Most homeowners with insurance policies believe that they are fully protected in the event that their home is damaged or destroyed. Given the thousands of dollars spent every year in premiums, why shouldn’t you feel that way? However, reality quickly hits once you receive a letter from Citizens, Universal, Federated National, or from any other insurance company denying your claim for a myriad of reasons.
If your house is damaged by hurricane, fire, wind, or other hazard, you should take the following steps to maximize the probability of success and a full recovery from your homeowner’s claim. The key is to start building your insurance claim as soon as your loss occurs.
Know Your Homeowner’s Insurance Policy
Many people have no more than a vague understanding of the terms, conditions, limits, deductibles, and language in their homeowner’s policy. Although the entire policy, including all endorsements, can be long and tedious reading, you should take the time to ensure you are familiar with your policy. When you pursue a claim, you will need to know a number of important facts that will be determined by your policy, such as:
- Conditions Precedent: Generally, these are requirements imposed on you by the policy, which must be performed to trigger the insurer’s duty to adjust and pay your claim. Common examples of such conditions involve taking steps to mitigate further damage (e.g. covering a leaky roof with plastic), providing notice to the insurer of the loss, and cooperating with your insurer’s efforts to investigate the claim.
- Exclusions: Many people have no idea that their policy contains exclusions for types of damage or hazards that they expect their policy to cover. For example, most Florida homeowner’s insurance policies exclude some types of water damage. In fact, flooding will routinely be excluded because this type of coverage usually needs to be obtained through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). While you often can obtain coverage for perils and forms of loss that are excluded under a standard policy, you might need to pay an additional premium to obtain an endorsement.
- Policy Limits/Sub-Limits: Homeowners need to understand the limits imposed under the policy. If the home is a total loss, for example, you will need to know how your insurer will calculate the value of your loss. Policy limits also must be understood and periodically reviewed, so you can confirm your coverage is still adequate. Homeowner’s policies also carry sub-limits, such as restrictions on the amount of coverage for certain personal property like jewelry, rare art, etc.
While these are only a few examples, they nonetheless demonstrate the importance of knowing the terms of your policy when pursuing a claim.
Keeping Meticulous Records of Communications
When you communicate with your insurance company, you need to keep meticulous notes and records. Every piece of paper sent to you by your insurance carrier should be saved along with copies of any correspondence you sent to your insurer. If you talk on the phone, you should keep notes of the person’s name, title, date/time, and substance of the conversation. Interactions with your insurance company will be critical if you subsequently need to file a lawsuit for breach of contract and/or insurance bad faith.
Get Professional Assistance from an Insurance Claims Attorney
Your insurance company might tell you that they are sending out an “independent” appraiser to investigate your claim. This term is highly subjective in this context because the appraiser might get most or all of his or her work from insurance companies. In this situation, the appraiser is dependent on the insurance company for income.
Because insurance companies will have a team of insurance defense lawyers looking for legal grounds to deny or underpay your insurance claim, you should talk to a Florida insurance claims attorney. There are many mistakes that can derail your claim if you do not retain counsel early, including failing to submit timely notice of the claim or to mitigate damages. Your Florida insurance claims lawyer can guide you past these pitfalls and also explore all avenues of recovery including negotiation, the appraisal process, mediation, and litigation. If you must pursue a lawsuit for breach of contract and a separate action for insurance bad faith, our attorneys can interpret the policy language and can navigate procedural and evidentiary rules. If your insurance claim was denied by Citizens, Universal, Federated National, or by any other insurance company, Englander Peebles today at (954) 500-4878 today to learn more about your legal options.