When do I need an attorney for a property damage claim?
Despite what most insurance carriers would like their insureds to believe, hiring a property damage attorney should never be the "last resort." After your property sustains damage, contacting an experienced Florida property damage insurance lawyer should be your course of action when filing a claim.
Why? Because your insurance company will do everything possible to pay the least amount of money they can in claims. An attorney fights to get the insurance company to pay all that they owe their claimants. The sooner you hire a Florida property damage insurance attorney, the sooner you have someone on your side to get the compensation you deserve.
Even if you don't think your property damage is severe enough or a big deal, contacting an attorney to review your claim is always in your best interest. If they don't think they can help maximize your compensation or their services won't be mutually beneficial, they will tell you. However, in most cases, they can help you get more compensation than you would receive by handling the claim independently.
What types of property damage cases can you help with?
At Wites and Rogers Law Firm, we help with all different types of property insurance claims. From a minor roof leak to a severe fire or weather event, we can stand up for your rights. The most common types of claims we handle include:
Homeowners' insurance may cover water damage caused by rain. Still, it usually depends on how the rain enters the home and the resulting damage it causes. It's best to consult your policy and an attorney to see what is actually covered and maximize the benefits you are entitled to receive.
Flood insurance claims are serious and common in Florida. Flooding can be caused by Hurricanes and other storms. BUT, flooding is usually not covered under your homeowner insurance policy. You must have a separate flood insurance policy. Flooding can not only damage your home and belongings but also its structural integrity. However, many insurance companies attempt to find reasons not to pay them. If your home was damaged by a flood, you need an experienced attorney who knows how to decipher your policy and the ins and outs of Florida insurance laws in your corner.
If you've lived in Florida for very long, you have likely seen the unfathomable amount of damage hurricanes can cause to homes and other buildings. Florida's homeowners' insurance covers hurricane damage caused by wind but not by flooding. However, if you have an additional flood damage policy, flooding should also be covered. Hurricane damage can include:
- Structural damage
- Water intrusion
- Broken windows
- Missing or broken shutters
- Damaged air conditioning units
- Broken outdoor furniture
- Damaged walls from flying debris
- Damaged roofs
- Damaged solar panels
- Fallen or uprooted trees
- Severely damaged exterior paintwork, stucco, or cladding
Broken pipes can cause severe water damage to your property. Homeowners' insurance generally covers damage due to broken pipes if the cause of the break is sudden and unexpected. Unfortunately, water damage occurs gradually due to a leaky or rusty pipe generally isn't covered. Without representation from an attorney, your insurance company will likely try to attempt to say the broken pipe wasn't covered under your policy for one reason or another.
Roofs are integral to the safety of any building, protecting the structure, its inhabitants, and their belongings from the elements. They can be damaged by many of Florida's storms, even those that don't seem serious. A leaky roof can lead to other damages, including water damage. Anyone whose roof has been damaged deserves to be reimbursed for repairs or a replacement roof by their insurance provider.
A slab is a singular concrete foundation flush on the soil. It's an alternative to a conventional basement or crawlspace. Slab leaks occur when groundwater or plumbing water permeates the concrete.
Aging water lines, torrential rain, and pipe corrosion can all lead to slab leaks. Depending on the cause of the slab leak, your homeowners' insurance policy may or may not cover the damage. By working with an experienced attorney, you can be assured that you utilize all of your policy benefits for your specific situation.
Different types of water damage have separate coverages on your homeowners' insurance policy. Water overflow includes any damages sustained from overflowing sinks, toilets, or baths. Depending on the situation, water overflow can cause a lot of damage, for which you may be entitled to compensation.
Water damage happens fast. It can occur from broken pipes, plumbing failures, hurricanes, and floods - and repairing water damage is invariably expensive. You may think the extent of your water damage is obvious. Still, it's best to get a full appraisal with the help of a property damage attorney. Doing so will help ensure you and the insurance company won't miss anything. Among many other things, water damage can include:
- Discoloration on walls, ceilings, and floors
- Damaged furniture
- Damaged appliances
- Structural damage
- Weakened foundations
- Termite and bug infestation
If your home is hit by vandals, you have a right to compensation under your property insurance policy. Whether your garage was spray painted, your windows were broken, or vandals caused even more substantial damage, don't be surprised if the insurance company tries to get away without paying you for your claim.
Theft incidents on your property are frightening but also expensive. You deserve compensation for the damages you incur from theft, such as stolen items and smashed windows or possessions. Even though property insurance policies cover these damages, insurers are often reluctant to pay these claims. They commonly blame the homeowner for having no or poor security or attempt to undervalue their stolen or damaged items.
Hail, especially larger size hail, can cause significant damage to a property's roof, siding, gutters, windows, doors, and fences. More damage can result if hail damage isn't handled correctly and efficiently. However, insurance companies frequently drag their feet when it comes to approving these claims.
A significant number of property damage claims arise from fires. Fires spread fast and burn pretty much anything in sight. They also spread smoke and chemicals throughout the property. Unfortunately, insurance companies often find ways to blame property owners for fires, from accusing them of arson to violating their insurance policy.
What types of insurance can be applicable for property damage claim disputes?
It depends on the type of property that suffered damage and who owns the property. For example, if you rent your home, your landlord's homeowners insurance policy will cover damages to the home, and your renter's insurance will cover damages to your personal property. If you own a home or building that suffers damage, your homeowners or commercial property policy should cover most damages. On the other hand, if your vehicle suffers damage, even in a weather event, it falls to your motor vehicle insurance coverage.
What are the reasons why my property damage claim might be denied?
Property insurance claims are challenging enough on their own. If you unexpectedly receive a claim denial from your insurer, the recovery process can be even more difficult. Each situation is unique, but there are several common reasons why insurance companies often deny property insurance claims. Knowing these reasons can help you understand your rights and options and the importance of having legal representation for property damage claims.
Your homeowners or commercial insurance policy has limits and parameters. It might exclude specific types of damage or events. For instance, the average homeowner's insurance policy doesn't include damages resulting from water backflow. It's essential that you read and understand your policy carefully before you file a claim so you are prepared for any potential denials based on exclusions. Unfortunately, insurance policy language can be quite tricky to understand, and your own policy may leave you confused. An attorney can help explain what is covered and what isn't under your policy.
Lapse in Coverage
If you fail to pay even a single month's worth of premiums, your insurance carrier could have the right to deny your claim. Your coverage could lapse, giving your insurance provider a legit reason to deny your property damage claim if you don't pay your premium. However, the insurer is required to warn you or give you a grace period before terminating your coverage. If they don't, you could fight the claim denial.
Failing to Promptly File Your Claim
EVERY Homeowners insurance policy requires that you promptly file your claim. This means that as soon as you have knowledge of damage to your home you must you’re your claim as soon as reasonably possible. If you wait too long, your insurance company can deny your claim.
Failure to Mitigate Damages
When a covered event such as a house fire or storm damages your property, your policy contractually requires you to take any necessary steps to prevent any further losses, such as new damage or worsening your existing damage. It's on you to protect your property from further or subsequent damage. For example, if a severe storm causes a hole in your roof, you are responsible for temporarily patching it to prevent water damage before it can be fixed. If you don't mitigate your losses, the insurance company could have grounds to deny your claim.
Missing Required Information
Leaving out crucial information or not completely filling out all of the required claim forms is a common mistake claimants make during the insurance claims process. Lack of documentation or incomplete records regarding your property damage could result in an unnecessary delay or denial of your claim. Incomplete records can also interfere with your property damage claim, causing it to take longer or not be paid to its full potential. When you submit your claim to your insurance company, you must have sufficient supporting documents and information to support the claim. If your insurance company requires you to submit a Proof of Loss form, you must have all of the necessary backup information to support your claim. A West Palm Beach property damage insurance attorney can help you collect information and documentation to support your claim.
Lack of Property Maintenance or Care
Your insurance claim could also be denied if the insurer says you failed to properly maintain or care for your home or business, which led to or contributed to the damage you claim. Suppose your outdated water heater started leaking, and a plumber had previously told you it needed to be replaced. In that case, your insurer may not pay for related water damage.
Bad Faith Claim Denials
Insurance companies have many valid and acceptable reasons to deny certain property damage claims. However, there are also illegal or unfair reasons they may use to attempt to take advantage of you. These are called wrongful claim denials and are a sign of insurance bad faith. For example, a wrongful claim denial might arise from the insurance company's failure to adequately investigate your claim or a misinterpretation of your policy's provisions. Giving no reason for the denial at all could also be a sign of insurance bad faith. If you think your insurer wrongfully denied your claim, it's imperative to contact a knowledgeable attorney immediately to learn more about your rights, including appealing the insurance company's denial of your claim.
Should I accept the first insurance offer for my property damage dispute?
Accepting an insurance company's first offer on a property damage claim is never a good idea. Even if you need the money right away and feel that it might be fair, always consult with an attorney. Your claim is likely worth much more than what the insurance carrier wants you to believe right now. They are hoping that you will be desperate enough to settle your claim now so that they can get away with paying you as little as possible.
Do I need a property damage lawyer to resolve my claim?
It's always best to have a skilled Florida property damage insurance attorney review your claim. If you want to maximize your compensation and unburden yourself from the challenges of filing and pursuing a property damage claim, hiring your own attorney to resolve your claim is necessary and worth it. They can effectively resolve your claim, ensuring that you get full and fair compensation for your property damage—no matter how minor or severe the damages might be.
Will having a property damage lawyer help me get a better settlement?
More often than not, property owners who hire an attorney to handle their insurance claim receive more compensation than those who don’t hire one. Even after their attorney fees and costs are paid, they still receive more money than if they had handled their claim on their own.
Why is this? Most of the time, it's because insurance companies know that insureds who hire an attorney are serious and wise about getting the compensation they are entitled to under their policy. They also know that lawyers will spot their tactics to devalue or deny your claim unfairly and won't tolerate them. Insurance companies are typically on their best behavior when a lawyer is involved, which means higher settlements for their insureds.
How much does it cost to hire you as my property damage attorney?
Hiring our law firm to represent your West Palm Beach property damage claim costs you nothing out of pocket, no matter how your claim ends. Under Florida law, if your insurance policy was issued prior to January 1, 2023, your insurance company may be obligated to pay your attorney fees and legal costs. For claims after that date, our law firm charges a percentage of your recovery. In either case, you pay our firm nothing upfront to represent you. We don't collect any lawyer's fees or costs unless and until our attorneys recover money on your behalf. Suppose we represent you and pursue your claim but don't recover any money from your insurance company. In that case, you won't owe us lawyer's fees or costs. If and when we obtain financial compensation for your claim—whether through a settlement or in court - we collect our fees only from your insurance payout.