About Jonathon Douglas

A true Florida native, Mr. Douglas graduated from Northeast High School in St. Petersburg before attending the University of Florida where he earned Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees, both with Honors. From there, Mr. Douglas attended Stetson University College of Law where he learned and practiced the art of trial advocacy. Before graduating, Jonathon clerked for the Honorable Shawn Crane and interned at the State Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office. After graduation, he began his work as an Assistant Public Defender for the Sixth Judicial Circuit and then moved on to defending the rights of the accused in State and Federal Courts as an associate with the Hebert Law Group. While at the Hebert Law Group, Jonathon defended high profile and nationally televised cases.
25 05, 2021

Roof Damage From Storms In Florida

By |2021-05-25T08:53:33-04:00May 25th, 2021|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law, Insurance Claims|Tags: , , , , , , |

Unfortunately, roof damage from storms in Florida is not a rarity. Hurricane season can be a particularly stressful time for homeowners in the state who may face significant damage to their roofs and costly repairs. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), hurricanes have caused billions of dollars worth of damage to homes in the state.

Many homeowners feel safe with a comprehensive home insurance policy. However, when the damage occurs, they often run into challenges when attempting to recover their losses. Some homeowners find themselves haggling with their insurance company for weeks and even months only to be offered a mere fraction of their expenses. In some cases, roof damage claims are denied altogether.

If this has happened to you, do not give up. Contact St. Petersburg property damage attorney Jonathon W. Douglas. We can work to help you recover what you need to repair your roof and recover your financial losses. Schedule a free consultation with our property claims team today: (727) 381-2300.

Causes of Roof Damage

In Florida, strong storms and hurricanes are the obvious culprits when it comes to roof damage. Excessive winds and driving rain can lead to water intrusion as well as damage to shingles and roofs. However, there can also be other secondary causes for damage from a storm, such as:

Trees

Falling branches or entire trees during a storm can severely damage the roof of a house. Damage from falling trees is not always preventable as even healthy and strong trees can collapse in a violent storm. However, there are some things homeowners can do to reduce the chances of trees damaging roofs such as trimming branches back regularly and remove dead or dying trees altogether.

Lack of Maintenance

Roof damage from lack of maintenance and repair has a habit of showing up during inclement weather such as storms. Roofs need to be maintained on a regular basis. Damaged shingles should be replaced in a timely manner and gutters need regular cleaning. While a maintenance issue may not come to light in fine weather, it can rear its ugly head with vengeance in a storm, when cracked shingles or clogged gutters can cause flooding inside the home and structural damage.

Lightning Damage

Florida is often called the lightning capital of the world. Especially during storms, lightning can cause damage to trees, structures, powerlines, and homes. Lightning can cause damage to your roof as well as your electrical system and electrical appliances, potentially proving extremely costly.

Heat Damage

The heat in Florida can be excessive for months on end. Relentless beating down of the sun can severely shorten the lifespan of all roofing materials. Constant UV, sunlight, and heat can cause cracking and distortion. When a storm comes along, an already weakened and damaged roof may simply not be able to withstand the high winds, leading to water entering the property. Homeowners should check their roofs every so often and arrange for repairs when they notice any cracking, warping, or other damage.

If you have an insurance policy that covers any roof damage from storms in Florida you could be in for surprise when your claim is denied. If this has happened to you and you are struggling to get your due from the insurance company, contact St. Petersburg property damage attorney Jonathon W. Douglas to learn all of your legal options.

What to Do If You Have Roof Damage from a Storm

Wanting to fix any damage to your roof immediately is only natural as not doing so can cause further damage. However, before you do any repairs, try to document the damage as extensively as you can. Ways in which you can maximize your chances for recovering a settlement from the insurance company include:

  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible
  • Taking photographs and videos of all the roof damage outside and inside
  • Recover all receipts and bills for home repairs and roof maintenance
  • Take steps to prevent further damage
  • Determine what it will cost to fix the damage with your own contractor

Your insurance company will most likely send their own adjuster to assess your roof damage. If the insurance company offers you a settlement that differs markedly from your contractor’’s assessment or is far too low to cover your damages, you should consider speaking to a property damage attorney as soon as possible. An experienced roof damage attorney can negotiate with the insurance company and help you recover an adequate settlement for your damages. If the insurance company proves unwilling to compensate you adequately, you may consider filing a lawsuit and taking the case to court with the help of your property damage attorney.

Reasons Why Your Insurance Company Might Deny a Claim

Property damage claims seem reasonably straightforward. In theory, homeowners purchase a policy, then file a claim when their roof is damaged, and subsequently get paid. Unfortunately, it rarely works this way. In many cases, homeowners can struggle, sometimes for years, with recovering their due. An insurance company can deny a claim for a number of reasons and then the homeowner is left to fight for their settlement. Reasons why an insurer might deny a claim for roof damage from a storm in Florida can include:

  • Improper maintenance
  • The roof is too old
  • Wear and tear
  • Pre-existing roof damage

If your insurance company denied your claim for whatever reason, you should consider speaking to a property damage attorney to find out about all of your options and ensure your legal rights remain protected. In some cases, claims are denied in the first instance but you can still receive compensation from an insurance company. We can review your insurance policy, appeal against the denial, and help you get the payment needed to repair your roof.

Contact St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon W. Douglas Today

The sooner you start the process of recovering the insurance settlement you deserve, the sooner you could repair your property adequately.

Fighting the insurance company on your own can be a frustrating and lengthy battle. However, it does not have to be this way. We are experienced in handling Florida’s largest insurance companies and have helped countless clients recover the settlement they needed after suffering roof damage from storms in Florida.

Get the process started and speak to our property damage team today: (727) 381-2300.

11 05, 2021

Florida Flood Prone Areas and Tax Breaks

By |2021-05-11T08:51:36-04:00May 11th, 2021|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law|Tags: , , , |

Flooding and the resulting damage to properties is a topic on many Florida homeowners’ minds. Rising sea levels and frequent hurricanes mean an increasing number of homes are at risk from flood damage. More and more homeowners have to face the ever-increasing odds of their homes suffering damage due to natural disasters.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, around 114,000 additional homes in Florida are at risk of flooding in a severe storm than the current figures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would suggest. Tampa is cited as the second-most affected city in Florida, behind Cape Coral.

While homeowners suffering damage from storms only have limited tax breaks available currently, proposed legislation dealing with flood-prone areas and tax breaks could provide property owners with opportunities for tax breaks in the future.

Homeowners do not only face uncertainty when it comes to flood-prone areas and tax ramifications but can also have a hard time recovering payment from their insurance company after suffering damage in a natural disaster. If your insurance company is delaying your claim or refusing a payout altogether, contact St. Petersburg property damage attorney Jonathon W. Douglas to learn more about your legal rights. Schedule a free consultation with our property claims team today: (727) 381-2300.

Getting a Tax Break for Flood Damage Can Be Tough

Florida property owners can no longer enjoy some of the tax benefits they were previously entitled to when their property suffered damage from natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding. A recent provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act means that homeowners now face a limit on the deductions they can claim for any property damage.

Before this new tax law came into effect in 2018, taxpayers could claim property damage that was not covered by their insurance company, provided the damage happened as a result of natural disasters such as storms and flooding. Now, taxpayers suffering property damage due to a natural disaster such as flooding or storms are not able to receive tax deductions unless their specific area and county is declared a federal disaster area after a major storm or flooding event.

Getting a tax break may be challenging. However, it is not impossible. Homeowners can still claim this particular deduction if the natural disaster that caused their property damage is a federally declared disaster such as a major hurricane, and providing the total losses amount to more than ten percent of the homeowner’s gross income.

Net Operating Losses

Homeowners whose property damage due to a flood exceeds their income could in some cases claim a net operating loss, a negative amount of income, on their tax return. Property owners can carry the loss back to a previous year or use it for next year’s tax return, depending on their circumstances.

The benefits for homeowners claiming a deduction on the past year’s return mean they could see a refund of taxes sooner, potentially providing them with urgently needed funds for repair expenses. Property owners who have already filed their tax return for last year still have the possibility to claim the deduction by filing an amended return with Form 1040X.

Tax Filing Extensions

While not a tax break as such, a filing extension can provide some help to homeowners affected by flooding and other damages. If the event that caused the damage to your home is a federally declared disaster, the Internal Revenue Service can postpone the deadline for filing taxes and making payments for those affected by the disaster. In this circumstance, the IRS may also waive penalties for late filing or late payments, provided homeowners file their returns and make any payments before the extended deadline.

If you suffered damage due to flooding or storms, dealing with the tax implications and insurance companies can be challenging. However, if you are struggling to get what you deserve and need to repair your property, help is available. Contact our property claims team for advice and help today regarding all of your legal options.

New Legislation Could Provide a Tax Break to Homeowners

When it comes to flood-prone areas and tax breaks, homeowners could be getting a welcome boost sooner rather than later. Bills potentially providing a tax break to Florida homeowners in flood zones are currently under consideration by the Florida legislature. Under this proposed new legislation, homeowners who elevate their properties to prevent damage from flooding would be exempt from paying tax on the added value of their improved home.

This new legislation could significantly help homeowners in coastal areas throughout Florida, especially in the Tampa Bay area where many properties are located in flood-prone areas.

At this time, homeowners who undertake the work to elevate their properties above the base flood elevation level are required to pay higher taxes on their improved and reassessed property.

The new law is designed to not only help homeowners located in coastal zones but would also have an impact on non-waterfront homes located in special flood hazard areas. If the proposed legislation gains approval of the Florida legislature, it is due to be voted on in the general election in November 2022 and, if approved by voters, could become law in early 2023.

St Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon W Douglas Can Help

Flooding can cause devastating damage to your property and necessitate urgent, extensive, and costly repairs. Getting your due from an insurance company can be a challenging and lengthy endeavor. If your insurer is giving you the run-around and either delaying, underpaying, or denying your claim, do not hesitate to contact us for help. An experienced and knowledgeable property damage attorney can help you receive the coverage needed to repair your property.

Attorney Jonathon W. Douglas has experience in dealing with some of Florida’s largest insurers and is committed to helping homeowners who are struggling to recover an adequate settlement.

We understand that homeowners who have incurred flood damage may be facing steep repair bills and mounting financial responsibilities. We work on a no-win-no-fee basis so there is no financial risk for you when we take on your case.

Call St. Petersburg property damage attorney Jonathon W. Douglas today to schedule a free consultation with one of our property claims team members: (727) 381-2300.

27 04, 2021

Water Damage Claims Due to Florida Hurricanes

By |2021-04-27T08:09:58-04:00April 27th, 2021|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law, Insurance Claims|Tags: , , |

Living in paradise in Florida can come with certain downsides such as hurricanes, storm surges, and flooding. Natural disasters and high insurance premiums go hand in hand. However, homeowners are generally willing to pay high premiums in order to protect themselves from the devastating consequences of hurricanes, such as structural damage and water intrusion.

Unfortunately, despite having insurance coverage, getting the compensation you have a right to under the law from the insurance company can be an uphill struggle after a storm. Moreover, some policies, while covering wind damage, may deny claims for water damage and flooding.

If your insurance denied or underpaid your water damage claim due to a Florida hurricane, a water damage lawyer can help you recover your due. St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon W. Douglas knows how to handle hurricane claims and could help you prove that water damage to your home occurred due to a wind event such as a major storm or hurricane. Contact us today to find out how we can help you recover the insurance coverage that you paid for: (727) 381-2300.

Your Next Best Steps After a Hurricane

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2020 saw a record-breaking $22 billion dollars’ worth of weather and climate disasters. One thing is for sure: hurricanes are here to stay. Knowing what steps to take immediately after experiencing a hurricane can protect your legal rights and make it easier to recover your due from your insurance company. Most importantly, acting quickly can help your property suffer from any additional post-hurricane damage and deterioration. Your best steps after suffering property damage can include:

Contact the Insurance Company as Soon as Possible

Ask your insurance company to send out an adjuster as soon as possible to inspect your property, damages, and begin the process of filing a claim. The sooner you contact your insurer and start a claim, the sooner you can potentially receive funds to repair your property and move on with your life after a devastating hurricane.

Protect Your Property from Additional Damage

You should take immediate steps after a storm to ensure that your property does not deteriorate any further. Actions can include:

  • Boarding up any open windows and doors
  • Securing tarps over any roof openings
  • Mitigating water intrusion and reducing moisture by using dehumidifiers
  • Keeping the air-conditioning running to avoid mold growth

Document all Damage to your Home

One of the most important steps you can take after a storm is to document all damage to your home with photographs, videos, and comprehensive notes. If your entire home has suffered some degree of damage, make sure you provide a room-by-room inventory. Do not forget the outside of your home and, if applicable, document damage to your screens, pool, and patio areas.

Collect Evidence of Repair Expenses

The insurance company will want you to provide evidence of any repairs you have made, including receipts for replacements of cabinets, furniture, windows, and the costs of repainting your home, to name just a few examples.

Consider Consulting with a Water Damage Lawyer

It is never too early to protect your legal rights and get advice from an experienced water damage lawyer after suffering damage in a hurricane. An attorney can advise you on how to handle your insurance claim and help you recover adequate compensation for your damages. Contact St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon W. Douglas today for advice on your unique situation.

Why Has the Insurance Company Denied My Water Damage Claim?

While no two insurance policies are the same, homeowners can be entitled to various benefits under their homeowner’s policy, including but not limited to:

  • Costs of repairs to the home
  • Costs for replacing damaged furniture and fittings
  • Costs to replace damaged or lost personal property
  • Costs for temporary accommodation while the home is uninhabitable

Although it can feel unfair and frustrating to those who suffered significant damage to their homes, it is not at all uncommon for an insurance company to drag its heels and refuse or minimize a water damage claim after a hurricane.

Reasons that insurances state for refusing or underpaying your claim can include:

  • Your policy excludes damage from flooding or has other exclusions
  • Your coverage limit is too low to cover all your damages
  • You failed to provide comprehensive evidence of your damages
  • The insurance company claims you were negligent in protecting your home
  • The insurance company claims there was pre-existing damage to your home

Depending on your individual damage and the fine print of your insurance policy, there can be other reasons for your insurance company refusing an adequate payout. However, it is important not to panic as an initial refusal to compensate homeowners adequately can be common when it comes to water damage claims in a Florida hurricane.

Individuals faced with a denied claim should not give up trying to recover the compensation they are owed under the law. As a homeowner in Florida, you generally have recourse when an insurer underpays or denies your claim. A water damage lawyer can help you get clear on your options and rights for recovering what you deserve.

How a Water Damage Lawyer Can Help You

According to Insurance.com, the average cost of windstorm insurance in Florida can be around $2,600 a year. If you purchased an adequate insurance policy for storm and hurricane damage, you should not be left out of pocket when you have a valid claim. A seasoned water damage lawyer is familiar with the tactics that insurance companies use to minimize or deny claims. Ways in which a determined attorney can help you include but are not limited to:

  • Verifying details of your insurance policy documents comprehensively
  • Communicate with the insurance company adjuster
  • Tracking your claim
  • Ensuring the insurance company is not short-changing you with a law payout
  • Filing a lawsuit against the insurance company if needed

Contact an Experienced Water Damage Claim Attorney Today

If your home suffered water damage due to a storm or hurricane, you do not have to struggle during this difficult time on your own. Our legal team can help you stand up to the insurance company and leave no stone unturned in pursuing the settlement that you deserve. While we handle your claim, you can concentrate on fixing your home and getting some normality back after a devastating hurricane.

St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon W. Douglas can advise you of your legal rights and help ensure they remain protected. Call us today to schedule a free consultation: (727) 381-2300.

16 04, 2021

High Wind Damage Property Claims In Florida

By |2021-04-16T15:45:38-04:00April 16th, 2021|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law, Insurance Claims|Tags: , , , |

According to the Florida Climate Center, the threat of hurricanes and high wind events is ever-present in Florida, particularly during the hurricane season from June 1 until November 30. High winds can cause devastating property damage such as blown-off roofs, damage from falling trees, water intrusion, broken windows and screens, and other losses.

While homeowner’s insurance generally covers wind damage from hurricanes and storms, policies can have exclusions that could leave a homeowner high and dry. If you have problems with recovering your due from an insurance company, you should consider contacting a high wind damage attorney for help and advice as soon as possible. Call St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon W. Douglas now to schedule a free consultation: (727) 381-2300.

Potential Exclusions with Wind Damage Coverage

Potential exclusions in your policy typically include anything the insurance company adjuster considers to be caused by factors other than high winds. However, in many cases, these exclusions are not cut and dry and can be rather subjective. For example, flooding is generally not covered with wind damage insurance. However, a homeowner could argue that water damage to the property happened due to high winds damaging a roof or windows.

Since it is not always apparent what exactly caused property damage such as water intrusion, insurers can be quick to deny a claim. Insurance companies generally exclude the following from coverage:

  • Losses that occurred as a result of pre-existing wear and tear issues or improper maintenance
  • Property damage due to flooding

However, an insurer could also deny or minimize a claim for other reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Lack of evidence for damages
  • Lack of adequate coverage
  • Damages do not exceed the deductible

High wind damage property claims in Florida can be complicated and challenging for homeowners. Policies rarely contain plain language and are often written in jargon that many property owners find challenging to understand. Moreover, it is not uncommon for insurance companies to intentionally delay paying claims, even when a claim is entirely legitimate, hoping that the claimant will give up demanding their due.

However, legal help is available. If your insurer offers you a settlement that seems far too low to cover all your windstorm losses, you should get clear on your legal rights as soon as possible and certainly before signing any legally binding agreements with your insurance company. An experienced wind damage attorney can look over the settlement offer and your insurance policy to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve under the law. St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon W. Douglas can assist with your claim, and help ensure your legal rights remain protected.

Will My Insurance Policy Cover High Wind Damage?

High wind damage coverage is generally included in homeowner’s insurance policies. In some cases, notably concerning properties in coastal areas, wind storm damage may not be automatically included and instead could be offered as an add-on to a homeowner’s insurance policy. However, even if wind damage is covered with your policy, you may encounter certain exclusions such as personal belongings or damage to outside areas of your property.

If you have suffered damage to your home and are not sure what your policy includes, a high wind damage attorney can review your homeowner’s insurance policy and advise you of your next best steps for recovering your losses.

What Should I Do After My Property Was Damaged in High Winds?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there were 13 severe storms in the United States in 2020, and the next few years will undoubtedly see many more high wind events. Homeowners need to be aware of the steps to take when their property suffers damage in high winds. Generally, property owners are responsible for mitigating any further damages after a windstorm by taking the appropriate actions to protect their property and belongings, which can include actions such as:

Assess Your Property Immediately

Check your entire property inside and out for damage after a high wind event. At a minimum, check all rooms as well as the roof, windows, and external structures of your property. If you notice any immediate problems, consider temporary repairs that can prevent further damage. However, make sure to take photographs of all damages before fixing anything, especially if an insurance adjuster is unable to get to your home before you make any repairs. Make sure you save all documentation and receipts of expenses from any repairs.

Contact the Insurance Company and Check Your Policy

After suffering damage to your property, carefully examine your insurance policy to determine what is covered. You should also contact the insurance company promptly to start the process of initiating a claim. The insurer might send an adjuster right away to assess and document your losses. You should also ask the insurance about your next best steps for filing a claim to ensure that you are not missing any important steps specific to your insurance company.

Consult with a High Wind Damage Attorney

Having problems recovering your due from an insurance company? Then consider visiting with a wind damage attorney to protect your rights and determine whether you have legal recourse. Speaking to an experienced property damage lawyer can be particularly helpful when the insurance company:

  • Denies your claim right away
  • Disagrees about exclusions
  • Offers an inadequate settlement
  • Delays resolution of your claim
  • Disputes your damages occurred due to high winds

Getting your due from an insurance company can be a frustrating, challenging, and lengthy process. While some insurance companies are cooperative, other insurers drag out valid claims in the hope that claimants run out of steam and give up. The key to recovering what you deserve can be patience, tenacity, and the possibly the help of an experienced lawyer who can handle the insurance company and fight aggressively for what you deserve.

Call an Experienced St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Today

Unfortunately, insurance companies do not always act ethically when it comes to settling claims. All too often, homeowners face not only dealing with a house in disrepair and mounting bills but are also engaged in a frustrating exchange with an insurance company determined to deny or minimize a claim. However, our legal team can be here for you during this stressful time and help you understand all of your options for recovering what you deserve after high wind damage.

Our experienced attorneys have a track record of helping homeowners recover compensation related to wind damage claims and can see your case through from beginning to end. Call St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon W. Douglas today to find out how we could help you: (727) 381-2300.

12 11, 2020

Guide to Property Damage Caused by Tropical Storm Eta

By |2020-11-12T14:50:51-05:00November 12th, 2020|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law, Insurance Claims, Tree Damage Law|Tags: , , , , |

Tropical Storm Eta made its fourth landfall on November 12, 2020 at approximately 4:00 a.m. just south of Cedar Key Florida. Upon landfall, Tropical Storm Eta had reported wind speeds of 50 mph, with gusts exceeding 50 mph. According to the National Hurricane Center, tropical storm force winds extended 115 miles from Eta’s center causing far reaching damage for thousands of unsuspecting Floridians.

During the days leading up to Eta’s Cedar Key landfall, meteorologists, storm modeling programs, and the National Hurricane Center had difficulty trying to forecast Eta’s projected track. Due to these difficulties, many of Florida’s coastal residents were unprepared for the storm surge and wind damage that actually occurred. With widespread flooding up and down Florida’s west coast and Eta’s tropical storm force winds causing windstorm damage, Floridians are left asking, “What now”?

What to Do With Property Damage After Tropical Storm Eta

While cleaning up and drying out may be on the top of many people’s lists, before jumping into those momentous tasks, be sure to file a flood insurance claim and/or a homeowner’s insurance claim. These two types of insurance are separate and distinct from one another. Homeowner’s insurance policies specifically exclude damage that is caused by flood waters. This means that in order to recover for loss caused by flood waters, you must also have a Flood Insurance Policy. Flood Insurance Policies are governed by the National Flood Insurance Program and have their own requirements. One of the nuanced issues in flood insurance policies is that they are able to be issued without contents coverage. If you have suffered flood damage and you have flood insurance, be sure to determine if your flood policy has coverage for contents. This is the coverage that will replace your personal items damaged by the flood waters.

Non-Flood Related Damage Caused by ETA

Non-flood related damage caused by Eta should fall under your homeowner’s insurance policy. Non-flood related damages can be roof damage, roof leaks, window damage from flying debris, tree damage, fence damage and so on. Because Eta was not classified as a hurricane for very long, it will likely not be classified as a hurricane for purposes of insurance claims for the most of the damage it caused throughout Florida. The distinction between whether Eta was a hurricane or tropical storm is important when determining what insurance deductible applies. Most non-hurricane homeowners insurance deductibles are lower than hurricane deductibles, so it is important to understand which deductible your insurance company is attempting to impose.

Timely reporting of your flood and or windstorm claim is imperative. If there is a delay in reporting the loss, the insurance companies will argue that they should not have to pay due to your delay in reporting the claim. Taking steps to protect your home after a flood or windstorm loss is equally important as timely reporting. Insurance policies have language which requires homeowners to take protective measures in the event of a loss to prevent further damage. The insurance companies and their adjusters (who oftentimes come from out of state chasing storm claims) will attempt to deny or restrict insurance coverages if they think that a homeowner did not take protective measures.

Taking protective measures to protect your home after a loss is important but be sure to take plenty of photos and videos of the damage, paying particular attention to areas of damage that were a source of water intrusion. Once you have reported your insurance claim, documented the damage, and taken protective measures to prevent more damage, the clean up can begin. During your clean up, be sure to save all damaged items to allow the insurance adjusters an opportunity to inspect these items. If they cannot inspect items which you are claiming were lost, they will attempt to deny your claims on those items because they didn’t get a chance to inspect them.

Flood Related Damage Caused by ETA

After a flood loss, it is important to begin the dry out process as soon as possible. Many people turn to remediation companies to help them in this endeavor. There are many remediation companies out there, and like with any industry, some are better than others. Be sure to do your homework on any remediation company you choose to hire. Read the contracts they ask you to sign. Many of the contracts have language in them that hold the homeowner responsible for billed services that the insurance company does not pay for. While this may seem logical enough, some remediation companies have been known to over bill for their services, which don’t get entirely paid by the insurance companies and then the unexpecting homeowner is left with a massive bill which is contractually owed to the remediation company. These types of remediation companies have no problem filing liens against your home for failing to pay the invoices for purposted services rendered.

Assignment of Benefits

Another issue to look out for when hiring a remediation company is whether they ask you to sign an Assignment of Benefits. An Assignment of Benefits is a contract that a homeowner signs with a remediation company “assigning” the homeowner’s insurance benefits to the contractor in exchange for the contractor’s promise to do the remediation work. In this scenario, the remediation company then “stands in the shoes” of the insured homeowner for purposes of making the insurance claim. The remediation company then moves forward with the work and submits the bills for services rendered to the insurance company. This may sound enticing but what ends up happening is that the insurance company may not pay for some or all of the work the remediation company performed. Then the remediation company, “standing in the shoes” of the homeowner, files a lawsuit against the insurance company for failing to pay. At this juncture, the homeowner has no say in this decision because the remediation company owns the homeowner’s rights under the policy of insurance. There may also be language in the Assignment of Benefits which requires the homeowner to pay for any invoices that the insurance company fails to pay.

These examples of pitfalls with some remediation companies are meant to educate consumers. In the wake of Tropical Storm Eta, it is important that homeowners are not taken advantage of by individuals or companies looking to profit from others misfortunes. If you have any questions or concerns about what to do for your insurance claim(s) following Tropical Storm Eta, please don’t hesitate to reach out to St Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon Douglas for a free, no obligation consultation. St Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon Douglas helps homeowners and business owners hold their insurance companies accountable when they fail to pay for claims or underpay insurance claims. Don’t let the insurance company and its representatives push you around. You have paid your insurance premiums and all too often, the insurance companies try to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners. Don’t become a victim of these unscrupulous insurance practices. Call or email now!

21 04, 2020

2020 Hurricane Season Forecast

By |2020-04-21T18:50:20-04:00April 21st, 2020|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law|Tags: , , , |

The COVID-19 global pandemic has impacted countries, communities, and families across the world. Here in Florida, not only are we learning to adjust and operate within the new “normal”, we also have to be aware of the upcoming 2020 Hurricane Season. At Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon Douglas handles all types of losses associated with homeowner’s insurance claims, including hurricane losses. Reviewing your hurricane preparedness plan before the hurricanes start forming is best practice. Closely monitoring developing systems and forecasts is also critical. But what are the experts saying about how active the 2020 Hurricane Season will be?

Hurricane Season Forecast from The Weather Company

According to www.weather.com,, the hurricane outlook as predicted by The Weather Company for the Atlantic Basin is as follows:

  • 18 Total Named Storms
  • 9 Hurricanes
  • 4 Major Hurricanes (Category 3 or Higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale)

To put this in perspective, the 30 year average is 13 named storms, with 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. The Weather Company’s prediction indicates an above average 2020 Hurricane Season which technically begins June 1, 2020 and runs through November 30, 2020. Storms can sometimes develop outside of hurricane season but these are more of a rarity (e.g. Subtropical Storm Andrea in May, 2019, Tropical Storm Alberto in May, 2018 and Tropical Storm Arlene in April, 2017).

The Weather Company’s chief meteorologist, Dr. Todd Crawford developed the forecast and said, “weighing all of the factors, we have started the bidding at 18 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes for the 2020 North Atlantic tropical season.” While the forecasted number of named storms is higher than average, the main data point is how many of these named storms will make landfall and impact home and business owners. This of course is impossible to predict. For example, the 2010 North Atlantic Hurricane Season was tied for the third most active Atlantic Hurricane Seasons as far as named storms are concerned (with 19 named storms); however, no hurricanes made landfall in the United States. In Contrast, 2017 was the 5th most active North Atlantic Hurricane Season at 17 named storms, with 3 major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) impacting the United States and Puerto Rico. With these numbers in mind and the utter unpredictable nature of whether any hurricanes will impact the United States, knowledge and preparation are keys to making sure your family and your property are protected.

El Nino-Southern Oscillation Hurricane Season Forecast

One of the many factors that are considered by forecasters, including Dr. Crawford at The Weather Company, is the status of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). This phenomenon is often referred to just as “El Nino”, or its opposite, “La Nina”. El Nino and La Nina are opposite phases of the ENSO which is a scientific term describing ocean and atmospheric temperature variations in the east central equatorial Pacific Ocean. El Nino is known as the warm phase with La Nina being the cold phase. All forecasters agree that predicting the ENSO is very difficult and accordingly, its impact on hurricane forecasts should be viewed with this caveat in mind. Historically, the North Atlantic Hurricane Season is more active when the ENSO is in a La Nina period. The cool waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean typically cause less wind shear in the Atlantic. Generally, more wind shear creates less favorable conditions for hurricane development. Additionally, La Nina is associated with causing weaker low-level winds in the Caribbean Sea. Looking at the forecasts for ENSO during the 2020 Hurricane season shows mostly an agreement across the experts suggesting a neutral ENSO (neither El Nino or La Nina) during the first part of the 2020 Hurricane season with a slight uptick in probability of La Nina during the second part of the 2020 Hurricane Season. For some perspective, 2010 was a La Nina year as was 2011. Both 2010 and 2011 are tied for the third most active North Atlantic Hurricane seasons with both seasons having 19 named storms. La Nina conditions also occurred during the second half of the 2017 Hurricane Season which saw Harvey, Irma and Maria develop and have devastating impacts for the United States and Puerto Rico.

How the Sea Surface Temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean Affects Hurricane Season

In addition to the ENSO, one variable that we commonly hear forecasters discuss is the sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike the ENSO unpredictability, the Atlantic sea surface temperatures correlate somewhat well with forecasting the activity level of any given hurricane season. Higher sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic foretell a more active season for hurricanes. Regarding the 2020 Hurricane season, Dr. Crawford was quoted as saying the sea surface temperatures are very warm thus “supporting a big season”. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides daily sea surface temperature analysis which can be accessed here.

The Sahara Desert’s Affect on Hurricane Season

Another factor, which is not so often discussed in hurricane development and forecasting, is the Sahara Desert. The hot, dry desert air of the Sahara Desert interacts with the cooler and wetter air coming from the region south of the Sahara Desert which creates a high altitude wind named the African Easterly Jet. The African Easterly Jet is unstable and thus prone to helping the developments of north to south waves of weather which move westward off the coast of Africa. These waves of weather can develop into a hurricane provided they encounter the correct conditions. Take a look at the diagram below to see that many hurricanes begin at the intersection of the Sahara Desert and the green forests which border it to the south.

Understanding Your Insurance Policy

As the 2020 Hurricane Season rapidly approaches while the United States is still battling the COVID-19 crisis, homeowners and businesses should take time to be prepared for the active hurricane season the forecasters have predicted. Be sure that you and your family have a hurricane preparedness plan in place. Be sure that you have easy access to your insurance information and know how to report a claim. The days and weeks following a hurricane can be chaotic, stressful and downright frightening. Know that you will be required to comply with the conditions of your insurance policy when reporting your claim. Take time now to get familiar with your reporting and mitigation obligations. If you have any questions about this upcoming Hurricane Season or need help understanding your insurance policy, contact St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon Douglas for a free consultation.

21 08, 2019

Tips to Prepare Your Home, Family, and Insurance Claim for the 2019 Hurricane Season

By |2019-08-21T10:45:55-04:00August 21st, 2019|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law|Tags: , , , , , , |

The 2019 hurricane season is upon us. It began on May 20, 2019, and runs through November 30, 2019. Just passing the halfway mark, the tropics have been fairly quiet (knocking on wood now!). However, a quite beginning should not give rise to a false sense of security. Being hurricane prepared throughout the entire season is exceptionally important. We all remember the long lead time that Irma gave the entire state of Florida, but even with this lead time, the storm was devastating and people were still unable to be fully prepared. The homeowner’s insurance claim team at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A. wants to provide some valuable tips to help you and your family prepare for the worst and hope for the best when it comes to the 2019 hurricane season.

Preparing your home is one area of preparation that can be done in advance of a hurricane watch or warning. One of the most obvious tasks is to be sure all of your home’s exterior openings have the appropriate protection. Whether that means hurricane rated windows, shutters or plywood, protecting all of your home’s exterior openings is crucial.

If you have hurricane rated windows, doors, and garage doors, this should suffice. However, we recommend checking the window and door ratings to be sure that they are actually rated for the velocity zone where your home is located. If you do not have hurricane rated windows and doors, be sure to have a plan in place regarding how you will protect your home’s exterior openings. Properly fabricated and fastened plywood over windows and doors can be effective if installed properly. Additionally, these plywood pieces can be pre-cut in advance and stored for easier installation. If there are any questions about how to protect your home’s openings, contact a contractor to have them help in exploring your options for hurricane proofing the exterior of your home. Alternatively, you may wish to invest in some sort of shuttering system. There are many different options on the market at varying price points. Regardless of what type of protection you choose for your home, be sure to choose something before the hurricane warning or watch.

Preparing your home for a hurricane also means preparing your home for a hurricane insurance claim. In the event of an evacuation, be sure to have all of your insurance policies with you in a safe and waterproof container. You will need the vital information on these policies to help in making your hurricane claim. Before the hurricane hits, it is advisable to take photographs or videos of the condition of your home both inside and out. This documentation will be helpful in establishing your home’s pre-loss condition. In the event of damage or loss to valuable personal property, be sure you have photos or videos of the property, proof of purchase, and the number of items. Insurance companies require this information before they will provide full value for your damaged personal property.

All insurance policies require prompt reporting of any insurance claim. After a devastating hurricane, power and cell phone reception is often down for days. Be sure to keep track of your efforts in attempting to report your insurance claim in the days and weeks after a hurricane. Insurance companies are inundated with claims after a hurricane and therefore, you must be persistent in reporting your claim and following up with the claims adjusters.

Unfortunately, many of the insurance adjusters who are dispatched to adjust hurricane losses are not full-time Florida adjusters. While it is required that adjusters are licensed in Florida to adjust hurricane losses on behalf of an insurance company, this does not equate to having experience in adjusting Florida hurricane claims. It may seem hard to believe, but we have seen Hurricane Irma claims that have actually been denied! In addition to the denied hurricane claims, the adjusters on behalf of the insurance company more often than not underestimate the total value of a hurricane loss leaving homeowners severely underpaid for their hurricane claims. Couple this underpayment with sometimes expensive deductibles can leave a homeowner, who believed they were covered for a hurricane loss, tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hole.

The solution for Florida homeowners if they find themselves in a situation where the insurance company has denied or underpaid a claim is to immediately seek the assistance of an experienced insurance claim attorney. If the insurance company fails to pay what you are entitled to, the attorney can file a lawsuit for breach of contract to hold the insurance company accountable for what they are contractually obligated to pay a policyholder in the event of a covered loss. The laws in Florida are helpful to homeowners in this situation; if a homeowner is a prevailing party in a lawsuit against their own homeowner’s insurance company, then the insurance company has to pay for the homeowner’s attorney’s fees and costs. This aspect of homeowner insurance claim disputes helps homeowners in their most desperate time of need by allowing law firms to represent homeowners without requiring attorney’s fees or costs to be paid upfront but instead paid by the insurance company upon the resolution of the case.

Finally, how to prepare your family? Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. has put together a 2019 Hurricane Guide which you can download here. This guide has many suggestions for how to protect your family and home in advance of a hurricane. Some of the highlights include, following recommendations for evacuation, ensuring adequate medication for extended stays away from home, having adequate water supply, and be sure to have a plan in place for the family pet!

If you or anyone you know have any questions regarding hurricane preparedness or hurricane insurance coverages, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation.

13 05, 2019

Roof Damage – Not Just From Hurricanes

By |2019-05-13T12:59:39-04:00May 13th, 2019|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law, Insurance Claims|Tags: , , , |

With the strong storms moving across our state today, it’s a good reminder that roof damage and resultant water intrusion and damages can be caused by “wind events” other than hurricanes. Typical homeowner’s insurance policies provide coverage for damage caused by “wind events”. These “wind events” include hurricanes but are more commonly associated with wind from strong thunderstorms or even tornadoes. Many homeowners do not realize that damage caused by wind can be a covered loss and more importantly, can be devastating both from a damage standpoint, but also financially.

The Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, were under a tornado watch on April 19, 2019, forcing some companies to close early. According to the National Weather Service, a tornado watch means that tornados are possible in and near the watch area. A tornado watch is the National Weather Service telling citizens to be prepared and be ready for the possibility of a tornado. A tornado watch is different from a tornado warning. A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by the weather radars. A tornado warning also indicates that there is an imminent danger to life and property. See https://www.weather.gov/safety/tornado-ww. Both notifications from the National Weather Service need to be taken seriously. If you have any questions about suggestions for what to do during a tornado watch or tornado warning, visit the above link for the National Weather Service’s recommendations.

While tornados are serious wind events, they are accompanied by serious thunderstorm activity and winds. High winds can destroy roofs, cause wind-driven rain to enter the home, and cause large branches to fall on houses which can cause significant damage. After a wind event, it is important to visually inspect your roof and accessible attic spaces for signs of damage or water intrusion. Most of the time, when a roof is damaged, the water intrusion is obvious because it causes leaks and staining on the ceiling. This is typically is a homeowner’s initial indicator that something is wrong with the roof.

When an insurance claim is called in for a damaged roof, many insurance companies do not fully or properly adjust the loss. For example, they will provide a recommendation to repair a roof when a repair is not legally permitted due to the roof being too damaged. Other times, insurance adjusters will neglect to adjust the damage caused by the water intrusion. This is when hiring a property damage attorney is imperative.

A property damage attorney will help fully develop the entire scope of your loss. When an insurance company underpays a roof and/or water damage claim, the key issue is the “scope” of loss. In other words, the insurance company has provided coverage, but they have not fully adjusted your loss and therefore not fully paid for your damages as required by the contract of insurance. The goal of every insurance claim is to make sure your homeowner’s insurance company pays the full amount that is due and owing under the policy. Don’t forget that there is always the ability to get a second opinion and hold the insurance company accountable for your insurance claim!

After wind events occur in a given location, some companies are allowed to directly solicit homeowners for their business related to storm damages. Businesses such as mitigation companies may offer to perform a free damage analysis to see if you have any damage from a wind event. While there is nothing wrong with hiring a mitigation company, be very aware of the documentation they ask for you to sign. Some companies ask for an assignment of benefits. Assignment of benefits are legal in Florida, but should be fully understood prior to being signed. If you have any questions regarding an assignment of benefits or any other contract related to storm repair, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation.

If you believe your insurance company has underpaid, denied, or delayed your wind and water damage claim, contact my office immediately.

26 01, 2019

Lawyers Who Sue Insurance Companies on Behalf of Policyholders

By |2019-01-26T17:15:56-05:00January 26th, 2019|Categories: Insurance Claims|Tags: , |

As lawyers who sue insurance companies on behalf of policyholders, we get asked these questions often; “What happens if my insurance company doesn’t pay“, or “Can I sue my own insurance company? We will pursue your insurance claim for you against your own insurance company, and yes, you can sue your own insurance company.

This scenario arises most often in the context of underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage disputes and homeowner’s insurance coverage disputes. In the underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage dispute scenario, a policyholder has been paying their policy premiums to their insurance company like GEICO, State Farm or Allstate for insurance benefits in the event that they are in an auto accident and the at-fault party does not carry adequate insurance or is completely uninsured. Most drivers believe that because they have UM coverage, their insurance company will take care of their personal injury damages without question. Unfortunately for policyholders in the State of Florida, insurers like GEICO, State Farm or Allstate, fight tooth and nail to not pay their own policyholder’s UM benefits. Many of our clients have never been in a scenario like this before and as such, are absolutely dumbfounded and shocked by their own insurance company’s not paying benefits due and owing. This exact scenario is why hiring an attorney for your UM case is imperative.

In the context of homeowner’s insurance coverage, many policyholders do not realize that they are able to challenge decisions made by their own insurance company. For example, if you have suffered a water loss as a result of a broken water line or plumbing fixture, most people file an insurance claim with their homeowner’s insurance company. The insurance company will send out one of their field adjustors to determine the scope and value of the loss. Obviously, this individual is working for the insurance company and does not have the policyholder’s best interest at heart. Many homeowners get a paltry payout for substantial water damage and think they are not able to get a second opinion or that they are unable to challenge their own insurance company. This couldn’t be further from the truth! In this scenario, quickly getting an experienced attorney involved to act as your advocate in securing the appropriate amount of insurance coverage is imperative. While immediately filing a lawsuit against your insurance company is not necessary, insurers like Tower Hill, Florida Peninsula, Universal, and Citizens engage in dilatory tactics and oftentimes are simply unresponsive to any settlement overtures and therefore force their own policyholder into filing a lawsuit to protect their interest and their most valuable asset, their home.

In the homeowner’s insurance context, when a policyholder sues their own insurance company and obtains a judgment against their insurance company, the homeowner’s attorney’s fees are paid for by the insurance company and this is not only a way in which the homeowner has the best chance of being made whole, it also acts as a negotiation tool during litigation because insurance companies know that they do not want to be on the losing side of a Breach of Contract lawsuit related to their failure to pay insurance benefits to their own policyholders.

Whether you have an underinsured or uninsured motorist claim, or a homeowner’s insurance company not paying you what you are rightfully owed, Jonathon Douglas is an experienced lawyer who sues insurance companies on behalf of you, the policyholder. If you or a family member has any questions with regard to what type of insurance coverage you have, either on your automobile or your homeowner’s insurance, please contact me for a free insurance review and consultation.

One of the worst situations that we see in our practice is when a person or family member is severely injured in an automobile accident or has a severe property damage claim to their home and are not adequately protected by insurance. While we become our client’s greatest advocates in their fight against their insurance company, if there is no insurance to cover a particular loss or not adequate insurance, oftentimes these results are a major financial burden. This is why we take pride in educating anyone we can regarding insurance coverage and the applicability of the laws in the State of Florida related to same.

We look forward to helping you and your family members navigate the potential pitfalls of UM insurance coverage and homeowners insurance coverage.

22 10, 2018

Hurricane Michael Insurance Claim?

By |2018-10-22T11:40:08-04:00October 22nd, 2018|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law, Insurance Claims|Tags: , , , |

Hurricane Michael formed from a tropical disturbance off of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. As a loosely organized tropical system, it rapidly formed into a hurricane on October 7, 2018 and subsequently made landfall in the Florida Panhandle at Mexico Beach on October 10, 2018, as a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane. While most Floridians were spared any significant damage from Hurricane Michael, the Florida Panhandle, specifically the cities of Mexico Beach and Panama City, suffered the worst of this major Category 4, almost Category 5, hurricane. To put the power of this hurricane in perspective, Hurricane Michael was the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the United States only behind the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille in 1969. It was the strongest in terms of maximum sustained winds since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. All of these unfortunate stats mean that the Florida Panhandle has been decimated by this force of nature.

Hurricane Michael Insurance Adjusting

While the nation and most of Florida watched as the Hurricane Michael narrowed its sights on the Panhandle, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people were going to be devastated by this hurricane. Not only from the damages it has incurred, but the impact it would have on their lives and livelihoods. In times such as these, home and business owners often take some relief in the fact that they have insurance policies in place for hurricane and flood damage. They hope that once the wind subsidies and waters recede, their insurance companies will pay insurance benefits to repair their home or business. Unfortunately, this belief is all too often untrue. Homeowners and flood insurance companies do their best to adjust the claims which will be forthcoming after Michael however; they will be flooded with these claims. As a result, claims will be wrongly underpaid or outright denied. The causes of these underpayments and denials are far-reaching but many result in the fact that the insurance companies enlist ill-prepared field adjustors and claims handlers which results in poor coverage decisions on behalf of home and business owners. Unfortunately, the home and/or business owner is left with dealing with the harsh reality that an insurance company may not be fully covering what it is legally obligated to cover. In order to help the victims of Hurricane Michael, I have put together a list of items an home or business owner may find helpful in facilitating their own insurance claim. Provided the insured has performed everything they’re supposed to under the policy, then it is up to the insurance company to do the right thing. If the insurance company refuses to do the right thing, Property Damage Attorney Jonathon Douglas stands by ready to assist in any way possible.

What to do for your Hurricane Michael Insurance Claim

Most insurance policies typically have a section entitled “Your Duties After Loss”. These duties are directed at the policyholder and should be complied with to avoid any sort of coverage issues that the insurance company may try to assert. A trick in this paragraph is oftentimes found in the first sentence wherein the insurance company sometimes states that “we have no duty to provide coverage under this policy if the failure to comply with the following duties is prejudicial to us.” This is sample language from a HO-3 Homeowner’s policy; however, it illustrates the potential for a “gotcha”-type tactic insurance companies can use to avoid providing insurance coverage. Generally, an insured (homeowner or business owner) must perform the following:

  • Give prompt notice to the insurance company or your insurance agent.
  • Provide reasonable access to the property to allow the insurance company to inspect the loss.
  • To the extent reasonable, retain damaged property and allow inspection of same prior to disposal.
  • Protect the covered property from further damage. This means you must take reasonable emergency measures that are necessary to protect covered property from additional damage and you must keep an accurate record of repair expenses.
  • Cooperate with the insurance company during the investigation of the claim.
  • Prepare an inventory of damaged personal property in the format requested by the insurance company.
  • As often as the insurance company requires:
    • Provide records and documentation insurance company requests;
    • Submit to recorded statements when requested;
    • Submit to an examination under oath if requested;
    • Allow samples to be taken of the damaged or undamaged property;
    • Execute any and all authorizations for release of information requests by the insurance company.
  • Provide the insurance company with a proof of loss form when requested.

Cooperating with your insurance company is imperative to facilitating the adjustment of the claim. While you may fully cooperate with the insurance company, this does not guarantee or ensure the insurance company will fairly and accurately adjust your claim. Remember, there is always the option to get a second opinion on the value of your claim. St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon Douglas and his team focus on providing homeowners and business-owners evaluation and analysis of their insurance claims and will provide the much-needed second opinion related to your Hurricane Michael insurance claim. Don’t settle for what the insurance company initially offers to pay or their initial coverage decision! Call us now for a free consultation.