The U.S. just experienced 22 major weather events in one year, with each of those events resulting in more than $1 billion worth of property damage. Thirty named storms hit the southeast coast during that time, and insurance claims following seven of those storms resulted in the highest portion of the cost of the storms, though fires in the west and weather-related events elsewhere also contributed to the price tag, as well.
While weather often results in insurance claims in and around Fort Lauderdale, other events can result in property damage and necessitate a claim with your insurance policy. Your insurance company must not only respond to your claim promptly, but must also inform you of a reason if your claim is denied. Failing to do so accounts for bad faith insurance practices, which can result in legal liability in Fort Lauderdale.
Call Dolman Law Group for more information about what your insurance company must do if you file a Fort Lauderdale property damage claim, and what your recourse is if your company fails to respond to your claim.
What Is Normally Covered in a Fort Lauderdale Property Damage Insurance Policy
Standard insurance policies in Florida cover a wide variety of different types of damage, such as:
- Damage caused by fire, smoke, or explosions.
- Lightning damage.
- Damage resulting from heavy winds or hail.
- Damage caused by theft, vandalism, or criminal mischief. Note that while your standard policy will generally cover damage resulting from criminal acts, you will generally be required to submit a copy of the police report when you file the claim as proof that this was the cause of the damage.
- Damage to your property resulting from aircraft or vehicles.
- Damage resulting from a tree falling on your house or property.
Common Exclusions in a Fort Lauderdale Property Damage Insurance Policy
There is a lot of misconception about the things that insurance companies are required to cover. In fact, a survey conducted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners noted that around one-third of homeowners in the U.S. believe that their standard insurance policy covers flood damage, and more than half thought that their own property damage policies would cover damage caused by a water main break.
Standard insurance policies routinely exclude common perils experienced by property owners, such as:
- Flood damage: Flood damage is a separate policy that many insurance companies do not even offer. Flood damage policies can be purchased through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for those who cannot obtain this coverage from their private insurer.
- Mold: Mold damage is sometimes covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy if another covered condition resulted in the mold. However, mold claims resulting from flooding, a water leak, or high humidity generally are not covered.
- Lack of maintenance: Many property owners are surprised when their claims for certain conditions arising from their own failure to adequately maintain their property are denied. Common damage caused by a failure to maintain the property includes pest infestations, worn-out plumbing, or damage caused by faulty electrical wiring.
- Sewer backup: Damage caused by sewer backups is sometimes covered through an endorsement to the policy or as a separate policy.
- Termite Damage: Termites can chew through everything from support beams to even your furniture. Termites are a real and costly threat to Fort Lauderdale homes but most standard insurance policies contain language that excludes coverage of this source of damage.
Beware of Common Insurance Scams
You would think that filing a claim on your property insurance policy would be a simple, straightforward process. In many cases, it is. However, in addition to bad faith practices by your insurance company or not understanding what your policy coverage includes, common scams that companies use to get a piece of the insurance policy pie also create difficulties.
Some common scams that can affect your ability to obtain coverage for your property damage include:
- Fly-by-night contractors. After any sort of natural disaster, they’re out in full force, knocking on doors and trying to drum up business. Many individuals fall prey to fly-by-night contractors—many of whom are unlicensed and have no intention of actually repairing your property. You are encouraged to remember that reputable companies generally don’t have to go knocking on doors to drum up business. Always ensure that the company you have hired to make repairs on your home is one that has been recommended by a friend or family member, is properly licensed to do the work, and does not perform work until after the insurance adjuster has come to review the damage. You should also make sure that you have the scope of the work to be performed in writing, do not pay cash for the work, and never agree to pay the entire amount of the job upfront. Payments should be staggered and made based on the phase of work that has been completed.
- Assignment of benefits. Some contractors will insist that you complete an assignment of benefits so that they can communicate directly with your insurance company. Beware of doing this. It can prevent you from communicating with your insurance company, and can allow contractors to receive payments and access your insurance benefits without consulting you. If something your contractor did results in a claim denial and you assigned your insurance benefits to that contractor, you often will have little recourse with your insurance company, but might pursue a claim against your contractor.
- Independent adjusters. Independent adjusters are also out in full force after a natural disaster, promising to be “on your side” and to offer an estimate of your damages that is separate from the work of your insurance company’s adjuster. Many of these adjusters are not properly licensed as required in Florida and—regardless of what they say—having an independent adjuster will not result in your claim being paid faster.
These common insurance scams often add stress to the process of filing a legitimate claim and result in increased premiums for everyone. In addition, you can face severe financial consequences including being on-the-hook for paying for shoddy repair work, or your policy can even be dropped by your insurance company under the belief that you were in on the fraud.
Common Reasons Why Fort Lauderdale Property Damage Claims Are Denied
Make no mistake about it, insurance companies are in the business to make money. Part of the way they do this is by avoiding having to pay out on high dollar claims. The insurance company can deny a property damage claim for many reasons. Some of these reasons are legitimate, while others are not.
Some of the most common excuses an insurer uses to deny a claim include:
- The policy does not cover what caused the damage. A very unfortunate example of this would be if you seek to obtain compensation for flood damage that resulted from a hurricane. While hurricane damage is generally covered by a standard insurance policy, damage caused by flooding is not. Insurance companies will sometimes play games with semantics, looking for ways that the claim falls into an exclusion rather than into a standard coverage provided by your policy.
- You failed to file your claim in time. Your policy contract provides a deadline as to how long you have to file a claim after property damage. If you fail to file within this deadline, your claim will likely be denied.
- You failed to pay your premiums, causing your insurance policy to lapse.
- The insurance company believes you made false statements about how the damage occurred or exaggerated the damage that was sustained in an attempt to get more money on your claim.
- You failed to provide the required documentation, such as photos, that prove your claim.
- An excluded event caused the damage, such as flood damage or damage resulting from a sewer backup.
- The property damage exceeds the limits of your policy or does not exceed the amount of your deductible.
- You negligently maintained property features such as electrical wiring or your heating system and the property damage you incurred resulted from your negligence rather than from a covered event.
Fort Lauderdale Property Damage Lawyer Near Me 833-552-7274
What You Must Do When Filing a Fort Lauderdale Property Damage Claim
Just as there are requirements for the insurance company, you agreed to certain conditions when you entered into a contractual agreement for your insurance policy as well.
When it comes to filing a claim on your policy, you may need to:
- Provide a notice of loss when you have sustained damage to insured property, even if you do not wish to file a claim for coverage of that loss. Your policy literature or contract should contain a deadline for informing your insurance company of losses. If you fail to meet that notification deadline, your insurance company can deny your claim.
- Protect your property from further damage. Most property insurance policies have a clause that notes that the insurer will not be responsible for damages that result from failure to ensure that additional damage will not be created by the property being left to the elements. An example of this would be if you filed a claim for roof damage and then failed to tarp or otherwise protect the area, which allowed rain to seep into your home and cause damage to the contents inside.
- Provide an itemized list of the damages as well as submit proof of the damage, such as photos.
For a free legal consultation with a property damage lawyer serving Fort Lauderdale, call 833-552-7274
What Are Bad Faith Insurance Practices in Fort Lauderdale Property Damage Cases?
When an insurance company fails to provide the services they are contractually obligated to provide to their insured, this is considered bad faith insurance practices.
In Fort Lauderdale, bad faith insurance practices include:
- Failing to settle claims that could and should have been settled, had the insurer been acting in the best interests of the claimant.
- Making claims payments to the insured without providing a statement as to the policy under which the payment is being made.
- Failing to promptly investigate or make a decision on a claim. Insurance companies must respond to all requests for communication from their insured within 10 days of that request being made. They must begin investigating a claim within 14 days after the submission of that claim and must decide the claim within 90 days.
If an insured wants to file a bad faith insurance practice lawsuit against the insurer, the insurer must be given notice of the insured’s intent to file the lawsuit and must be allowed 60 days in which to remedy the situation before the legal claim can proceed.
Let Dolman Law Group Help With Your Fort Lauderdale Property Damage Claim
Property insurance often includes wording that is difficult to understand and fine-print clauses that the insured are unaware of.
If you are having difficulty getting payment on your property damage claim, a Fort Lauderdale property damage attorney can:
- Carefully review your claim to determine if the insurer provided a valid reason for your coverage denial.
- Negotiate your claim with the insurance company to convince them to pay out your claim or to offer a settlement.
- Ensure that your insurance company has all of the evidence necessary to prove—and ultimately approve—your claim.
- File a bad faith insurance lawsuit if the insurance company has acted in bad faith. Here, you must prove the company acted in bad faith. By doing so, you can recover the cost of your claim, interest on the claim amount, and other damages as applicable in your case.
Let our experienced property damage lawyers help you understand your legal options for dealing with a delayed or denied insurance claim. With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group at 833-552-7274 or by contacting us online.
Fort Lauderdale Office
150 E Davie Blvd Suite 201-2
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
Phone: (754) 208-1130