What to do in case of property damage
Your home has just suffered significant damage. Perhaps a severe windstorm caused a tear in your roof. Or a tree fell on your home and you think there might be structural damage. Or an appliance leaked while you were away and you return home to an inch of water throughout your house. You think to yourself, “Well at least I am covered by home insurance.” After all, you have diligently paid your premiums. You call your insurance company to report the claim and they send someone out to investigate it. Then, a couple of weeks later, much to your dismay you get a letter from the insurance company offering you only a small amount to make repairs you know are going to cost much, much more. Or worse yet, you are informed that your policy excludes the damage you are claiming and you will be receiving no payment whatsoever. You are frustrated, confused and left wondering how you are going to afford to fix your home.
Unfortunately, this is a common problem here in Florida. Recently, it seems that underpayment and denial of claims is becoming more frequent. Our firm focuses on representing policyholders in disputes with their insurance companies. Our attorneys have previously worked for some of the largest insurance providers in Florida and know the tricks they use to deny and delay claims. We have successfully represented countless homeowners in recouping insurance proceeds that are due to them, but have been improperly withheld. We work with a team of general contractors and engineers to investigate property damage claims and prove to the insurers that the damages are covered under the policy and must be promptly paid or we’ll file a lawsuit.
When was the last time you read your insurance policy? These policies are complex documents often containing conflicting and contradictory language. Additionally, there are a host of confusing requirements that must be complied with by the homeowner after a loss or the claim can be denied. That is why our firm provides a free, no obligation review of an insurance policy or claim so that you know what is covered, the amount of coverage, and how to best submit your claim so that it doesn’t get denied. And in the event that your claim is denied, we can represent you in a potential lawsuit against your insurance company. The good news is that in Florida, when an insurer improperly denies coverage, Florid Law states that the insurance company may be responsible for paying some or all of your legal bills and costs. In any event, there are no upfront costs for our lawyers take these cases. If you don’t win your case against your insurance company, you don’t owe our firm any money. Remember, the insurance company has a whole team of attorneys and legal professionals reviewing your claim. You need someone on your side.
Of course the best way to protect your home from an underpaid or denied claim, is to make sure that you have the right amount and type of insurance for your home or business. Different insurance companies offer different types of policies. As such, you want to have your insurance agent carefully explain to you not only what is covered, but the total amount of coverage. It unfortunately when we have to have the difficult conversation with a homeowner and explain to them that while the insurance company is opening coverage, their policy does not have a sufficient amount of coverage to make them whole. For example, some policies have a $10,000 limit for water damage. In our experience, water damage claims are incredibly expensive, given the tendency for mold growth. A $10,000 policy cap is nowhere near sufficient. Additionally, make sure you have enough to cover your personal property. Some policies offer “Additional Living Expense” coverage, which pays for things like meals and hotel rooms if you are forced to leave the home due to damages or subsequent repairs. If you have a family, that may be something that is of critical importance. Also, if you are a business owner you need to make sure you have a sufficient level of business and personal property insurance to cover lost inventory, computers, and equipment. Additionally, some business insurance policies will provide for lost profits for a set amount of time.
Importantly, you should be aware that Homeowners insurance is different from flood insurance. If you are in an area that is prone to flooding, you need to have both. Homeowners insurance will not cover damages due to floods. Flood coverage is provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Make sure you talk with your agent and ask if you need both.
Finally, while not directly insurance related, make sure you always are doing business with reputable contractors who are licensed and insured. While it is tempting to try to find the least expensive contractor to try and save a little money, it can end up leading to substantial costs down the road. Get everything in writing from your contractor and make sure you ask them questions about when your work will be completed, whether or not they will need to pull a permit, and if there is a warranty on the materials and labor. Beware of roofers and other contractors who knock on your door promising free roofs or other services. Some of these folks are legitimate, but others are just looking to make a quick buck. You end up paying for work that is never completed or that is not done properly. Our office works with a lot of great contractors and would be happy to provide you with recommendations and referrals.
Your home is likely your greatest investment and it needs to be protected accordingly. That means both making sure you have the right type of insurance and holding the insurer accountable to pay your claim in the event your home is damaged. A denied claim can be a terribly frustrating and difficult process and time is of the essence. Working with an experience attorney can assist you in not only getting the funds necessary to rebuild and replace, but also in preventing further damage to your house by securing money for things like mold and water mitigation.
If you have questions about your insurance policy, give us a call and we’ll review it for you at no cost. And if you think you have damage to your home, we’ll have our team conduct a thorough analysis and provide you with options. It is important that if you think you have damage, you act quick. Allowing problems to linger until they get worse only gives the insurance company another reason to deny your claim.
There is a common saying that people purchase premiums and not policies. Meaning that people buy insurance based on how much they have to pay, thinking they will never use it. The last few years here in Florida have shown that having the wrong insurance can have detrimental consequences. Take the time to educate yourself. Insurance policies are binding contracts and like any contract you need to make sure you fully understand it. If you have any questions, please reach out to our office. We are happy to assist you so you never find yourself in a situation where you are left wondering how you are going to rebuild your home and life.
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