How to Avoid Pre-Existing Damage Allegations in a Property Damage Claim

By |2023-07-05T15:24:18-04:00July 5th, 2023|Categories: Insurance Claims|Tags: , |

‘Pre-Existing Damage’ is one of the most common reasons for denied or undervalued property damage claims in Florida. But often these allegations are simply false, or mistakes.

Insurance companies are for-profit and use this allegation as a way of evading paying the coverage their clients deserve.

As Florida property damage attorneys, we are familiar with this and advise the following:

What is Pre-Existing Damage?

Pre-existing damage is damage that you suffered before you purchased your insurance policy, or before the date of the event mentioned in a claim. Almost all insurance policies include a ‘pre-existing damage exclusion’.

Common types of pre-existing damage include:

  • Damage that existed before the purchase of the insurance policy.
  • Natural wear and tear from daily use – this is an expected part of property ownership.
  • Damage caused by a lack of maintenance (such as not fixing a hole in your roof, which led to flooding in a storm).
  • Failure to protect your property from damage (such as not shutting a window during a storm).

How to Avoid Pre-Existing Damage Allegations in Florida?

Collecting evidence of the condition of your property is the best way to avoid pre-existing damage allegations in advance. We advise you to document the current condition of your property now, and annually, to show that the reasons listed above aren’t used against you.

You should:

  • Take pictures: Photos of the property’s interior and exterior can prove that the condition of your home was good before the damage occurred. We advise this when you move into a property after you’ve decorated and ideally every year.
  • Document problems you’ve fixed: If you’ve had a problem or damage that you’ve since fixed, then gather the evidence to prove it. Photos, videos, receipts and construction notes can be used. For example, if your home had a minor water leak, damage or hole somewhere in a roof or window, but you’ve now fixed it then you can fight against any claims that this was the cause of damage later.
  • Keep bills: Any renovations and routine maintenance performed on your property can be proof that you’ve been maintaining the property with care.

What to Do If Facing Pre-Existing Damage Allegations?

We regularly see property damage claimants get denied because the insurer believes the damage was pre-existing. These companies are for-profit and know it can be an easy way out of paying thousands of dollars.

If that’s happened to you, all is not lost just yet:

  • Consult an Property Damage Attorney: We advise you to contact our experienced Florida property damage lawyers as soon as possible. We’ve worked on the other side of the industry and know that as soon as a lawyer is involved, the insurance company starts to take you seriously. We’ll handle all communications and fight these insurance companies on your behalf to rescue your claim.
  • Show Evidence: Now is the time to get out any old evidence you have. Search through your storage, clouds and cell phones. There’s a strong chance you’ve got old pictures or videos of the home, even if it’s in the background of another subject. Of course, if you have any of the evidence listed in the ‘how to avoid’ section, then you should use this too.
  • Get an Appraisal: Insurance companies hire the same appraisers every time. They have a bias towards the insurer. We advise getting an independent appraisal, which we can help you with. This can help you show the true value and cause of your damage.

Is Pre-Existing Damage Ever Covered in Florida?

No, there is almost no chance that an insurance policy would cover pre-existing damage in Florida. This is because the policies always include a pre-existing damage clause.

This prevents insurers from having to pay out on properties that are already damaged. But it also allows them to lower their prices, as there’s no guarantee they’ll ever need to provide coverage. However, if your home was insured from construction then there should be no need to ever worry about pre-existing damage.

Sadly, insurance companies have taken advantage of the clause over the years. They often look for any small defect or previous problem to reduce the amount they have to pay or outright deny claims.

Common Examples of Pre-Existing Property Damage

  • Roofs need replacing as they have reached their expected lifespan.
  • Roofs that weren’t fixed after a previous storm.
  • Broken windows.
  • Carpets stained by regular use or spilled drinks.
  • Water damage from a leak.

Common Examples of Incorrect Pre-Existing Damage Allegations

  • “The roof was damaged”
  • “Your doors needed replacing”
  • “The flood damage was caused by a previous water leak”
  • “Warped structuring was caused by wear and tear”

Important Deadlines to Know

Read Related: Property Damage Claims Under the New FL Laws

Call Our Tampa Property Damage Claim Lawyers Today

If you’ve faced a pre-existing damage allegation after a property damage claim in Tampa, FL then our Florida property damage lawyers can help. We know these claims are often unjust tactics. But bad faith tactics are not allowed by law and we will fight to allow you to gain your coverage.

Free Consultations!

Jonathon Douglas leads the property damage attorney team nationally ranked by US News and World Reports as a Tier 1 Law Firm, Battaglia Ross Dicus & McQuaid, P.A.

Having previously represented some of the largest insurance companies in the State of Florida, Mr. Douglas uses his inside knowledge and experience to help navigate hurricane insurance disputes.

If you’ve suffered a delayed, denied, or undervalued Hurricane insurance claim in Tampa, you can receive a free consultation today.