Homeowners Insurance Claims
A home is an important asset that is not only a source of wealth for families, but also a place that provides families with a sense of security. As a result, when any damage occurs to a home, it is vital to make sure that the home is properly repaired to prevent any further damage. Most homeowners seek to repair their damages by filing a homeowners’ insurance claim. However, those insurance claims are commonly denied or underpaid.
Many Florida homeowners are unsure of their rights during the claim process. Under Florida law, insurance companies are required to act in good faith and deal fairly with their policy holders. When you submit a claim to an insurance company, whether for minor or extensive damage to your covered home, you deserve a prompt and honest response.
The claims process is often complicated, and insurers can sometimes be more concerned with their own bottom line than they are with your best interest. As a result, homeowners may find their claims being unfairly denied, underpaid or even ignored.
If you suffered damage to your home and your insurance company is refusing to deal fairly with you, obtaining the help of an experienced Florida insurance attorney is a vital first step toward correcting the situation. You need an attorney who will listen to your story with sympathy and work diligently on your behalf to secure a positive outcome.
For swift and experienced assistance with your homeowners’ insurance claim, contact the Law Office of Michael D. Barber for help. Our attorneys help Florida homeowners stand up for their rights against big and powerful insurance companies. If your insurer is refusing to pay what you deserve on your insurance policy, call Attorney Michael D. Barber at 407-890-8000 for help today.
Homeowners Insurance Coverage and Claims in Florida
Homeowners’ insurance is a necessity in Florida. Due to the high incidence of storms, hurricanes and other weather events in the state, it is important to protect homes with homeowners’ insurance. In addition, if your home is backed by a mortgage, there will typically be a requirement to purchase insurance to protect the mortgage company’s interest.
There are several types of coverage that may be purchased on a home. Each of these cover a specific portion of your property, meaning you may be entitled to a payout if any of these areas is damaged. The types of coverage include:
- Dwelling coverage, which includes various types of physical damage to your home such as fire, storm or hurricanes
- Coverage for other structures or buildings around your home such as a detached garage, fence or shed
- Content/personal property coverage, which includes loss of or damage to personal property within the home such as watches, clothes etc.
- Additional living expenses, which includes the necessary living expenses you require to maintain your normal standard of living while a claim is being processed. But this only applies if the home cannot be occupied during the period.
Every insurance policy has specifics relating to exactly what kind of coverage is provided and to what extent. For instance, some policies may cover storms and hurricanes but not damage resulting from flooding. Policies also have specific provisions on minimum standards that should be maintained on the property in terms of repairs and use.
The Insurance Claims Process
When damage occurs to your property, there are several important steps that you need to take to protect your interests.
- Contact the insurance company: Most insurance policies require you to contact the insurer immediately after damage occurs. Failing to do this may affect your claim or may even result in the insurer denying your claim. How much time you have to contact the insurer will usually be included in the policy. If you are not certain how long you have, it is a good idea to speak to an insurance representative immediately.
- Take photos: Photos help document the extent of the damage so the insurer can understand what has occurred. This can also help show the cause of the damage and help prevent a situation where the insurer tries to attribute the damage to a separate cause that is not covered by your insurance policy.
- Prepare a home inventory: It is good practice to keep a home inventory even before there is any damage to your property. Having an inventory lets you immediately know what is damaged or unaccounted for. If you don’t have an inventory already, try to walk around the house and make a list so you can report the specific losses you have suffered.
- Submit a claim: Insurers typically have comprehensive instructions on how to file a claim. This is usually achievable through their online portal, by mail or by calling a representative.
- Make temporary repairs: As a rule, you should not touch anything in the house, throw anything away, or make any repairs before the insurer sends a loss adjuster. However, you should take reasonable steps to protect your property against further damage. If this involves making emergency repairs, then you should do so to prevent further damage. Otherwise, the loss adjuster may fault you for failing to make repairs and attempt to use it as a basis to deny your claim.
After contacting the insurer and filing your claim, a loss adjuster will come to the property and assess the damage. They will be looking to see if the damage is attributable to covered events under the policy, and how much damage resulted. They will also determine if you have kept your obligations relating to the property in terms of repairs and other actions.
It is absolutely important to understand that the loss adjuster does not work for you and may not have your best interest in mind. The primary focus of insurance companies is their own profitability, and insurance agents are very aware of that focus. It is possible that this focus on the company’s profits can cause an insurance adjuster to minimize or deny your claim. It is in their best interests to pay you as little as possible, or nothing at all.
It is important to be aware of your rights to that the insurance companies cannot prey on your confusion about the process. You should be careful of what you say to the loss adjuster, and make sure that you do not agree to any proposals or conclusions they make without consulting with a lawyer.
What are your Rights as a Homeowners' Insurance Policy Holder?
Florida law creates several express rights that homeowners in Florida are entitled to. The insurance company must abide by these rights. Under Florida Statutes 627.70131, your rights include the following:
- After filing a claim, the insurance company must send an acknowledgement within 14 days. This also applies to any communication you require from the company.
- After filing a Proof of Loss form with the insurer, they must communicate your claim status within 30 days. If the claim will be fully or partially covered, they must inform you or tell you if it will be denied.
Finally, the entire claims process must be concluded within 90 days. You have a right to receive full settlement or final denial during this period.
What Happens if your Claim is Denied or Underpaid?
There are many reasons why an insurance claim may be denied or underpaid. Sometimes the insurance company will say that the damage was not caused by a covered event, other times they may say that you did not take proper actions to limit ongoing damage to the home. Whatever the reason the insurer gives for denying your claim or offering an undervalue settlement, you should never accept their answer without first consulting with an attorney. Even if they have offered you a cash settlement, you should immediately call an attorney to discuss whether it is a fair offer that fully compensates you.
Your attorney will examine your homeowners’ insurance policy to determine the exact terms of your coverage and your rights under the document. In most cases, insurers are unduly harsh or inconsiderate in how they value or assess claims. An experienced attorney will help you understand how your rights are being disrespected and the steps you can take.