Like many Floridians, New Port Richey residents experienced property damage as a result of the wind and water brought to the area by Tropical Storm Eta. It marked the end of a robust hurricane season, and resulted in a lot of stress, as property owners scrambled to file claims with their insurance providers. Unfortunately, many of those property owners were surprised to find out when their claims were denied that damage caused by flooding is generally excluded in standard insurance policies.
Filing a property damage claim is often a learning experience as to what is covered, what is not covered, and how long it can take to obtain the compensation you need to repair your property. For some, it can also be a learning experience as to the importance of good faith business practices in the insurance industry. If you are awaiting a decision on your New Port Richey property damage claim or you feel that your claim was wrongfully denied, read on for more information.
Types of New Port Richey Property Damage Generally Covered by Insurance
Property damage insurance policies can vary widely in the types of damage they will or will not cover.
However, standard dwelling and personal property policies generally offer some coverages, including:
- Fires, explosions, or damage caused by lightning.
- Windstorms or hail.
- Damage caused by riots or civil commotion.
- Damage caused by aircraft or vehicles.
- Smoke damage.
- Damage caused by theft, burglary, or vandalism.
- Falling objects, such as trees, that result in property damage. It should be noted that most insurance companies will pay up to $500 to remove the fallen tree or other objects from your home and will also cover the cost of repairing or replacing items that were damaged or destroyed because of the tree. However, if the bulk of the damage caused by the fallen tree is the cleanup of debris in your yard, it will likely not be covered.
What Is Not Generally Covered in New Port Richey Property Damage Cases
For many New Port Richey homeowners, standard property damage policies generally do not cover:
- Flood damage. Flood damage insurance is a separate policy offered by some insurers. Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency also provides federal flood damage policies.
- Damage caused by lack of maintenance, such as damage from faulty electrical wiring or a pest infestation. Remember that it is your responsibility to properly maintain your home and to take reasonable precautions to protect it from damage.
- Sewer backup.
- Earthquakes. Note: Florida has one of the lowest risks of earthquakes in the U.S. However, it does happen from time to time. In September 2020, a magnitude 4 earthquake occurred in Escambia County on the state’s border. While hundreds of people felt the quake, there were no initial reports of injuries or damage. In 2019, nine small earthquakes rattled the north end of the state.
- Most mold damage claims, as mold often results from excluded events such as failure to maintain appliances, sewer backups, flooding, or anticipated conditions such as high humidity.
- Sinkhole damage from flooding. Sinkholes are a common occurrence in Florida due to extensive limestone bedrock beneath the earth’s surface here that is susceptible to erosion. Sinkholes commonly produce structural damages that can result in cracks in the interior or exterior walls or the driveway, fresh cracks in the foundation of the house, slanting or sinking property, fences and trees in the yard that begin to fall, and other expensive damage. Unless this damage occurs suddenly, eliminating the ability of the insured to protect the property, it is generally not covered by a standard property damage insurance policy. Florida law requires that you report sinkhole damage within two years for coverage.
Why New Port Richey Property Damage Damage Claims Are Denied
There are many reasons why an insurance company might deny a property damage claim. Some of the most common reasons insurers cite for claim denials are as follows.
Failing to File Your Claim in Time
Your insurance policy is a contract that provides both you and your insurer with certain benefits and certain requirements. One of the requirements that you have when entering into a contract for insurance policy coverage is to inform your insurer promptly if any damage occurs to an insured item. The amount of time you are given for reporting this damage to your insurer is likely listed in the fine print of your contract.
After sustaining damage or loss to your property, immediately contact your insurance company to report the damage and get the following information:
- Whether your policy covers the type of damage that was sustained.
- How long you have to file a claim.
- Whether your claim is likely to exceed the amount of your deductible.
- Whether you will need estimates for your repairs.
Your Claim Was Too Much—Or Too Little—To Cover
Most insurance policies have a deductible amount as well as a policy limit. Your deductible is the amount of damage you are personally responsible for paying before you can access your coverage. The policy limit is the maximum amount of compensation you can receive from your policy. If your claim exceeds the limit of your policy, you will likely be expected to pay the amount that exceeded the policy limit. If the amount of your damage is less than your annual deductible, you will be expected to cover the entirety of the damage on your own.
To verify that you experienced property damage and that the damage occurred in the manner in which you claimed it did, your insurance company will require certain documentation, such as photos of the damage or, if the damage was the result of theft or burglary, a police report reflecting that this was the cause of the loss you incurred. Failing to produce the documentation that is requested by your insurer as part of the investigation of your claim can result in a denial of your claim.
Part of the contractual agreement between you and the agency that insures your property involves paying for your insurance policy. Your insurance provider should have provided information as to the amount of money you are obligated to pay each month to maintain your coverage. Failing to pay your insurance premiums can result in a lapse in your coverage and denial of a claim for damages that were incurred when your insurance coverage lapsed.
Someone Else Is Liable for the Damage
If a drunk driver missed a curve in the road and crashed through a wall in your house, while your insurance policy likely provides coverage of damage caused by vehicles, your claim will likely be denied as this type of damage is the result of someone else’s reckless behavior. The expectation would be that the drunk driver’s property damage liability policy would pay for the damage through a third-party claim. Your insurance policy would be a secondary source of compensation and likely would not be accessible in this circumstance until the drunk driver’s policy was limited out.
You Failed to Protect Your Property From Further Damage
Many individuals who incur property damage merely file a claim and wait for information on that claim before doing anything else. Unfortunately, these are not the only required steps to obtaining benefits. You must also take reasonable steps to protect your property from further damage. An example of this reason for denial would be if you incurred roof damage, filed a claim, but then failed to tarp the roof or provide other protections for the contents inside the property that could be damaged by rain seeping through the area that was the subject of your initial claim. Often, this secondary damage will be denied.
To avoid this, make temporary repairs that will protect your property from further damage. Be sure to keep your receipts for these repairs as they can be included as part of your damage claim. If you cannot live or work at your property due to the extent of the damage, also remember to keep the receipts for your temporary accommodations, as this expense can also be reimbursed through your policy.
Your Insurance Provider Does Not Believe You
Around 10 percent of the property damage insurance losses experienced in the U.S. are the result of fraud. Because fraud is so widespread in the insurance agency, your insurer will be looking carefully for it with every damage claim. If your insurer has reason to believe that you have misrepresented how the damage to your property occurred or have provided other false information to receive a payout on your claim, it often will result in a denial.
What Are Bad Faith Insurance Practices?
Florida laws attempt to protect consumers from bad faith insurance practices. Bad faith insurance practices are an attempt by an insurer to renege on the contractual obligations it has to provide insurance coverage and to pay on valid claims promptly.
Some common bad faith practices that have caused harm to Florida property owners include:
- Refusing to communicate with an insured about a damage claim promptly. In Florida, insurers must respond to attempted contact by their insured within 10 days and must begin investigating an insurance claim within two weeks. A decision on whether to accept or deny the claim must be issued within 90 days. Generally, claimants filing a larger claim on their property damage policy can expect the full 90 days to be used, as the insurance company searches for reasons to reduce the amount of the claim.
- An unreasonable delay in the payment of a claim that has been approved for payment.
- Misrepresenting the coverage of a policy or the benefits that will be provided to the consumer through the policy.
- Requiring an unreasonable amount of documentation to decide a claim.
- Failing to disclose the policy exclusions at the time in which the policy was purchased.
How Our New Port Richey Property Damage Attorneys Can Help You
Just as with any other business, insurance companies must conduct their business with good faith and bearing the best interests of their customers in mind. While many of these companies do that, others create confusion and despair for claimants. If you have filed a property damage claim that has not received the consideration you would expect, an experienced property damage attorney from Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman can help.
Some of the services we provide for property owners include:
- A thorough examination of your insurance policy to ensure that your policy covers your claim.
- Contact with the insurance company to determine why communication has lapsed and encourage timely consideration of your claim.
An attempt to negotiate a settlement on your claim with your insurance provider.
- If necessary, a bad faith insurance lawsuit against your insurer for failing to communicate with you about your policy coverage or your claim, or failing to provide timely payment on a valid claim.
Florida allows those who have been the subject of bad faith insurance practices to file a lawsuit against their insurer within five years of when the bad faith practice occurred. Through this legal claim filed in civil court, you can pursue damages that include the initial cost of the claim plus interest for the time over the required statutory evaluation and payment deadlines.
Let our experienced New Port Richey property damage attorneys help you make sense of your legal options for obtaining the property damage coverage that you deserve. With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman at 833-552-7274 or by contacting us online.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA – New Port Richey Office
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL