A Fort Lauderdale Fire Damage Attorney Can Help You Get the Compensation You Need to Make Repairs
For a homeowner, having a home damaged by fire is a devastating life event. The property damage from fire tends to be especially severe. Although homeowners insurance should cover the fire damage, recovering adequate compensation is not always an easy matter. The claims process can be difficult to navigate. Add to this the pressures of needing the repairs made quickly so that you have somewhere to live, and fire damage insurance claims can quickly become daunting. A Fort Lauderdale fire damage attorney at the Maus Law Firm can help homeowners successfully resolve fire damage insurance claims. With our trial experience and knowledge of insurance matters, our firm should be your first call after your home suffers fire damage.
What is the Process for a Fire Damage Insurance Claim in Florida?
For a Fort Lauderdale homeowner whose residence suffers fire damage, getting the insurance process started should be a priority. After ensuring the safety of yourself and your family, you should take steps to ensure you receive adequate compensation from your carrier as soon as possible. The following are the basic steps for pursuing an insurance claim for fire damage to your home.
▪ Notify Insurance Company
One of your first actions should be notifying your insurance company to make a claim for the fire damage. The insurance company is obligated to respond and start the claims process within a reasonable timeframe. Your carrier should provide guidance on making an inventory of damaged property. The carrier should also give a timeline for restoration of the property, and it may recommend fire restoration companies. However, the policyholder should be wary of any settlement offers made at this point. The amount offered is likely to be too low. It is not in the policyholder’s interest to accept any settlement without fully assessing damages and speaking with a Fort Lauderdale fire damage attorney.
▪ Assess Damage
The homeowner should make a list of all damaged property. Take photos of all damaged property and, if possible, make a video of the burned house. No damaged item should be discarded until it is documented. Also be sure to collect any receipts for out-of-pocket expenses. These expenses may be for repairs, replacement of items or relocation expenses while the house is restored.
▪ Consider Requesting Advance From Insurance Company
The homeowner may wish to request advance funds from the insurance company to cover immediate expenses that cannot be delayed. Examples of such expenses would be those for living arrangements, clothing and other basic items needed on a daily basis. Homeowners policies typically contain Additional Living Expense (ALE) provisions that will cover these costs.
▪ Submit Proof of Loss
Before making a final payment on the insurance claim, your carrier will need a Proof of Loss statement. This statement, which the policyholder signs under penalty of perjury, itemizes the damages. It goes without saying that all damages must be fully assessed before the Proof of Loss statement is submitted. You should have the guidance and counsel of a Fort Lauderdale fire damage attorney before turning in your statement.
▪ Do Not Close Your Insurance Claim Prematurely
Although your insurance carrier may pressure you to close the claim quickly, you should not do so. Remember that the policyholder must consent to closing the claim – the insurance company cannot do so unilaterally. In addition, you have the right to accept partial payment while notifying your insurance company, in writing, that you do not consider the claim closed. However, instead of dealing with the insurer on your own, you are encouraged to work with an attorney who can take over all communications with the carrier. With your attorney’s help, you may also wish to hire a public adjuster to assess the damages independently of the insurance carrier’s assessment. Finally, do not sign any settlement agreement or release without first consulting with counsel.
How Can a Fort Lauderdale Fire Damage Attorney Help With the Claims Process After a Fire?
After you make an insurance claim for fire damage, the insurance carrier can present obstacles to your fair recovery in several ways. For example, the carrier may make a lowball settlement offer or the carrier may make only partial payment and then pressure you to close the claim or sign a release.
A Fort Lauderdale fire damage attorney can first analyze your policy and determine the full extent of your coverage. The lawyer can also take control of the claims process, including all communications with the insurance company on your behalf. It is always preferable for communications with the carrier to be in writing; however, it is better to have those written communications drafted by an attorney.
The attorney can also ensure that the homeowner meets all deadlines under the policy. In addition, the attorney can ensure the insurance carrier is meeting all of its obligations and processing the claim with reasonable speed. The final Proof of Loss statement is a very important document that must list all damages as accurately as possible. A fire damage attorney can ensure the Proof of Loss is as airtight as possible.
Perhaps most importantly, your lawyer can assess all settlement offers from the insurance company to determine if they are reasonable. If the carrier is considering a denial of any part of the claim, the lawyer can assess the carrier’s arguments and fight for the homeowner’s rights. If the carrier denies the claim, in full or in part, your fire damage attorney can take any legal action necessary, such as filing a lawsuit for breach of contract or insurance bad faith.
Experienced Legal Representation for All Types of Florida Fire Damage Claims
Each Fort Lauderdale fire damage attorney at Maus Law Firm has significant experience handling a broad range of fire-related property insurance claims. This includes representing homeowners who have suffered partial and total property losses due to:
Electrical Faults and Defective Wiring
Electrical faults and defective wiring are among the most-common causes of residential fires. This includes defective home wiring (including installation of inadequate or faulty circuit breakers and other wiring components) as well as surges and electrical faults involving electronics and home appliances.
Kitchen fires can happen suddenly and unexpectedly, and they can get out of control very quickly. Baking and broiling foods for too long in the oven, inadvertently starting fires on gas and electric stoves, and various other common causes of kitchen fires are typically covered under standard Florida homeowner’s and condo owner’s insurance policies.
While leaving a burning candle unattended is unlikely to cause a fire, it happens more often than most homeowners realize. Whether the candle catches a curtain or other item on fire, a glass candle jar shatters or a pet knocks over a burning candle, there are many ways that unattended candles can lead to substantial property damage.
Likewise, leaving cigarettes, pipes and other smoking paraphernalia unattended can lead to fires as well. Similar to burning candles, lit cigarettes and other smoking items can trigger fires that are far worse than what most homeowners would ever imagine.
Lightning Strikes and Natural Disasters
Lightning strikes, downed power lines during hurricanes and other natural events cause a substantial number of house fires in Florida each year. Fires caused by natural disasters are generally covered under Florida homeowners’ and condo owners’ insurance policies.
Adjacent Condo and Common Area Fires
If you live in a condo and your home was damaged as the result of a fire in an adjacent unit or a common area, you are likely to face a number of challenges when dealing with your insurance company. Our attorneys can use their experience to help you obtain the coverage to which you are legally entitled.
Lithium Ion Batteries
Lithium ion batteries are found in many appliances we use on a day-to-day basis, including laptops, cellular phones, iPods, electric scooters and skateboards — even electric cars like the Tesla and Toyota Prius. However, if the battery is damaged, a short can occur causing a spark that can ignite the highly reactive lithium. Lithium ion batteries are also prone to ignite when the battery gets too hot. Since many of the devices containing lithium ion batteries are stored inside a house, a battery that catches on fire can cause substantial damage.
A Fort Lauderdale Fire Damage Attorney Can Make Sure You Seek Coverage for All of Your Fire-Related Losses
As we mentioned above, when seeking insurance coverage after a fire at your home, it is critically important to submit a final Proof of Loss statement that includes all of the property damage and property damage you have sustained as a result of the fire. While some losses are likely to be obvious, many homeowners will face less-obvious and “hidden” losses as well. Ensuring that you seek coverage for these hidden losses is yet another reason why it is important to hire an experienced Fort Lauderdale fire damage attorney to assist with your claim. Common examples of hidden losses include:
- Smoke damage
- Damage to electrical wiring
- Damage to electronics and appliances
- Structural damage
- Mold, corrosion and other forms of water-related damage sustained when fighting the fire
6 Reasons Why Fire Damage Claims Are Wrongfully Denied
Insurance companies deny their policyholders’ fire damage claims for a variety of different reasons. While some of these reasons are legitimate, many are not. For example, some of the most-common reasons for unjustified claim denials include:
- Failing to Conduct an Adequate Investigation – In some cases, insurance companies will deny coverage for fire damage on the basis that they don’t have enough evidence to confirm the cause of the fire. Oftentimes, this is a result of an insurance company’s own failure to conduct an adequate investigation.
- Incorrectly Claiming Lack of Coverage – Insurance companies will also frequently deny payment for fire damage by claiming that either the cause of the fire or the damaged property isn’t covered. These claims often prove to be incorrect.
- Ignoring Relevant Evidence – It is fairly common for insurance companies to ignore relevant evidence in an attempt to deny coverage. If your insurance company is refusing to consider pertinent information, you should not let this lead to a final denial of coverage.
- Accusing Policyholders of Mistakes – From waiting too long to file a claim to lapses in insurance coverage, insurance companies will try to use any excuse they can to avoid liability. However, many of these excuses are invalid under Florida law; and, in some cases, insurance companies will make statements and accusations that are outright false.
- Allegations of Arson/Insurance Fraud – If your insurance company accuses you of arson or insurance fraud, you don’t have to stand for it. You can—and should—hire a Fort Lauderdale fire damage lawyer to help you assert your legal rights. When an insurer alleges arson or fraud, they bear the burden of proving those allegations. If the insurance company is not able to produce sufficient evidence to back their accusations, they could be liable for damages under the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act.
- Undervaluing Damaged Property – An insurance company may claim that the value of the loss is less than your deductible. Even if the company agrees to pay for some damage, they may not be paying what you should receive based on your policy and the damage at issue. Sometimes it makes sense to bring in a professional for a damage assessment to refute the insurance company’s claim.
FAQs: Securing Coverage for Your Fire Damage Claim in South Florida
How Do I File a Fire Damage Claim with My Homeowners Insurance Company?
To file a claim for fire damage with your homeowners insurance company, you will need to call the claims phone number listed on your policy or log into your account online. However, when filing your claim, you need to be very careful to only provide the necessary information—and to avoid saying anything untrue that your insurance company might be able to use against you.
Does Business Insurance Cover Fire Damage?
Most commercial insurance policies cover fire damage. However, coverage can vary widely between policies and insurers, and making sure your company receives full coverage can be a challenge. If your business is located in an office building, strip mall or other shared space, this can create additional challenges, and you will need to be diligent about making sure your claim is covered.
Who Determines How Much Coverage I Am Entitled to Receive for Fire Damage?
If you simply file a claim for fire damage, your insurance company will decide how much it is willing to pay. However, if you hire a Fort Lauderdale flood damage lawyer and a public adjuster to help you, you can make sure your insurance company doesn’t undervalue your claim.
What if My Insurance Company Is Refusing to Provide Full (or Any) Coverage for Fire Damage?
If your insurance company is refusing to provide coverage for fire damage to your home or business, you should consult with an attorney. There are several ways an attorney can help, and contacting an experienced Fort Lauderdale flood damage lawyer promptly will give you the best chance to secure coverage as quickly as possible.
Who is Supposed to Pay for the Damage After a Condo Fire?
Fire damage claims involving condos can be very complicated because overlapping policies may cover the damage. For example, some damage could be covered by the unit owner’s insurance, while claims for other damage would need to be submitted to the insurance carrier for the condominium association. In some cases, fire damage is covered under a separate policy than other types of damage.
Of course, no insurance company wants to pay for damage, so the process could involve multiple attempts to get another carrier to cover certain damage. Having an experienced property damage attorney step in to negotiate can often speed up the process and protect the unit owner’s rights.
How Can I Find Out if the Damage is Covered by Insurance?
In many cases, the specific terms of a property insurance policy will dictate whether the damage is covered in a particular case. Therefore, it is important for the property owner to obtain a copy of the full terms of the policy and review those terms carefully. It is often easiest to start with the “Declarations” page, which provides comprehensive information about coverage.
Is it Okay to Clean Up the Fire Damage?
No one wants to live with the messy aftermath of a fire. However, before moving any debris, it is important to document the damage fully and make sure the insurance company has inspected the damage. Take many photographs of the damage and the areas adjacent to the damage. It is best to avoid moving anything until you receive written confirmation from the insurance company that they have completed a full investigation. Otherwise, it can be challenging to prove the extent of the damage.
What Happens with an Apartment Structural Fire?
A commercial insurance policy generally covers apartment structural fires. These policies often cover damage from fire and smoke and loss of rent during the period while the damage is under repair. Therefore, it is important to review coverage terms closely.
The details involved in processing a claim for structural fire damage to an apartment can be overwhelming, and it is difficult to know whether a claim is being undervalued. Assistance from an experienced attorney can be crucial to avoid delays and receive fair coverage.
How Can We Avoid Having Our Fire Damage Claim Undervalued?
Each case is different, but there are some general tips to ensure a policyholder receives a fair amount to cover fire damage:
- Keep a detailed record of all damage. This includes not only damage to the structure, but a loss of personal possessions, damage to HVAC systems, and other damage that may be hard to detect.
- Talk to the insurance company about temporary repairs. Depending on the situation, it may be necessary to take steps to prevent further losses while the claim is under investigation.
- Make sure the insurance company is aware of home upgrades. If you have luxury flooring and other finishes, make sure the insurance is aware of the value. Otherwise, you could receive compensation to pay for the replacement of only lower-cost builders’ grade materials.
- Keep all receipts and records of communication with the insurance company. This includes receipts for temporary living expenses and repairs. If all records and expense information are kept together, it will be easier to retrieve for reference later.
- Talk to a Fort Lauderdale fire damage attorney. If payment of the claim is unreasonably delayed or you are not offered fair compensation for your losses, a fire damage attorney could help assert your rights as a policyholder.
Speak with a Fort Lauderdale Fire Damage Attorney at Proven Successful, Maus Law Firm
If you are having difficulty with your insurance claim for fire damage, contact the Maus Law Firm immediately to speak with a Fort Lauderdale fire damage attorney. The claims process can be lengthy and complex and the stakes are high, so you need experienced counsel in your corner. To schedule a consultation, call 855-999-5297 or contact the Maus Law Firm online and let us help you get through this difficult time successfully.