Florida is an ever more popular destination for people from northern states seeking milder weather during the winter season. However, Fort Lauderdale is also well-known for having unpredictable weather during the hurricane months, which can leave houses and other properties with extensive damage from heavy rains, strong winds, and floodwater. Contact our Fort Lauderdale property damage lawyers today.
This kind of property damage may lead you to file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance company to get remuneration for the repairs or replacements that are necessary. However, natural disasters like hurricanes are not the sole causes of residential property damage in Florida. Homeowner’s insurance claims can also stem from other events such as fires, smoke, burst pipes, mold, pests, roof tile damage, or termites. Homeowners may also file claims for crimes such as theft, vandalism or burglary.
If your Fort Lauderdale house has been damaged because of a natural disaster, criminal activity, or another event, you may be entitled to receive compensation from your insurance company for the damage your home sustains.
You should contact the homeowner property damage attorneys at Englander Peebles as soon as possible after a loss. Often, your insurance company may deny your claim outright or only partially approve it and provide only partial payment for the damage to your home. Englander Peebles can assist you in getting the proper documentation that you need to file a homeowners’ insurance claim with your insurance company. Englander Peebles will work with the appropriate damage experts to analyze the damage to your home.
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How Our Property Damage Attorneys Can Help You with Your Homeowner’s Insurance Claim
Many homeowners find that insurers will delay handling their claims. In some cases, an insurance company may offer to provide an amount of compensation that is far less than what the individual needs and is entitled to. Insurers may flat out deny claims in other cases under the guise of absurd policy exceptions.
While certain types of claims could indeed not fall under the coverage provided by a homeowners’ insurance policy, too many people automatically assume that they have no other options when an insurance company tries to underpay or deny their claim. In truth, these individuals are often able to take legal action to pursue all of the compensation they are entitled to.
Homeowners’ insurance policies are often lengthy and complex agreements filled with legal jargon that is completely foreign to the average person. Many people lack a full understanding of the terms outlined in their declarations or exclusions sections.
Hiring a property damage lawyer to handle these types of claims may be extremely beneficial for the homeowner. First, your attorney will be able to take over all communications with your insurance company. Not only is a lawyer often more capable than the average person in making demands that get results, but limiting the discussion to being between the attorney and the insurer also prevents the homeowner from unknowingly making any recorded statements that could hurt their case.
Having legal representation can ensure that you have a person who truly understands the exact meaning of your personal homeowners’ insurance agreement. An attorney who has experience handling insurance coverage and bad-faith litigation will know the most effective ways of achieving the best possible resolution to your case.
Englander Peebles has years of experience assisting clients all over South Florida with disputes over homeowners’ insurance claims. Gary B. Englander and Warren Q. Peebles also make it a point to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week so you can always get answers to any questions you have.
Common Property Damage Claims in Fort Lauderdale
Florida, being a coastal state with plenty of inland waterways, often experiences natural disasters and events that cause owners to file certain types of property damage claims. Unsurprisingly, water damage is one of the most often filed claims in Florida. Water damage policies cover sudden issues that result from damaged or broken pipes or drain failures that result in plumbing backups.
Water damage can result in mold and mildew, rotting wood, and rusted metal, and can be expensive to fix. Flooding is also common in Florida, especially for homes near the coast. It is also one of the most expensive claims with costs potentially reflecting total home loss.
Wind damage is also prevalent in the area. Many areas in Florida are subjected to high winds from tornadoes, hurricanes, and cyclones, and the damages can be significant such as roof damage, structural damage, or damage to landscaping, to total loss. Heavy storms are also a daily experience in many areas of Florida, resulting in numerous lightning strikes to houses. These types of claims include damages that are the result of lightning, including fire, and can be very costly.
Finally, damage caused by vandalism, theft, or other accidents are also frequently filed homeowner’s claims in Fort Lauderdale. Many insurance policies cover valuable items such as art, jewelry, and electronics if they are stolen.
Vandalism damage can occur on all types of property and may include spray paint damage, broken windows, or destroyed items. Also, when a car or other vehicle crashes into your home, business, or yard, it can cause extensive damage, and having an attorney assist you with your claims can help ensure that the insurance company properly compensates you for the cost of repairs.
What Types of Homeowners’ Insurance Policies are Available in Fort Lauderdale?
There are eight kinds of homeowners’ insurance policies in Florida. Policies typically begin with the abbreviation “HO” for homeowners and are followed by a number that indicates the type of coverage provided.
An HO-1 policy is the most basic homeowners’ insurance policy. It typically covers only the perils named in the agreement, which are often fire or smoke damage, explosions, lightning, hail or windstorm damage, theft, vandalism, vehicle damage, aircraft damage, riots, or civil commotion, and volcanic eruption.
The HO-2 policy is considered a broad-form homeowners’ insurance policy that covers all the perils named in an HO-1 policy plus a few others. Additional protections may include falling objects, electrical damage, or air conditioning and heating damage.
An HO-3 policy is considered a “special form” policy and is the most common kind of insurance. Unlike HO-1 and HO-2 policies that apply only to named perils, an HO-3 policy is much broader. Whereas an HO-1 or HO-2 lists the perils that are covered, the HO-3 policy features an exclusions section that identifies only the perils that will not be covered.
The HO-4 policy is specifically for renters, and it is commonly referred to simply as “renters’ insurance.” The insurance covers only personal belongings as well as liability, but it does not provide protection relating to any structural damage of the living space.
HO-5 policies are known as comprehensive forms because they often list more perils than are covered under HO-1, HO-2, or HO-3 policies. For this reason, HO-5 policies are also more expensive than other policies. An HO-5 policy may provide insurance for flood damage, water damage, and mold damage, among other named perils.
Also known as “condo insurance,” an HO-6 policy provides coverage for condominium owners. Like HO-4 policies, HO-6 policies typically cover belongings and personal liability, but not damage to the actual living structures. Damage to common areas or physical structures should be covered instead by the owner’s condo association.
An HO-7 policy is specifically for owners of mobile homes. In essence, an HO-7 policy is generally the same as an HO-3 but has protections unique to mobile homes.
The HO-8 policy is also much like HO-3 policy, but it is specifically designed to cover concerns that relate to older homes. The major difference with an HO-8 policy is that it insures a homeowner at the home’s market value or replacement cost.
What Are Common Reasons Insurance Companies May Deny a Homeowner’s Claim?
Having your homeowners’ insurance claim denied can be a tremendously deflating experience. Insurance companies may use any one of a number of reasons as justification for denying your claim.
One of the most common reasons provided for denial is a homeowner’s failure to pay their premiums. For this reason, it is absolutely critical to make sure that you are current on all payments.
Another common reason homeowners’ insurance claims are denied is a policyholder’s failure to file on time. Many insurance companies have strict requirements relating to when a policyholder is required to notify the insurer of the damage, as well as the date a claim must be filed by.
In many other cases, insurance companies deny claims because the type of property damage that coverage is being sought for is listed in the agreement’s exclusions section. Some of the most common types of excluded coverage include flood damage, water backing up in sewers, earthquake damage, mudslides, construction damage, intentional property damage, and sinkhole damage.
In some cases, an insurance company may claim that a homeowner did not provide adequate proof of the alleged damage. The proof of loss provision in some insurance agreements contains specific requirements for policyholders, such as the number of days within a loss that a claim must be filed as well as requirements for a complete inventory of losses.
Insurance companies may also deny claims based on what they claim are false or questionable claims made by the policyholders in their claims. Also known as non-disclosure, the insurer may claim that a policyholder failed to provide certain information when filing or renewing their claim, thus negating the policy.
A homeowner’s failure to comply with certain requirements and take preventative measures to protect their property after suffering damage can also lead to increased losses and possible claim denial by the insurer. In some cases, an insurance company may even accuse a policyholder of committing fraud.
What Does the Insurance Company Owe Me?
Many homeowners’ insurance policies contain language that is ambiguous and difficult to understand. Any language in a policy that is too ambiguous must be interpreted in favor of the policyholder instead of the insurer. The insurance company has an obligation to prove the applicability of any exclusion or limitation contained in a homeowners’ insurance policy.
Insurance companies have an obligation to act in good faith. Several different tactics used by insurers can constitute acting in bad faith. For example:
- Unreasonable delays
- Failure to conduct a complete investigation
- Offering a policyholder less money than their claim is actually worth
Another important obligation that insurance companies have is the duty to pay all of your attorney’s fees and other legal costs when you have to hire legal representation because of an unreasonable denial of your claim or any other breach of the duty to act in good faith.
An insurer has an obligation to provide the types of coverage protections that its agent said would be included. Selling a homeowner a policy that does not include the protections they were told would be included can again be considered acting in bad faith.
The insurance company may also have an obligation to honor your claim when it is alleging that you made a misrepresentation or non-disclosure in the application process. Several questions that are asked by agents or in applications are very broad, so a person can be forgiven for not remembering certain trivial matters. All homeowners should know what the incontestability periods of their policies are, as such terms typically dictate when a policy cannot be rescinded because of an alleged misstatement or non-disclosure.
If you believe that your insurance company has acted in bad faith in handling your homeowners’ insurance claim, you need to contact Englander Peebles as soon as possible. You do not have to handle these issues on your own. Our firm will fight to make sure you get every single dollar you are entitled to.
Assignment of Benefits
The Florida Department of Financial Services defines Assignment of Benefits (AOB) as an agreement that transfers insurance claim rights or benefits of the policy to a third party. The third party is granted the authority to file a claim, make repair decisions, and collect insurance payments without the involvement of the homeowner.
While AOBs were once commonly associated with life and health insurance policies, they have become more common in homeowners’ insurance policies in recent years. Despite frequent promises about helping streamline the claims process, all homeowners should be extremely cautious before signing any AOB agreement.
When a person signs an AOB, they will be unable to communicate with their insurance company about their claim. Instead, all communications are handled solely by the third party. Additionally, a person who signs an AOB will forfeit all of their rights relating to their claim, including the ability to mediate or make any decisions relating to the claim.
The third-party specified in an AOB, however, gains many rights. The third-party will be able to endorse checks on your behalf. The third-party can also file lawsuits against your insurance company, regardless of your knowledge.
A major catch with an AOB is there is no right of rescission or cancellation provision, which means you have signed a valid contract and you will be bound by the terms. Furthermore, failure to comply with the terms of an AOB can lead to possible property liens or other fees and penalties.
Contact Our Fort Lauderdale Property Damage Lawyers For Help With Your Insurance Claim
If the insurance company is delaying or has denied your claim for property damage made under a homeowners’ insurance policy in South Florida, it is in your best interest to immediately seek legal representation. Englander Peebles fights for homeowners in Fort Lauderdale, Plantation, and surrounding areas of South Florida.
Our firm can review the terms of your homeowners’ insurance policy and help you navigate the claims process to seek all of the compensation you are entitled to. You can have our attorneys review your case and answer all of your legal questions when you call or fill out an online contact form to schedule a free consultation.