Did a hurricane or another event damage your commercial property? If so, it has the potential to snowball into much more than just the cost of repairs. Commercial property damage can derail your business operations and cost a significant amount of money. For that reason, most business owners who own commercial property carry insurance that covers business losses like lost income in addition to physical property damage.
Commercial property insurance protects owners from losing their businesses or going bankrupt when disaster strikes. But most damage to commercial property tends to cause more losses and cost insurers more money than damage to traditional residential properties. Commercial insurance carriers usually try to limit payouts, putting already damaged businesses at risk for additional losses. Insurers will attempt to blame business losses on causes that aren’t covered under a commercial policy or delay making payments while continuing to dispute coverage.
Don’t try to fight commercial insurance carriers alone. Commercial insurers have teams of attorneys and adjusters they pay to minimize payouts. You need experienced Florida commercial property damage attorneys who can fight for you and your livelihood while you keep your business afloat.
If your Florida commercial property suffered damage, contact us at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA. We have decades of experience fighting insurance companies in Florida and helping our clients maximize their recoveries. We offer free consultations and can help you recover compensation for your losses while you focus on keeping your business on track.
- Common Causes of Commercial Property Damage in Florida
- Common Types of Commercial Property Damage
- Liability for Additional Losses or Injuries from Commercial Property Damage
- Noteworthy Florida Commercial Property Damage Cases
- Florida Commercial Property Insurance
- Recovering for Florida Commercial Property Damage
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Why Choose Our Florida Commercial Property Damage Attorneys
Common Causes of Commercial Property Damage in Florida
Many kinds of commercial property damage occur in Florida:
- Storm damage: Tropical Florida weather from heavy rainfall to hurricanes often causes extensive damage to commercial properties.
- Theft and Vandalism: Thieves and vandals commonly target commercial properties, especially those that remain vacant at night or keep valuable inventory, equipment, or other assets on site.
- Fire damage: Fires can cause extensive damage to commercial properties, especially industrial fires that start in refineries, factories, or commercial kitchens.
- Sinkholes: Florida sees more sinkholes than any other state. Percolating groundwater and leaking water pipes carve holes in the relatively soft limestone substrate that can suddenly collapse, creating sinkholes sometimes large enough to swallow whole buildings.
- Lightning: Called the lightning capital of the United States, Florida weather patterns create thunderstorms with numerous lightning strikes from late spring to late summer.
- Floods: Surrounded by water on three sides, Florida enjoys over 8,000 miles of coastline and flat topography, making many areas flood-prone.
Common Types of Commercial Property Damage
Typical commercial property damage in Florida includes:
- Damage to structures: Like ordinary property insurance, commercial property insurance covers damage to structures including the foundation, walls, roof, and major building systems including electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
- Lost or damaged inventory: Common causes of damaged inventory in Florida include roof leaks and pests.
- Weather-related damage: Commercial property insurance may also cover damage from tropical storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, and driving rain.
- Fire: Commercial property insurance typically covers damage from fires, including electrical, grease, and chemical fires that occur in industrial environments.
- Flood: The National Flood Insurance Program writes most flood insurance for properties in areas with high flood risks. However, private commercial carriers may provide flood coverage for some properties using special endorsements. Policies may limit coverage to flooding that comes from inside the building, such as pipes bursting or drains backing up, while excluding flooding from outside sources like heavy rains and storm surges.
- Mold and pests-High humidity and warm temperatures make mold and pest infestations a common problem in Florida.
Liability for Additional Losses or Injuries from Commercial Property Damage
Commercial property damage may also result in losses or injuries to people other than the property owner:
- Slip and fall injuries: Damage to commercial properties can also create dangers that cause injuries to customers or others you invite into your business, leaving you liable. Common examples include damaged stairways, sidewalks, and railings that cause accidents. Those injured typically try to hold the business owner responsible even if a storm or natural disaster caused the damage that created the dangerous condition.
- Other business losses: If you lease all or part of your commercial property to other businesses, you could hold liability for losses those businesses incur because of the damage. For example, if you lease your building to a restaurant franchise and a storm damages the building, the damage may force the restaurant to close. Without any income, the restaurant owners could stop paying rent and try to recover their losses from you.
Noteworthy Florida Commercial Property Damage Cases
Florida commercial property damage cases occasionally make the news, whether a toddler falls multiple stories when a rusty railing gives way or hurricanes blast across the entire state.
Florida commercial property damage cases in the news include:
- Magnolia Hotel Fire 1926: Fire from an undetermined source destroyed the historic Magnolia Hotel in the center of the business district in downtown Jacksonville. Fire departments from surrounding towns rushed to help the 102 guests in the building escape safely without injury.
- Okeechobee Hurricane 1928: The Okeechobee hurricane made landfall in West Palm Beach, damaging thousands of homes and businesses. Okeechobee proved one of the deadliest hurricanes on record, claiming between 2500 and 3000 lives.
- Florida Theatre 1960: Fire gutted the historic Florida Theatre in Tallahassee, closing the theatre until rebuilt by new owners.
- Hotel Roosevelt Fire 1963: Faulty wiring started a fire that burned the 13-story luxurious Hotel Roosevelt in Jacksonville, killing 21 guests. The fire caused immense damage that closed the hotel.
- Pompano Beach 1990: A toddler fell seven stories when a rusted motel balcony railing failed. The child miraculously survived with minor injuries.
- Hurricane Andrew 1992: A powerful category 5 hurricane, Andrew ripped buildings from their foundations. Andrew destroyed approximately 730,000 houses and businesses, caused $25 billion in damages, and remained the costliest storm in American history until Irma claimed the record 25 years later in 2017.
- Hurricane Georges 1998: High storm surge from Hurricane Georges caused widespread flooding in Florida, inundated the Florida Keys and parts of Miami, and damaged tens of thousands of homes and businesses. The storm also spun off a confirmed 17 tornadoes throughout the state.
- Miami 2014: Despite multiple complaints about the condition of deteriorating balconies and railings, an apartment complex owner made no efforts to make repairs. Jimmy O’Reilly fell when a railing gave way, sustaining traumatic and paralyzing brain injuries.
- Destin 2017: A second-floor condominium complex balcony collapsed, injuring 11 people.
- Panama City 2018: Hurricane Michael ripped into the Florida Panhandle, causing widespread damage, particularly in Mexico Beach and Panama City. The storm caused at least 74 deaths as well as destroyed most of the Panama City Mall. Efforts to rebuild and reopen stores continue three years later.
- Plantation 2019: An explosion linked to ruptured gas lines and an active gas leak destroyed a section of a strip mall, leaving at least 23 people injured.
- Groundhog Day Tornado Outbreak 2007: Unusually high temperatures combined with a powerful jet stream spun up four tornadoes in central Florida, causing an unprecedented $218 million in damage to homes and businesses and 21 deaths.
- Tropical Storm Fay 2008: Tropical Storm Fay zigzagged across Florida, making landfall a record four times. Devastating storm surge claimed 36 lives and inundated hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.
- Hurricane Irma 2017: A massive category five hurricane, Irma caused catastrophic flooding in the Florida Keys, then made another landfall that inundated Marco Island. Irma caused extensive damage to upscale hotels and resorts along the coast, claimed at least 134 lives, and took the record for the costliest storm to hit Florida.
- Florida International University Bridge 2018: A pedestrian bridge intended to connect the town of Sweetwater to the Florida International University campus in University Park collapsed while still under construction. The bridge collapsed on top of eight lanes of busy traffic, crushing eight vehicles and causing six deaths. Officials blamed the collapse on the construction management and engineering firms that failed to catch a design flaw.
- Miami 2020: A massive fire erupted at a Miami-Dade used oil refinery after several oil tankers ignited, causing extensive damage to the property.
- Orlando 2020: People protesting for justice reform following the death of George Floyd broke into the Mall at Millenia and damaged several stores.
- Palm Bay 2020: Several explosions at a chemical plant in an industrial area caused fires, resulting in extensive damage.
- Miami 2021: A 12-story Surfside condominium building collapsed, killing 98 people. Three years before the collapse, engineers warned that salt water had penetrated and corroded the building’s reinforced concrete structural supports, causing the building to subside or sink into the ground. Owners had approved repairs, but the main structural work had not begun. Surfside ties with another collapse as the third deadliest structural engineering failure in United States history.
- Seminole Classic Casino 2021: Fire suppression equipment exploded at the guitar-shaped Seminole Classic Casino in Hollywood, sending chunks of drywall flying and injuring 26 guests.
- Miramar Beach 2022: A fire caused by an electrical issue damaged at least three stores in the Walton County Silver Sands mall.
- Hurricane Ian 2022: Hurricane Ian ripped a swath across the state of Florida, damaging thousands of commercial properties. Storm surge inundated hotels, restaurants, and other businesses along the southwest Gulf Coast from Marco Island and Naples to Cape Coral, Punta Gorda, and parts of Sarasota. Ian also demolished commercial properties on the barrier islands, especially Sanibel, Captiva, and Pine Island, all in the direct path of the storm. Downed bridges cut off access to the islands after the storm, impeding rescue and recovery efforts. Insurers predict that Ian will displace Irma as the costliest storm to hit Florida, with damages estimated between $28 billion and $47 billion. The storm caused more than 100 deaths including 92 people in Florida.
Florida Commercial Property Insurance
Virtually any private business may purchase commercial property insurance coverage in Florida. Policies may cover individual properties, or businesses may buy blanket policies to cover buildings at multiple locations.
What Is Commercial Property Insurance?
The Florida Division of Consumer Services defines commercial property insurance as insurance that covers commercial buildings and their contents against losses from fire, windstorms, and many other causes. Commercial property insurance for businesses resembles homeowners’ insurance for individuals, but the two differ in important ways.
Like homeowners’ insurance, commercial insurance usually covers physical damage to property from specific sources. However, commercial insurance may also provide much more complex coverage. The type of business determines which additional and supplemental coverages business owners need. Working with an experienced commercial property insurance agent helps ensure you have the right coverage.
Florida Commercial Insurance Markets
According to the Florida Division of Consumer Services, two types of carriers may write commercial policies to insure property in Florida:
- Admitted carriers: Admitted carriers participate in the Florida Insurance Guaranty Fund. If an admitted carrier becomes insolvent and cannot pay claims, the Insurance Guaranty Fund protects policyholders. However, admitted carriers must file rates and forms with the Office of Insurance Regulation for approval, which provides less flexibility in crafting policies with special coverages.
- Surplus lines carriers: Surplus lines carriers do not participate in the Florida Insurance Guaranty Fund. If a surplus lines carrier goes bankrupt, the fund does not protect its policyholders. However, surplus lines carriers need not file their forms with the state for approval. That means the forms they use can include special exclusions and coverage conditions other carriers cannot offer, allowing them to provide customized coverages designed for your specific needs.
Types of Commercial Property Insurance Policies
Carriers can insure commercial properties either through standalone policies or packages providing more than one type of coverage.
The most common commercial property packages include:
- Commercial Package Policy (CPP): Combines a standardized set of forms including a commercial property declarations page, one or more property coverage and causes of loss forms, a commercial property conditions form, and applicable endorsements. A commercial package policy may also include builders’ risk coverage forms to protect buildings while under construction and condominium coverage forms for condominium associations. Businesses may use endorsements to tailor commercial coverage to meet special needs or to cover risks underwriters refuse to insure.
- Business-Owners Policy (BOP): Combines most of the property and liability coverage small: to medium-sized businesses need, except for auto and workers’ compensation insurance, which businesses must purchase separately.
Special Coverages or Endorsements for Commercial Property Policies
Businesses may also need special coverage for risks unique to the business. Businesses may choose these coverages by adding endorsements to a commercial policy package.
- Business income insuring agreement: Commercial property damage may keep you from carrying on your business for days, weeks, or months if you must repair or rebuild. Business income insurance covers your lost income if a covered peril interrupts or slows your business operations. If other businesses rely on your commercial property for their businesses, they may also lose income.
- Extra expenses insuring agreement: Covers additional expenses a business incurs to avoid losses from an interruption due to commercial property damage, such as moving operations and leasing a new location.
- Alterations and new buildings-Covers lost income if a covered peril damages a new building, alteration, addition, equipment, or building supplies such that the damage delays the business from starting operations.
- Interruption of computer operations: Provides limited coverage for lost income or business expenses if a covered cause of loss damages electronic data and suspends computer operations.
- Building ordinance or law coverage: Covers losses if the government enforces a building ordinance in a way that requires a business to demolish and rebuild all or part of a building.
- Spoilage coverage: Covers losses if perishable goods spoil because power, refrigeration, cooling, or humidity control equipment fails. Common examples include Florida grocers carrying spoilage coverage for refrigerated and frozen foods.
- Manufacturers’ consequential loss assumption: Covers losses in the value of undamaged property because of losses to other property.
- Earthquakes and volcanoes: Covers losses resulting from earthquakes and volcanic activity.
- Unattached signs: Typically covers neon, fluorescent, electric, or mechanical signs not attached to a covered building.
- Utility services endorsement: Covers losses from power outages if caused by covered perils.
- Newly acquired locations: Covers property the business acquires during the policy period.
Recovering for Florida Commercial Property Damage
If you need to recover for commercial property damage, get experienced attorneys to help. Don’t file a claim without the assistance of good commercial property damage attorneys. Commercial property insurance companies have teams of attorneys whose job is to deny your claim or minimize the amount of money the insurer pays you. You should have teams of attorneys on your side as well.
Don’t Waive Your Rights
First, make sure you don’t waive any of your rights to recover under your insurance policy. Our team can help you evaluate the damage to commercial property before you file an insurance claim to determine exactly what rights you have and how to best present your claim. Insurance companies often deny claims simply because the insured did not know how to properly prepare and present a claim. Let a skilled commercial property damage attorney prepare and present your claim to protect your rights and maximize your recovery.
Don’t Rely on Commercial Insurance Company Adjusters to Fairly Assess Your Claim
Once you file a claim, commercial property insurance adjusters will contact you and ask you how much damage your property and your business incurred. The adjusters collect information that determines how much your insurance company pays you.
Adjusters will ask if the damage interrupted your business and to what extent. Your insurer can use any information the adjusters collect to limit how much they pay out on your claim. You also simply may not realize the impact the damage will have on your business. Avoid making statements that the insurance carrier could use against you.
Don’t Let Your Insurer Blame Your Losses on Other Causes or Failure to Mitigate
Your insurer may also dispute whether you needed to slow or stop operations because of the damage to try to avoid paying you lost income. Your insurer may also accuse you of failing to mitigate your losses, essentially blaming you for damage you relied on your insurance to cover. Your insurer may also argue you chose to suspend your business or could have continued business elsewhere. Don’t get dragged into coverage disputes when your commercial property damage occurs.
You shouldn’t fight a commercial insurance carrier alone. Get help from the experienced Florida commercial property damage attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Attorneys PA before you file a claim. We can handle all the communications with your insurance company so you can focus on keeping your business on track.
Get an Accurate Assessment of Your Losses
Our team can help you get an accurate assessment of your losses instead of relying on your insurance carrier’s adjusters. We can bring in experts who understand how commercial property damage affects businesses and can calculate the extent of your losses. Otherwise, you may overlook or underestimate your losses. Having attorneys on your side helps ensure you recover fully.
Know What Your Insurance Policy Covers
Knowledgeable commercial property insurance attorneys can also help you interpret what your insurance policy does and doesn’t cover. Your insurance carrier may read your policy narrowly and tell you it doesn’t cover all the losses your business incurred. Your carrier may dispute the cause of the damage and blame your loss on something your policy doesn’t cover. Don’t let your carrier decide what caused the damage or interpret your policy against you.
Experienced commercial property damage attorneys can bring in experts who can explain the cause of the loss. We can decipher complex policies, explain your coverage, enforce your policy against your carrier, and protect your rights. We can also fight any unfair or unclear policy terms that your insurer tries to use against you.
Get a Fair Settlement When You Need It
Business owners need to recover for damage promptly so they can make repairs quickly and with as little interruption to the business as possible. A team of skilled commercial property damage attorneys can help you negotiate with your carrier and obtain a timely top-dollar settlement to keep your business afloat.
The commercial property damage attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA have battled insurance companies for nearly two decades. We understand how to fight their tactics and get you a full and fair settlement when you need it most.
Fight Back Against Unfair Settlement Practices
If your insurance company refuses to pay you a prompt and fair settlement for your commercial property damage claim, we can take your insurance company to trial. Florida law requires insurance carriers to handle claims promptly and fairly. If your insurance carrier failed to meet those deadlines, failed to give adequate explanations for denials, or wrongfully denied covered claims, you may have additional claims and recovery rights against your insurer for unfair settlement practices. In some cases, the value of your bad faith claims may exceed the value of your other claims.
When commercial property damage threatens your business, you expect your carrier will treat you fairly and help you protect your business. Having experienced commercial property damage attorneys helps ensure your carrier can’t use unfair settlement tactics against you. But if your carrier still refuses to give you a full and fair settlement, we can help you pursue additional claims and recovery in court when necessary.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Should I Handle Florida Commercial Property Damage?
If a storm or other event damages your commercial property, first make sure the structure is safe before you or anyone else enters the property. Contact a commercial property damage attorney who can help you find expert cleanup and restoration services and professional adjusters from the outset. Emergency restoration services can often prove essential for a business to recover quickly and stop additional losses.
Next, take photos and videos of the damage before starting any cleanup or repairs. Photos and videos provide excellent, compelling evidence that can help commercial property damage attorneys win your case. You should also begin documenting all your losses related to the damage, including amounts you pay for remediation services and any interruption in your business operations, lost customers, and any time your business had to close.
How Long Does It Take to Recover for Florida Commercial Property Damage?
Complex commercial property damage claims may take months if not years to recover. Florida law sets deadlines for carriers to respond to and pay or adequately explain reasons for denying a claim. However, in Florida, natural disasters often cause widespread damage that overwhelms and sometimes even leaves insurance carriers bankrupt, and unable to pay claims.
A skilled commercial property damage attorney can help guide you through filing a claim, negotiating with your insurer, and bringing a lawsuit if necessary to expedite your recovery.
Why Choose Our Florida Commercial Property Damage Attorneys
Our commercial property damage attorneys help Floridians fight insurance companies and recover the money they need to keep their businesses running when disaster strikes. To date, we have helped our clients recover over $225 million in damages. Our team combines over 130 years of experience handling claims against insurance companies. We have built our business helping people take on their insurers and winning for our clients.
Best Lawyers recently named Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA among the top 6 percent of practicing attorneys in their field in the United States. With offices conveniently located in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tampa, New Port Richey, North Miami, Doral, Orlando, Aventura, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Bradenton, Jacksonville, Largo, Tallahassee, Cocoa Beach, and Palm Harbor, we can help you navigate with your commercial property damage claims.