Florida Hurricane and Homeowner Insurance Claims
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Our Florida homeowner insurance lawyers have handled thousands of insurance claims on behalf of injured and damaged victims over the years. If you had property damage as a result of Hurricane Irma, or any other home damage from a pipe burst, fire, flood, tornado, lightening or sink hole, contact us for a free Florida homeowner insurance claim consultation at 800-337-7755 or 954-515-5000, or submit your question online. We handle Florida homeowner claim cases on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay us out of pocket to help you. We only get paid if you recover money on your claim. There may also be cases where the insurance company pays all or part of our fees.
Florida Homeowner Insurance Toolkit
Florida’s Department of Financial Services Division of Consumer Services created a Florida homeowner insurance toolkit. The Florida homeowner insurance toolkit provides basic information on a Florida homeowner insurance policy, what the policy may cover, creating a property inventory, and the homeowner insurance claims process.
Most homeowner policies in Florida are broken down into different coverage categories: Structure (the building itself), Other structures (like sheds, barns and fences); Personal property (the contents of the structures, like furniture and clothing); and Loss of use (also called Additional Living Expense). Homeowners can typically choose their coverage levels for these, as well as their deductible levels.
Additional Living Expenses
As the Florida Homeowner Insurance Toolkit mentions, Additional Living Expense insurance can help provide additional coverage for extra costs for food, housing, telephone, relocation and storage, utility installation and furniture rental for a temporary residence, and other expenses. Be sure to save receipts of any out of pocket expenses you incur following property damage.
Other Structures Coverage
Your policy may provide coverage for Other Structures. This typically covers property damage to sheds, fences, barns and sometimes boats. We can look at the policy language to see what is covered and what exclusions there may be to see what you should be entitled to collect.
Structure Coverage generally covers the physical structure of the property. This may include roof tiles, siding, walls, and flooring. We can evaluate the policy to see what your specific policy covers and what may be excluded.
What May Be Covered Under A Homeowner’s Policy
After a homeowner property loss, whether from a storm, hurricane, flood, fire, tornado, or other cause, there are several things you may be entitled to claim under the policy. Some of these include:
- Repair of the structure – The insurance company is generally required to pay to have your structure rebuilt, including any walls, floor and roofing. If they fail to do so, we may be able to assist in forcing them to do the right thing under the policy.
- Money for living expenses – You may be entitled to money for your living expenses following the hurricane or property damage. This may include money for gas, food, and hotels.
- Money for property damage – You may be entitled to money to pay for any damage to your personal property as a result of the storm. This may include money for appliances, furniture, and clothing.
- Boat damage – If you lost your boat or had damage to your boat, your boat insurance or homeowner’s insurance may cover you, depending on the policy language. If covered, we look at the policy to see whether you are entitled to actual cash value, or replacement value, or to have the boat repaired if possible.
- Landscaping damage – If you lost any trees or had damage to your landscaping, you may be entitled to reimbursement or money to fix your landscaping back to the condition it was in prior to the storm, or loss.
- Other structure damage – If you had any damage to a shed, boat, fence, barn, playground, or other structure on your property, you may be entitled to compensation for the actual or replacement value of the property.
- Cleaning – If you had any damage inside your property, you may be entitled to money for deep cleaning of the property following the damage causing event.
- Food – If you lost power or otherwise had to throw out your food as a result of a damage causing event, like a hurricane or fire, you may be entitled to money to replace your groceries.
Your Right to Choose Your Own Contractor
You have the right to choose your own contractor to repair your home. Insurance companies may try to push their contractors on you, or tell you that they have special discounts or rates with certain contractors, but they may not be acting in your best interest. Often, the insurance company’s contractor is working at a reduced rate to save the insurance company money.
Under Florida law, an insurer who offers residential coverage may contract with a building contractor skilled in techniques that mitigate hurricane damage. Insurers may offer policyholders the option to select the services of such building contractors to repair damage covered by the insurance policy. The insurer must guarantee the building contractor’s work and may offer the policyholder any other terms, conditions, or benefits. However, the insurance company is not liable for the actions of the building contractor.
Homeowner Insurance Deductible
We are often asked how the homeowner insurance deductible works. Most policies have different deductibles for each coverage, and an additional deductible if the damage is caused by windstorm, like a hurricane. Typically, you don’t actually have to pay the deductible out of pocket to the insurance company or anyone. When the insurance company appraises the property to come up with an amount of money they will offer to cover the damages, they will simply deduct your deductible from the total settlement.
For example, if a homeowner has a house worth $500,000, and the windstorm policy has a 2% hurricane/windstorm deductible, then the deductible is $10,000.00. If the homeowner sustained $100,000.00 in property damage as a result of Hurricane Irma, then the insurance company should pay $90,000.00 to settlement the claim; that is, $100,000.00 total damage less the $10,000.00 deductible.
Condominium Owner Insurance Claims
Confusion often arises after property damage inside a condo unit as to who pays for what damage. The condo association may try to deny the claim and argue that the damage is the condo unit owner’s responsibility. Typically, a condo association policy covers the structure of the property to the studs of the wall, though it may differ by policy. This means that anything in the common areas should be covered by the condo association policy. If a structural wall is damaged, the condo association should be responsible to fix it. They may put the drywall up with the nails showing, and do nothing more, or they may “white wash” the wall, where they paint it white as if it was a new wall. It windows break, the condo policy should cover it. The condo policy typically does not cover appliances, fixtures, built in cabinets, flooring, window treatments, and paint within the confines of the condo itself.
Much of the responsibility of who pays for what depends on the language of the condo insurance policy, your own condo unit owner policy, as well as the condo documents themselves.
Florida Condominium Association Insurance Claims
We can represent condominium associations in windstorm, flood and other insurance dispute claims. Following a major hurricane, like Hurricane Irma, insurance companies often try to figure out exclusions in the policy to deny legitimate insurance claims or to charge a high deductible under one coverage when another coverage with a lower deductible may apply. For example, following Hurricane Wilma, a dispute arose in a building where one of our attorneys lived as to who should pay for major flooding within the condo. During the storm, a water cooler on the roof burst, causing gallons of water to saturate the elevator shafts and damage several units. The cooler was hit by flying debris from a neighboring construction site. In cases like this, disputes often arise as to which insurance company should be responsible, which coverage applies, and which deductible applies.
Our office can evaluate the condo docs and insurance policy to determine what the condo association may be entitled to under the policy, and can file a lawsuit against the insurance company if necessary to try and recover for the losses incurred.
Where We Can Handle Florida Homeowner Insurance Claim Cases
Our Florida homeowner insurance lawyers are licensed to handle Florida homeowner claims in every city and county in the entire state of Florida. Most insurance companies are not even located in Florida, and our FL insurance lawyers can handle cases against them wherever they are if they wrote policies in Florida. Whether you lived in the Florida Keys, Miami, Broward, Palm Beach, the Naples or Ft Myers area, Tampa, Orlando or anywhere in between, our homeowner insurance lawyers can help evaluate your claim to see what you may be entitled to.
Three Years To Make A Claim For Hurricane Irma Damage
Florida law generally allows you up to 5 years to file a lawsuit against your homeowner insurance company if they fail to pay all of your damages or there is a dispute over the claim. However, Florida Statute section 627.70132 states that a claim, supplemental claim, or reopened claim under an insurance policy that provides property insurance for loss or damage caused by the peril of windstorm or hurricane is barred unless notice of the claim, supplemental claim, or reopened claim was given to the insurer in accordance with the terms of the policy within 3 years after the hurricane first made landfall or the windstorm caused the covered damage.
That means that you must put your insurance company on notice of the claim within 3 years following the hurricane or your claim may be barred. However, as long as you made the claim within 3 years of the hurricane’s landfall, you may still have up to 5 years from the time you incur the damage to file a lawsuit in the event you cannot settle your case without a lawsuit.
The Homeowner Claims Process in Florida Under the Law
Florida law requires an insurance company to handle your claim quickly and efficiently. If they delay paying your claim, they could have to pay attorneys’ fees, costs and interest on your claim.
Under Florida Statute section 627.70131, the homeowner insurance company must review and acknowledge your claim within 14 calendar days, subject to few exceptions. The acknowledgment of your claim shall be responsive to the communication. If the communication constitutes a notification of a claim, the acknowledgment from the insurance company should provide necessary claim forms, and instructions, including an appropriate telephone number. Within 10 days from when the insurance company gets the proof of loss statements, the insurance company must begin their investigation into the claim, unless in general the policy provides otherwise.
Within 90 days after an insurer receives notice of an initial, reopened, or supplemental property insurance claim from a policyholder, the insurer must pay or deny such claim or a portion of the claim unless the failure to pay is caused by factors beyond the control of the insurer which reasonably prevent such payment. Any payment of an initial or supplemental claim or portion of such claim made 90 days after the insurer receives notice of the claim, or made more than 15 days after there are no longer factors beyond the control of the insurer which reasonably prevented such payment, whichever is later, must be paid with interest. Interest begins to accrue from the date the insurer receives notice of the claim.
Florida Mobile Home Insurance Policy Claims
Florida mobile home insurance policies generally give mobile home owners a few insurance options. These may include a Stated Amount policy, an Actual Cash Value policy, and a Replacement Cost policy.
- A Stated Amount policy is generally where the owner and insurance company agree on a price of the property in the event of a total loss. This limits the coverage for the insurance company, but also provides more certainty in the event of a total loss.
- An Actual Cash Value policy is more difficult to resolve because it is based on the value of the property at the time of the loss. Insurance companies may try to reduce the value of the property by a number of factors, like wear and tear or depreciation on the property. They may also pay only what costs are necessary to repair the damage. If a 10 year old TV is damaged, the insurance company may only offer you the value of a 10 year old TV, not the value of what a new TV would cost.
- A Replacement Cost policy generally provides you with the full value of your property as of the date of the loss. No deductions are generally made for wear and tear, or depreciation. If a 10 year old TV is damaged, the insurance company would consider giving you money for a new TV, even if it costs more than you paid for your original TV. The goal is to replace the property you lost with similar property, if available.
Our Florida homeowner insurance lawyers can handle insurance claim issues throughout all of Florida. Whether you need an attorney to help with a flood insurance claim, homeowner insurance claim, or hurricane windstorm damage claim, call us for a free consultation at 800-337-7755 today. We are open late and on weekends for a free consultation.
We can handle property damage insurance claims in Miami, Key West, Upper Keys, Lower Keys, Middle Keys, Islamorada, Broward, Miramar, Plantation, Tampa, Naples, Ft Myers, Orlando and throughout Florida.
If you have any issue with your homeowner insurance company, whether it is a claim denial, claim delay or dispute over how much something is worth, contact a homeowner insurance attorney at the Law Offices of Jason Turchin today for a free consultation. You can also call us for help with your homeowner insurance claim after hours. Call us at 800-337-7755.