Your St. Petersburg home may be the most important purchase you make during your life. It houses your loved ones where you watch your children grow. It keeps you and your family safe. Your home also holds all of your possessions, many of which might be family heirlooms with extreme sentimental value.
Whenever someone makes a large purchase like a home, they get insurance coverage to protect the home itself and the personal property inside. The law does not require that a homeowner purchase insurance, but your mortgage company may. So you may have experience shopping for and selecting homeowners’ insurance coverage.
However, you may not have fully understood the policy. Today’s insurance policies are not written to be clear to you. Insurance companies write them to confuse you. The insurance companies write lengthy, complex homeowners’ insurance policies filled with exceptions, exclusions, and conditions where your policy would not provide you with any coverage. This is disappointing, especially when you pay your premiums on time each month. You expect your insurance company to be there for you when you need them. Unfortunately, that is often not the case.
If you have suffered property damage or full loss, you may benefit from the guidance of an experienced St. Petersburg property damage attorney. Your lawyer can review your policy before you file a claim to make sure your damage and losses are covered. If you have already filed a claim and been denied, your lawyer can review the reason for denial and help you appeal the insurance company’s decision to help you collect maximum compensation under your policy.
Property Damage Causes in St. Petersburg
Property damage can happen for many reasons. In Florida, we deal with the potential for hurricanes for half of the year. While hurricanes are massive storms that can cause extreme damage and loss of life, they frequently give us time to board up our homes and evacuate. Not all situations are similar, however. Even some tornadoes that spawn from hurricanes give us little warning and can tear a home apart in seconds.
The most common causes of property damage in St. Petersburg include:
While there are countless causes of property damage, these are the big ones. These are the types of damage that can require a new home and place an extreme financial burden on your family. Many insurance companies will require that you pay for the repairs first and then, after you have submitted full documentation, they will reimburse you.
However, your insurance company may not be telling you the whole story. Because your insurance policy is written in such a complex way, your insurance company is banking on the fact that you may not properly submit your claim or that you may submit a claim for an item they have specifically excluded. This would cause them to deny your claim. That’s why it is vital to the success of your property damage insurance claim that you work with a knowledgeable St. Petersburg property damage lawyer as soon as possible after you have suffered damage. Your lawyer can help you file your claim correctly and ensure you provide sufficient evidence for your claim.
Filing a St. Petersburg Insurance Claim
Understanding what your insurance company might look for in your claim can help you prepare appropriately. Your best choice is to work with a trusted property damage attorney in St. Petersburg to help you collect your information and file your claim. You need to fully understand your own obligations under your insurance policy before you can move forward with filing a claim. Your lawyer can help.
Your policy obligations may differ slightly depending on your insurance company and the amount of coverage you have purchased.
In most cases, however, you will be required to take the following three steps.
- Notice of loss. As the property owner, you will be required to provide a notice of loss to your insurance company. In your policy document, it will provide a specific time frame for notifying your carrier. If you do not provide notice of loss to your carrier in this time frame, it may bar your claim.
- Mitigate further loss. Once you know that you have suffered property damage or full loss, you need to take steps to protect against any further damage or loss, called mitigation. Your policy most likely states that you have to take reasonable steps to satisfy this requirement. For example, if your home suffers roof damage, placing a blue tarp on the roof to minimize further damage would be considered a reasonable step.
- Proof of loss. Finally, you must provide evidence that you have suffered a loss. You will need to list every item that suffered damage or was completely lost. Your insurance company will probably require that you sign this document under penalty of perjury.
Reasons Your St. Petersburg Property Damage Claim Might be Denied
Insurance companies deny property damage claims for all sorts of reasons. Some of these reasons may seem trivial, but the insurance company will look for any reason at all to deny your claim. Their goal is to keep money in their pocket and out of yours. If they pay out the full value of every claim, they would constantly lose money.
The most common reasons to receive a claim denial include:
- Missing a payment for your premium
- Late premium payment
- Filing a claim for an item not covered under your policy
- Filing a claim past the deadline
- Failing to provide sufficient evidence of loss
Some insurance companies will even try to tell you that the language in your policy does not say what you think it says, attempting to confuse you even more. When you partner with a trusted legal advisor, you gain access to their decades of experience battling big insurance companies for your benefit. Your St. Petersburg lawyer will know these games and protect your rights when filing your claim or appealing a denial. Without this legal help, you could end up shouldering the financial burden of your significant property damage and loss.
Insurance Company Bad Faith in St. Petersburg
You researched and found an insurance company you felt comfortable protecting your property. You worked with an agent to figure out the best policy for your situation and budget. You pay your insurance premiums every month. When you suffer property damage, you expect your insurance company to be there for you. Many times, insurance companies respond to your time of need in bad faith.
Insurance company bad faith happens when the carrier attempts to renege on its obligations under your policy. This could mean denying your claim without a valid reason, refusing to pay out a legitimate claim, or any other type of bad faith act. This could result in you paying out of your own pocket for your property damage and loss, even though you had a valid insurance policy that should have covered you.
The general rule of thumb is that every major insurance company writes such complex policies that there is always a loophole for them to deny your claim. That alone does not rise to the level of bad faith.
Your insurance company may act in bad faith through:
- Misrepresentation of facts
- Misrepresentation of your policy coverages and exclusions
- Failure to acknowledge your claim
- Failure to promptly investigate your claim
- Failure to reply to your claim
- Taking too long to approve or deny your claim
- Failure to reasonably explain a claim denial
The last point is often the most contested. Your insurance company may provide you with a vague reason for denying your claim that you may not find reasonable. Without an experienced property damage lawyer at your side, you may be at an impasse.
That’s why working with a trusted lawyer is an important part of ensuring you get the compensation you are entitled to under your insurance policy. Prevailing in a bad faith claim against your insurance company also results in consequences for their action. Not only might this help you recover maximum compensation under your policy but it might also help future claimants.
Settlement Negotiation Tactics in St. Petersburg Property Damage Claims
Insurance companies are all businesses, and they have a goal to maximize their profits. They make decisions based on maximizing profit. One of those decisions is to deny your legitimate claim. When people receive a denial of their claim, they may take it as a final resolution and walk away, shouldering the financial burden of their property loss. But a claim denial also gives the insurance company an advantage in settlement negotiations.
Your insurance company knows that you need money to cover your property damage. They also know that they recently denied your claim. That may leave you anxious about getting any money at all. So the insurance company might reach out to you, especially if you have a strong case, and offer you a settlement. They may even suggest this is out of the goodness of their hearts, that they do not want you to walk away empty-handed.
Do not fall for their tricks. They know you have a strong claim and all they are trying to do is make you go away for as little money as they possibly can, holding onto their profits. If the insurance company has denied your claim and is now offering you a settlement, ask yourself why. It’s because they want to hold on to as much of your money as they can.
The insurance company may even pressure you to take the settlement offer, saying that you do not need to speak with a lawyer and that this is the best they can do. They may also say you need to decide right now. These tactics are not acceptable and you have a right to have a lawyer review any settlement offer you receive.
If you do sign the settlement offer, you will waive your right to bring any future claims against the insurance company for your property damage or loss. When you realize that the settlement funds have run dry but you still have repairs or replacements to pay for, it will be too late.
To avoid this scenario, you can speak with a skilled St. Petersburg property damage lawyer. Talking to a lawyer as soon as you have suffered property damage gives your lawyer the best chance of fully investigating your claim and working with your insurance company to come to a fair and reasonable settlement. Your lawyer should have proven experience standing up to the big insurance companies, fighting for victims like you. The insurance company wants to keep your money—your lawyer works tirelessly to maximize your compensation under your policy.
Bearing the financial burden of your property damage is not your responsibility. That’s why you have insurance to begin with, so let your lawyer help you recover the compensation you are entitled to under your homeowners’ insurance policy.
Use a Skilled St. Petersburg Property Damage Lawyer
When you suffer property damage loss, you do not expect that you will need a lawyer. You have insurance for this exact reason. Unfortunately, insurance companies only have their profits in mind. They care very little about paying out your claim.
Your St. Petersburg property damage attorney has your best interests at heart. Your legal advisor will help you understand the insurance claims process and work with you to help you recover every dollar you deserve under your policy. This may require an aggressive lawyer who is not afraid to stand up to the insurance companies and get them to do what is right—paying out your valid and legitimate claim. Not all lawyers have the resources necessary to take on a property damage claim. The choice you make for your legal representation is vital to your ability to recover compensation under your policy.
If you have suffered property damage and your insurance company won’t help you, an experienced St. Petersburg property damage attorney can help. With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman online and at 833-552-7274.
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