to bother Diane with this little claim, so I didn’t call; I tried to do it myself,” Ellen explains. “Then I got the insurance company’s report in the mail. Their claim offer was piddling – not enough to pay for a single throw rug, much less rebuild walls and do the other work that was necessary.”
The insurance company tried to steer her to their preferred vendors, who they indicated would get the job done at the amount of their claim offer. “That’s when I realized – either pay for repairs out of pocket, or call Diane,” Ellen says. “I knew I needed her help. Within minutes, she had it under control. Next thing I knew, in came another report from the carrier with a new offer that was 4X what they originally offered.”
As a legal professional, Ellen knows how catastrophic property losses can impact condominium associations and condo boards. As a homeowner, she has a similar understanding of how an insurance claim can go wrong when you don’t have an advocate in your corner.
As far as her experience with SMW goes, Ellen sums it up very simply: “You cannot find a more satisfied client than me.”