Signing a property damage release form allows the insurance company to finalize your claim. When you sign this form, you agree that the insurance company owes you nothing more. Therefore, you should be cautious about signing on the dotted line of a property release form. You may even want an attorney to review your claim and the property damage release form before you sign.
The property damage attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, help clients make sense of their property damage claims. We have worked since 2004 to get the money that policyholders deserve for property damage. We can assist with your claim, so feel free to call us for a no-cost consultation today.
The Basics of Property Damage Release Forms
The idea of a property damage release form is simple enough. When your property becomes damaged, your insurance company will offer you money. You can either accept the insurer’s settlement offer or seek more compensation. If you accept the offer, the insurance company will ask that you sign a property damage release form.
Signing the property damage release form means that:
- You accept the insurance company’s stated settlement offer
- You are not able to pursue additional compensation from the insurance company
- Your property claim is final
Property damage release forms are legally binding documents. Signing the release form is a significant decision, especially if you have considerable property damage. Even if you think you understand the details of the property damage release form, you may want an attorney to review the document for you.
What Kinds of Property Damage Claims Require Property Damage Release Forms?
Damage release forms are standard in any property claim.
A signed release form absolves the insurance company of any further responsibility, so these forms are necessary whenever a policyholder files a property claim, including those for:
- Wind damage
- Water damage
- Fire damage
- Smoke damage
- Flood damage
- Toxic and non-toxic mold damage
- Termite and other pest-related damage
- Sewage backup
- Sinkhole damage
- Motor vehicle damage
- Damage caused by falling objects
- Any other instance resulting in property damage
If you have property damage and file an insurance claim, you will face a property damage release form sooner or later.
What Not to Do When It Comes to Property Damage Release Forms
When it comes to property damage releases, the priority is avoiding potentially costly mistakes.
As a claimant, you should not:
- Treat the property release form as routine - A representative from the insurance company may speak casually about the property damage release form. They may even ask you to sign the form in a routine manner, as if signing the form is just something every claimant does. Do not be fooled. The property damage release form is not a throwaway detail of your claim. You have the right to dispute a settlement, and you should not just sign the release because the insurance company suggests you should.
- Be intimidated by insurance representatives - Insurance companies are authorities on insurance, as they handle property damage claims daily. However, you should never let an insurance company intimidate you. Insurers have financial incentives that may go against yours, and you must consider your own interests before signing any release forms.
- Feel that you must handle your claim alone - You probably do not deal with property damage claims often, and the entire process can be foreign, confusing, and overwhelming. If you feel that you need help with any aspect of your claim, you can hire a lawyer to help.
Many of us are accustomed to signing forms for the smallest of transactions. However, a property damage release form carries great weight. Once you sign, you lose your right to seek more money from the insurance company. If you find out that your losses cost more than you think and have already signed a property damage release form, you will likely have to pay out-of-pocket for certain losses.
When Should Someone Sign a Property Release Form?
Policyholders file insurance claims because they want total and fair compensation for their covered losses. Therefore, you should not sign a property damage release form unless you are absolutely certain that you are getting a fair settlement. You will only know that after they consult a property damage lawyer.
You (or your attorney) may ensure that the insurance company’s settlement offer is fair by:
- Completing a thorough assessment of your losses - You cannot get an accurate calculation of your property damage without investigating every single instance of property damage. Whether on your own or with the help of various professionals, you will want to check every corner of your property for possible damage. The way you investigate will depend on the types of damage you are dealing with. Still, in any case, you will want to do a complete inventory of your property.
- Totaling your existing expenses - If you have already paid to repair or replace damaged property, calculate the cost of your existing expenses. In this calculation, you may include any necessary cleanup, relocation expenses, and other property damage-related costs.
- Projecting the cost of future expenses - If you have yet to complete repairs for your damaged property, you should project the future cost of your losses. For example, you may get an estimate for replacing a damaged roof, or calculate the cost of staying in a hotel while your home undergoes repairs.
- Hiring experts to double-check your calculations - A policyholder who has a damaged roof may not be a roofer by trade, and may not be able to accurately estimate the cost of repairs. You will likely need experts to accurately determine the cost of repairing or replacing your damaged property. It is wise to have multiple experts review your damages, as you do not want to sign a release form and then find out that someone gave you a lowball estimate. This scenario may leave you paying out of pocket for property repairs.
Once you have completed these steps, you should remain cautious about signing a property damage release form. Speaking with an attorney can be another safeguard before you sign a property release form. Your lawyer may offer specific advice, their network of experts, and other benefits that protect you from prematurely signing a property damage release form.
You may consider simply letting time pass after you have hired an attorney. You may discover additional property damage in the days, weeks, or even months after you first discover damage. It is important that you include all covered losses in your property damage claim, and patience may allow you to identify all such losses.
When Shouldn’t Someone Sign a Property Release Form?
You should not sign a property damage release form if you have any doubts about your claim.
You may have pause about signing the property damage release form if:
- The insurance company is pressuring or rushing you - Look out for red flags from the insurance company. If you sense that the insurer is pressuring you to sign a property damage release form (and accept its settlement offer), be wary. Insurance companies have a financial incentive to pay as little as possible to policyholders, and you may face pressure to accept a lowball settlement offer.
- You do not fully understand the nature of your property damage - You should never sign anything you do not fully understand. Suppose you do not understand the nature or extent of your property damage. In that case, you cannot possibly understand the fairness of the insurer’s settlement offer. If you are unsure what caused your property damage or how significant your property damage is, you should not sign a property damage release form.
- You have not completed a full and final calculation of your losses - Before you accept the insurer’s settlement and sign release forms, you should be supremely confident in your estimate of current and future losses. Only then can you know that an insurer’s settlement offer is fair.
You may also want an attorney to review your settlement offer, property damage release form, and other claim-related paperwork. Policyholders can make mistakes and miscalculations, and an attorney may be a great asset for your claim.
How a Lawyer Can Help with Your Property Insurance Claim
The Insurance Information Institute (III) explains that insurers have a comprehensive knowledge of property damage insurance and related claims. You may want an attorney with a similar level of knowledge, as this may level the playing field between you and the insurance company.
An attorney can:
Deal With the Insurance Companies
If you have completed an insurance claim before, you know that dealing with insurance companies can be stressful and time-consuming. These interactions may seem even more tedious when you have extensive property damage. Rather than juggling property cleanup, repairs, and dealings with the insurance company, you can have your lawyer handle the insurers for you.
Your lawyer can:
- Help file your property damage claim
- Help you make any statements the insurance company requires of you
- Provide any documentation the insurance company requests
- Coordinate the insurance adjuster’s evaluation of your property
- Manage all calls, letters, emails, and other communications with insurers
You will not have to worry about what the insurance company needs from you or when the insurance adjuster might call next. Your attorney will handle all claim-related responsibilities and will contact you if they need anything.
Investigate Your Property Damage
Your attorney will lead the investigation of your property damage. They may hire experts in a specific field of property damage. Those experts (and your attorney) may photograph and video record your property damage. With experts’ help, your lawyer will determine what caused your property damage, what allowed the damage to occur, and what repairs you will need to restore your property.
Calculate the Cost of Your Property Losses
Experts will also help your attorney calculate the exact cost of your property damage. Your lawyer may contact cleanup professionals, contractors, and anyone else who knows what your property repairs will cost.
Negotiate a Settlement
Your lawyer will negotiate for the settlement you deserve. While an insurance company may provide a fair settlement offer, this is not always the case. Policyholders’ attorneys often find themselves in negotiations with insurance companies, and this is where an attorney may prove their worth.
Your lawyer may argue for a fair settlement by:
- Citing expert testimony about the nature, extent, and cost of your property damage
- Explaining how they calculated the cost of your property damage
- Explaining why the insurance company’s offer is insufficient
- Citing specific details of your policy that are relevant to the negotiation
- Making clear that if the insurance company refuses to settle fairly, it will face additional legal action
Insurance companies may seek to avoid a lawsuit or other legal action if possible. Settling your claim fairly may allow the insurance company to avoid a legal fight, but fair insurance settlements do not always come easy.
Take Additional Legal Action Against Insurers
If necessary, your lawyer should take legal action against the insurance company or another liable party. Florida statutes recognize many illegal insurance practices, and your lawyer will take appropriate action if they encounter such practices while handling your claim.
What Losses Does a Property Insurance Claim Cover?
Your covered losses will depend on the nature of your property damage claim.
Some common losses in property insurance claims include:
- Removal of debris, damaged property, and other waste from your property
- Property repairs
- Replacement of totally-damaged property
- Temporary housing or business relocation expenses
- Any other costs related to property damage
An attorney from our firm can review your claim and identify your covered losses.
Contact a Law Firm to Lead Your Property Insurance Claim Today
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help with your property damage claim. We will ensure you receive a fair settlement offer before signing a property damage release form. If we need to take further legal action to pursue the money you deserve, our attorneys will.
The Dolman Law Group works with local counsel in any jurisdiction outside Florida for the purpose of filing lawsuits in jurisdictions wherein we are not licensed. Thus, we will follow each State’s ethical rules to ensure a local attorney is involved.