Tampa Property Damage Lawyer

March 16, 2021 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman

Whether it's your car, your personal property, or the roof over your head, property damage can be traumatic. Someone's negligence, an act of nature, or intentional destruction may damage or destroy your real or personal Tampa property.

According to Section 624.604 of Tampa Statutes, property insurance covers real and personal property. Real property refers to your home, commercial property, or land. Personal property refers to property such as furniture, a car, or any personal possession. In a recent year, 5.7 percent of insured homes had a claim. Property damage, including theft, accounted for 98.1 percent of those claims. Storms and other severe weather affect the number and types of claims filed.

When your property is damaged through no fault of your own, you need help. If your insurance company is denying or undervaluing your claim, you should consult an experienced Tampa property damage attorney who can review your legal options and protect your right to full and fair reimbursement for your damages.

Property damage happens under all kinds of circumstances. Here are some of the most common causes of damage in Tampa.

Wind and Hail Damage in Tampa

Weather-related claims are common in Tampa and account for a large percentage of insurance claims. A recent year saw a record hurricane season, with $60 billion in damage. Wind, hail, tornadoes, and hurricanes cause a great deal of property damage. You should make sure you know precisely what your policy covers. Many property insurance policies do cover these losses, but if not, you may wish to purchase a separate policy. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Tampa residents are among the 1.2 million Americans living in areas at risk from hurricanes.

During storms and hurricanes, heavy winds, uprooted trees, or objects flying around in the wind often result in roof damage. Roof damage may be difficult to see. Therefore, it often goes undetected until there are signs of interior damage. Roof damage may require complete replacement of the roof structure.

If a natural disaster such as a hurricane causes many simultaneous claims, your carrier may consider the claims a catastrophe. In that case, they may use special adjusters and provide specific instructions for help with your claim.

Water and Flood Damage in Tampa

With over 1300 miles of coastline, proximity to the ocean is one of the great gifts of living in Tampa. However, it also means that many Tampa homes face unique threats from water and flood damage. Tampa is among the top metropolitan areas at risk for storm surge in the U.S.

Other causes of water damage include:

  • Leftover rainwater
  • Burst pipes
  • Plumbing issues
  • Leaky or malfunctioning household appliances, such as dishwashers or washing machines

Not all water events are floods. Homeowner's insurance covers many types of water damage. However, many insurance companies view water damage and flooding damage as separate issues. Therefore, homeowners' insurance does not usually cover damage caused by flooding, such as hurricanes or heavy rain. The National Flood Insurance Program sells standalone flood insurance.

Fire and Smoke in Tampa

According to the National Fire Protection Association, a structure fire occurred every 63 seconds, a home fire occurred every 87 seconds, and a fire on outdoor property fire occurred every 52 seconds. Even if the fire is on someone else's property or is a nearby wildfire, smoke damage can be pervasive. It may invade walls, furnishings, clothing, and other personal possessions. Even in a small fire that does not otherwise substantially damage your property, smoke damage is insidious and can damage the interior and exterior of the property. Between the actual fire and the resulting smoke damage, the damage from odors and discoloration may be very expensive to salvage or replace.

Unfortunately, many insurance adjusters will claim that just cleaning the surfaces will remove the damage. They may underestimate the cost of repairs or claim there is no need to replace damaged items. Fortunately, smoke damage is a named peril in Tampa property insurance policies, which means it is specifically listed in the property as a loss the policy will cover.

Cast Iron Pipes in Tampa

In some circumstances, cast iron pipes last from 50 to 100 years, but in Tampa, many have failed in as little as 25 years because of weather and environmental conditions. About 76 million homes across America built before 1975 contain cast iron pipes. Many of them are at risk for problems or are already experiencing water damage from cast iron pipe failure. Failing cast iron pipes can lead to serious water damage in a structure. Sometimes the failure is so widespread that they are beyond repair, and replacement is very expensive.

Signs of cast iron pipe failure include:

  • leakage
  • Blocked drains
  • Sewer or drain backup
  • Water stains on flooring
  • Foul smells in the home
  • Mold growth
  • Discolored water
  • Broken or cracked floor tiles
  • Pest or insect infestation

Fixing the water damage and replacing pipes typically costs at least $50,000. Estimates may be higher for properties that have severely damaged walls and floors. Insurance companies sometimes deny damage claims or pay too little for needed repairs.

Property Damage From Tampa Car Accidents

Tampa Property Damage From Car Accidents

Most people are involved in several car accidents during their lifetime. Most car accidents involve property damage to one or more of the vehicles, and sometimes even to the items within the vehicle. Florida Financial Responsibility Law requires the owner of the at-fault vehicle to have compulsory coverage in effect at the time of the crash. This coverage includes “$10,000 property damage liability (PDL) per crash and personal injury protection (PIP) limits of $10,000 per person per crash.”

However, according to recent data, Florida has the fourth-most dangerous drivers in America. Also, more than one-fourth of all Florida drivers do not have insurance.

Every accident is different, but there are some common scenarios:

  • If the other party is at fault and carries property damage liability insurance, their insurance company will pay up to the policy limits.
  • If the other party is at-fault but does not have property damage liability insurance, if you have collision coverage, your insurance will pay for the damage, less the deductible.
  • If neither you nor the responsible party has insurance coverage, you have the right to seek recovery from the at-fault party directly. However, they may not have the funds to pay for repairs.
  • If you are at fault for the accident and have collision coverage on your insurance policy, you can seek recovery from your own insurance company, but not from the other party's insurance company. Your insurance company will pay for the damages less the amount of the deductible.

You should generally recover the difference between what your car was worth immediately before the accident and what your car was worth immediately after the accident.

Insurance adjusters determine the amount in one of two ways:

  • If the vehicle can be repaired, the recovery amount is the cost of repairing the vehicle. A claims adjuster will inspect the vehicle and prepare a detailed estimate of the repair costs.
  • If the vehicle is totaled, the recovery amount is the “fair market value.”

Other car accident-related property damage claims might include the cost of a rental car while yours is in the repair shop or replacement costs of upgrades you made to your car, such as special wheel rims.

You can file a claim for any property lost or damaged in the accident, for example:

  • Mobile phones
  • Laptops
  • Jewelry, including smartwatches
  • Sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses
  • Car seats and booster seats. Experts recommend replacing these following a moderate or severe accident.

Theft and Vandalism in Tampa

Experiencing theft or vandalism to your Tampa property can be upsetting. If someone stole or vandalized your property, you should report the crime to the police and your insurance company. Document the damage as soon as possible. If you have an inventory or receipts, it will help establish your claim.

Other Property Damage in Tampa

Other miscellaneous property damage claims that are frequently reported in Tampa include:

Dealing With the Insurance Company

You may have worked your whole life to acquire your home, office, or car. Other possessions are beloved treasures. Most people buy insurance coverage to protect these possessions if damaged. Yet, insurance policies are typically lengthy, complex contracts. They are difficult to read, understand, and collect on. You have insurance to protect you in case your property is damaged. Naturally, you expect to be fairly and fully compensated, but that is not always the case.

Dealing with the insurance company is often complicated and frustrating. Their primary goal is to either deny your claim or pay only a minimal amount. In Florida, an insurance company must acknowledge receipt of the property damage claim within 14 days. At this time, the insurance company must give you information such as what it needs to proceed with your claim and instructions for filling out claim forms.

The insurance company will try to get you to settle your accident claim quickly to minimize the amount it has to pay you for repairs or replacement, medical expenses, and lost wages. However, you may not realize the full extent and financial cost of your injuries immediately. They may ignore you or stall your claim, hoping that you will either give up or miss the deadline for filing a lawsuit.

Insurance companies are constantly seeking ways to deny, delay, and lower their claims payouts, such as:

  • Claiming the cause of the damage was not covered by the policy.
  • Claiming the damage was beyond the scope of the policy.
  • Conducting an insufficient investigation into the damage
  • Unreasonable delays in handling your claim
  • Trying to persuade the victim to settle for repairs rather than replacement.

What To Do Before You Pursue a Tampa Property Damage Claim

Review your policies regularly. Don't assume you have coverage for everything. Read everything, including the fine print. If you don't understand something, ask questions. You may wish to check whether you have coverage for property damage from burglary, vandalism, and other crimes.

In the aftermath of a property damage loss, it can be difficult to remember what you own, where you acquired it, and how much it cost. Creating an inventory of your personal possessions makes preparing a claim far easier. You can do this by listing them in a notebook and keeping all relevant information in a safe place or you can use an app. It's a good idea to take pictures as you inventory items. However you chose to do it, it can be an interesting process. You may find you own more than you think. On average, 52 percent of homeowners said they prepared an inventory of their possessions to help document losses for their insurance companies.

If you do suffer property damage losses, there are steps to deal with the situation.

  • Do what you can to prevent further damage.
  • Photograph or videotape the damage as soon as possible
  • Salvage any items you can.
  • Keep all damaged items. Your insurance company may ask to see them if you are asking for compensation.

What Is the Deadline for Filing a Tampa Property Damage Lawsuit?

Matthew A Dolman Esq
Property Damage Attorney, Matt Dolman

In Tampa, you have four years from the date of your property damage to file a claim against the at-fault party. If the insurance company is not dealing with you fairly, you have five years from the date of the bad faith incident to bring a claim against the insurance company. The Tampa courts recently set this statute of limitations as a precedent in bad faith insurance claims.

How a Tampa Property Damage Attorney Can Help You

If your property was damaged, you may face serious financial hardships. Depending on the cause of the damage, you may be without a car, computer, or a safe home. Some property damage claims resolve promptly and fairly, but not always. An experienced Tampa property damage attorney can deal with the insurance company, take legal action if necessary, and ensure you receive full and fair compensation for your losses. For more information or a free case evaluation, call Dolman Law Group at 833-552-7274 or contact us online.

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Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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