Fort Lauderdale Property Damage Lawyer for Your Home, Condo & Business
A home or office building is the most important purchase most of us will make during our lifetime. Most of us buy insurance coverage – windstorm, liability, flood, homeowners, and business interruption – to protect our homes and businesses. Yet, today’s insurance policies are lengthy, complex contracts full of exceptions, exclusions, deductibles, and conditions that make the policy difficult to read, and sometimes even more difficult to recover from for your damage. When you call the Maus Law Firm, a top Fort Lauderdale property damage lawyer will handle property damage claims.
Disagreeing with Your Insurance Claim for Property Damage
You have four options if you disagree with the amount the insurance company is offering you for your damage:
Most insurance companies create entire TV marketing campaigns designed to say that you’re part of the insurance company’s “family”. However, the reality of the insurance business is that insurance companies exist to make money. That means that insurance company needs to minimize the amount of claims it pays out; meanwhile, maximizing the premiums that it collects.
When an insurance company doesn’t offer to pay you the full (or fair) amount of your property damage, you need to be prepared to fight. While many homeowners are hesitant to go to court – fearful of a lengthy or expensive legal battle against a big-name insurer – settling for less than your claim was worth can end up costing you more in the long-term. The repairs your home needed can continue to pile up, lowering the value of your property. Hiring the best Fort Lauderdale property damage lawyer you can find will save you the headache later.
The Process for Property Damage Claims & Florida Property Owner’s Obligations
When making insurance claims for property damage, it is helpful to know how the process typically unfolds. Our Fort Lauderdale property damage lawyer knows that while there are many potential scenarios, the property owner should first understand their own obligations under the insurance policy. Second, the property owner should understand the reasons for the insurance company’s denial of their claim.
Any property insurance policy will place some obligations on the property owner when they make a claim for property loss. These obligations will differ from policy to policy, but the following are several of the most common requirements.
- Notice of Loss: The property owner is generally required to provide notice of the loss to the carrier promptly. The policy should provide a specific deadline. Failure to meet this deadline could result in the claim being barred.
- Protect Against Further Damage: The property owner is also required to take reasonable steps to protect the property from further damage. For example, if the roof of a property is damaged by a hurricane, the property owner must attempt to place temporary covering to protect the interior. However, the exact conduct that is considered “reasonable steps” will often be subject to interpretation.
- Proof of Loss: After making a claim, the property owner will need to submit a proof of loss statement. This statement is generally signed under penalty of perjury and itemizes the damages. A typical deadline for the proof of loss is 60 days after a request by the insurance carrier.
Our Fort Lauderdale Property Damage Lawyer Can Help You Deal With Insurance Company Denials
The following are some common reasons for Florida insurance companies to deny property damage claims.
Failure to Pay Premiums:
This is one of the more common reasons to deny claims, since nonpayment of premiums can end policy coverage. While carriers are allowed to cancel coverage due to nonpayment, there are certain exceptions that can serve as excuses for late payments.
Exclusions in Coverage:
Often the type of claimed damage is listed in the policy’s exclusions and therefore not covered. Common examples include flood damage, earthquake damage and mudslides. Although these exclusions are perfectly legal under insurance law, each particular case is different. Whether some types of damage are properly excluded from coverage is open to interpretation of the facts and the policy language.
Inadequate Proof of Damage:
When a carrier claims a policyholder did not provide adequate proof of damage, it often relies on the proof of loss provision in the policy. This provision may set certain requirements for the type of proof that must be submitted.
Non-disclosures by the Policyholder:
This reason for denial rests on the insurer’s contention that the policyholder failed to disclose key information when they applied for the policy or made the claim.
Fort Lauderdale Property Damage Lawyer for Bad-Faith Insurance Claim Denials
In addition to these potentially-valid reasons for denying homeowners’ and business owners’ property damage claims, insurance companies will often issue bad-faith denials as well. If your insurance company denies your property damage claim in bad faith, you may be entitled to additional compensation above and beyond the amount of coverage included under your policy. Examples of bad-faith insurance practices include:
Misrepresenting the Terms of Coverage:
Misrepresenting the consequences of failure to pay premiums, misrepresenting your policy limits or policy exclusions, and making other representations about the terms of coverage are all common examples of bad-faith insurance practices.
Failing to Conduct a Timely Investigation:
Once you file a property damage claim, your insurance company is required to conduct a timely investigation in order to gather the evidence needed to make a decision regarding coverage. If you cannot get your insurance company to send an adjuster, you may have a claim for bad-faith compensation.
Failing to Issue a Timely Decision Regarding Coverage:
Likewise, once your insurance company investigates your claim, it is legally required to make a timely decision regarding coverage. Unnecessary delays are often indicative of insurance bad faith.
Refusing to Consider Verified Facts:
In some cases, property damage insurance companies will ignore clear facts that support insureds’ coverage claims. Similar to unnecessary delays, refusing to consider verified facts is a common bad-faith insurance tactic.
Making Low-Ball Settlement Offers:
While property damage insurance companies are entitled to negotiate in good faith, they cannot legally attempt to take advantage of their policyholders with low-ball settlement offers. If your insurance company’s offer is nowhere near the amount you are owed, you may have a claim for insurance bad faith.
A Note about Assignments of Benefits (AOBs)
When dealing with contractors during your insurance claim, you may be asked to sign a document titled, “Assignment of Benefits”. If you are asked to execute an assignment of benefits (AOB), you need to be extremely careful to protect your legal rights.
Contractors like AOBs because they allow contractors to work directly with property owners’ and business owners’ insurance companies. Instead of payment going through you, if you sign an AOB your contractor will be able to collect payment directly from your insurer. The main contractors that use AOBs are plumbers, water dryout or mitigation companies, mold remediation companies and sometimes roofers.
In July 2019, the Florida Legislature passed a new AOB law requiring AOB companies to meet certain record keeping requirements in order for an AOB to be valid. The new law is located at Florida Statute sec. 627.7152(2)(a) and requires the following:
- The homeowner must be given the right to rescind the AOB without a penalty or fee.
- The AOB company must provide the homeowner with a copy of the signed AOB within 3 business days after the AOB is signed, or the date on which the AOB company begins its work, whichever is earlier.
- The AOB must include a written estimate of the work to be performed.
- The AOB can only be for work to protect, repair, restore or replace property damage.
- The AOB must contain a warning in bold, uppercase letters that the homeowner is giving up important rights under their policy of insurance.
- The AOB must contain language that requires the AOB company to release the homeowner for any expenses related to the work performed.
There are additional provisions that the law requires an AOB contractor to comply with, but the new AOB law has made it much more difficult for AOB companies to provide repairs to a homeowner after the homeowner suffers damage to their house.
Why? Once you sign an AOB, you are essentially cut out of the process. You will have to sit on the sidelines while your contractor and your insurance company decide what repairs are necessary and what costs should be covered. When you sign an AOB, you generally waive your right to pursue mediation – in fact, you may waive your right to dispute any aspect of your claim directly with your insurer.
While AOBs are generally enforceable under Florida law, if you have signed an AOB and you are struggling to get your insurance company or your contractor to fulfill its obligations, you may still have options available. We encourage you to contact us promptly to speak with a Fort Lauderdale property damage lawyer about your situation.
Mold Damage Insurance Claims
The problem with water damage at a house or condo is that if the water leaks into the walls or flooring, there is no way to determine the full extent of the damage without looking into the wall or underneath the flooring. However, the only way to do that is to open the wall or lift up the flooring.
If you have mold damage at your house, condo or business, or you have had a water leak that spread into a wall or through your flooring, you should have the area inspected to make sure that mold has not started to grow. Very often the mold will not become visible for weeks or months following the water leak. Insurance proceeds paid through a mediation or appraisal may require you to sign a release, releasing the insurance company from damage you discover after the settlement such as mold. Make sure your property damage lawyer has your house or condo water leak, drain pipe leak or other property damage fully inspected so that any property damage insurance settlement you enter into covers you for mold damage.
Keep in mind, most policies include exclusions for mold insurance coverage. Your property damage insurance policy also provide mold coverage but limit the amount of the policy limits for mold damage. Have your property damage lawyer review your policy’s coverage to determine how much of a mold insurance settlement you may be entitled to.
Trust a Top Fort Lauderdale Property Damage Lawyer with Your Claim
In addition to these questions, there are several different types of policies offered by homeowner insurance companies that contain various types of coverage. There is a policy used for owner occupied properties, one for properties that are rented out, and yet another type policy used for condo units. Where do you turn to get help?
When an insurance company denies a property damage claim or delays payment, there are numerous ways in which a Fort Lauderdale property damage lawyer can help. Your lawyer can review the facts of your claim, review and analyze your policy and navigate the claims process on your behalf. In addition, your Fort Lauderdale property damage attorney can pursue litigation against the carrier if needed. In fact, the carrier may be more likely to pay your claim or provide a reasonable settlement when it knows you have a well-qualified property damage attorney on your side.
The Maus Law Firm has been successfully handling insurance related claims since 1993. The Firm is “AV” rated by Martindale Hubbell, the highest ranking for legal ability and ethics. The Maus Law Firm has been recognized continuously since 2011 by Florida Trend Magazine’s “Legal Elite” ranking, and named a “SuperLawyer” by West Thompson Publishing. The property damage attorneys at The Maus Law Firm will competently and aggressively represent you in your homeowner property damage insurance claim, or commercial business insurance claim. Call 1-888-999-5297 now for a free consultation. We come to you and also do a free inspection!