2 09, 2021

Common Types of Property Damage Claims

By |2021-09-02T09:56:02-04:00September 2nd, 2021|Categories: Fire Damage Law, Hurricane Damage Law, Insurance Claims, Tree Damage Law|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

There are various types of property damage claims in Florida that can help you rebuild and repair following the devastating effects of natural disasters and accidents.

Property damage occurs more often than people think, so it’s important that you have the necessary homeowners insurance. Note that in some cases, you may need to buy an add-on to your homeowner’s policy.

Here are the most common types of property damage claims in Florida and how a property damage attorney can help:

Wind and Hail Damage

The most common type of property damage claim is for those caused by wind (34%). On average, a wind damage claim accounts for $11,200 worth of damage.

These claims cover damage caused by hurricanes, hail storms, tornadoes and other strong storms. Storms bring strong winds that can rip the roof apart or throw debris at your walls, leading to expensive repairs. Common wind damages include:

  • Broken Outdoor Furniture
  • Broken Windows
  • Damaged Air Conditioning Units
  • Damaged Roofs
  • Damaged walls from flying debris
  • Damaged solar panels
  • Fallen or uprooted trees
  • Missing or broken shutters
  • Severely damaged exterior paintwork, stucco or cladding
  • Structural Damage
  • Water intrusion

Water Damage

Water damage causes damage fast. Long-lasting damage too. Whether it’s a broken pipe, plumbing failure, hurricane or flood, these are expensive repair jobs. It’s important to remember that while the extent of the water damage may be obvious, it’s best to get a proper appraisal with the help of a property damage attorney – to ensure you and your insurance company don’t miss anything.

In 2018, 23.8% of property damage claims were for water damage. Common examples include:

  • Damaged appliances
  • Damaged furniture
  • Discoloration on walls, ceilings and floors
  • Mildew
  • Structural damage
  • Termite and bug infestation
  • Weakened foundations

Fire Damage

32.7% of property damage claims come from fires. Fires are brutal. Whether they’re started in the kitchen or lightning strikes, they spread fast and burn pretty much anything in sight. They also spread smoke and chemicals throughout the property. It’s vital that your insurance policy covers fire damage, as they can strike anyone at any time.

Be warned that insurance companies find ways to blame homeowners for fires, from accusations of arson to violating your policy. That’s why you should always contact a property damage attorney to get a fair payment.

On average, this type of property damage claim accounts for $79,785 worth of damage. Examples include:

  • Appliances and electrical items damaged
  • Damaged electrical systems
  • Damaged plumbing systems
  • Destroyed furniture
  • Discoloration of walls and belongings
  • Foundation damage
  • Odor from smoke
  • Roof damage
  • Structural damage

Sinkhole Damage

If you live in Florida, then sinkholes should be included in your homeowner’s insurance policy. There are more reported sinkholes in Florida than in any other U.S. state.

Sinkholes are often hard to detect but can pull your home to the ground. If you see even a small sinkhole, it could signal a bigger problem further below.

In Florida, homeowners are required by law to offer coverage for catastrophic ground cover collapse, but comprehensive sinkhole coverage is optional.

Insurance companies are notorious for working their way out of paying for sinkhole damage, which is why you should contact a property damage attorney to fight for you.

Hurricane Damage

When Florida’s hurricane season hits, property damage claims go through the roof. They become one of the most common types of property damage claims.

Hurricanes are particularly devastating, with even the most robust buildings often suffering some form of external damage.

It’s important to note that Florida’s homeowner insurance covers hurricane damage caused by wind, but flooding is not. That’s why it’s often advised to take out an additional flood damage policy to cover all bases.

Theft Damage

Burglary and theft incidents are frightening but also costly. From stolen items to smashed windows or possessions, you deserve to be compensated for this damage. 1 in 400 insured homes makes a property theft claim every year.

Although these damages are protected under home insurance policies, insurers are often reluctant to pay out the necessary fee. They may blame you for lack of security or undervalue your items. Thankfully, property damage attorneys are experienced and comfortable with taking on these big insurers and proving that you deserve the full payout.

The FBI found that 74% of burglaries occur in residential neighborhoods.

Tree Damage

Florida property owners are well aware of the damages caused by trees in storms and hurricanes. Strong winds can rip trees from the ground, causing them to smash into windows and walls while devastating the yard.

But did you know tree damage can occur naturally too? From encroaching roots to falling tree branches, it happens every day.

Tree damage claims may seem simple, but they’re often complicated. Roots and branches can cross property lines causing confusion and claim denials from insurers.

If your property has incurred tree damage, you should contact a property damage attorney to help make a case that brings you the damage cover you deserve.

What to Do If Your Property Has Been Damaged?

If your property has suffered damage, you can make one of these types of property damage claims to receive financial cover for the losses, repairs and rebuilding.

Sadly, insurance companies do not just hand out money without making it difficult. They have a variety of tricks up their sleeves. They often try to blame you, undervalue your losses, deny claims, use delaying tactics and more – all to pressure you into accepting a low ball offer.

But you deserve better. That’s where we come in. As property damage attorneys, we help fight insurance companies to get you the money you’re owed. We’ll prove the costs of your damages and won’t give in to the tricks and pressures of insurers.

Property Damage Attorney in St Petersburg, Florida

Free Consultation Today

If your property has suffered damage or you’re facing a problematic insurance company, then contact us today.

Attorney Jonathon Douglas leads the property damage claim team nationally ranked by U.S. 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 you tackle the insurance companies.

Regardless of your situation, you can receive a free consultation today.

7 08, 2021

Tips for Filing Insurance Claims for Hurricane Property Damage in Florida

By |2021-08-07T08:16:55-04:00August 7th, 2021|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law, Insurance Claims|Tags: , , , , , , |

Nearly every year we see significant hurricane property damage in Florida as hurricane season tears trees from the ground, causes significant flooding and worse. For example, when Hurricane Harvey hit, it caused around $125 billion in damages in Florida.

If your home or business has suffered in a recent storm, then a hurricane insurance claim can help you make repairs and recover your financial losses.

While it may seem a simple process, people make many mistakes when filing property damage claims for hurricanes, so it’s best to follow these tips:

Types of Hurricane Property Damage Claims

The following insurance policies are often used to cover damage caused by hurricanes:

Windstorm Insurance

Florida insurance companies offer this policy as an additional deductible. The cost varies depending on where you live. It is often used for damaged roofs and exteriors damaged by strong winds or debris from hurricanes.

Flood Insurance

Homeowner’s insurance does not cover storm surges or flooding. Instead, flood damage from hurricanes is covered in flood insurance which is purchased as an additional deductible. Flooding in Florida is common during hurricane season. Just one inch of water can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.

How to File a Hurricane Property Damage Claim in Florida

If you’ve suffered hurricane property damage in Florida, then you need to notify your insurance company as soon as possible.

If you have a concrete understanding of your homeowner’s insurance policy, then you can do this as soon as possible.

If not, then it’s best to review the details of your policy. This can save you from missing any details that see you miss out on a fair settlement. If you have any doubts, contact a property damage attorney.

How Long Do I Have to File a Hurricane Insurance Claim

You often have a shorter window of time for claims for hurricane property damage in Florida than other insurance claims, such as car accidents.

Florida’s property damage statute of limitation is four years from the date of the damage. If you don’t make your hurricane insurance claim before then, then it’s likely you will be denied.

Once you’ve made your hurricane insurance claim, your insurer will have two weeks to acknowledge it. Then, they’ll investigate your property damage.

Investigate The Damage

Step one is making your own in-depth investigation of the property. Insurers will later carry out their own investigation, but that’s often to see if your claims are legitimate rather than checking for anything you’ve missed.

List all your damages. This includes broken windows, damaged walls, roofs, flooded floors, damaged valuables, computers, furniture, appliances and more. If something’s been damaged, make a note of it on a list. You’ll use this later when filing your claim.

Take Pictures of the Property Damage

Before making any claim for hurricane property damage in Florida, you must take photos of the damage.

Evidence of the damage will significantly support the legitimacy of your claim. Take photos of everything on your list and every room of your home. Store them in a folder in your email or cloud, so you can access them at any time.

Check With Your Insurer Before Discarding Damaged Items

Don’t discard any damaged items or materials until your insurance adjuster has seen them. The last thing you want is for your insurer to claim there’s no evidence of the damaged items. However, if your local municipality asks you to discard the items for safety reasons, then taking photos is a good backup.

Keep All Your Receipts

From repair receipts to the original receipts of appliances, computers and more – keep them. They’re evidence of how much you paid and how much you deserve to be compensated by your insurer. Store them in an organized place so they’re ready to show if your insurer asks.

Keep Records of Who You Talk To

Document anyone you speak to at the insurance company. Note their name, what was discussed and the date the call happened on. This can help with any problems of insurers going back on their word or providing misguidance.

Review All Documents Carefully

It may seem obvious, but many people just skim-read documents. For example, a ‘proof of loss’ document will be given to you to sign by your insurance adjuster. This will detail the pricing of your repairs. You must read this carefully to check that every repair has been included.

If reviewing documents is daunting, then contact a Florida property damage attorney for their legal expertise to ensure you make no mistakes.

What to Expect from Your Hurricane Insurance Company?

You have the right to repair and replace the damages on your property and receive compensation to cover those costs. Your insurance company must also:

  • Provide notice within 14 days that they’ve received your claim.
  • Provide notice that your claim is being paid or denied or investigated within 30 days.
  • Provide notice that they’ve finished reviewing your claim, denying your claim or paying partial or fully for your claim within 90 days.
  • Ensure that any claim filed includes a maximum amount payable and a deductible, which will later be subtracted from the total compensation paid to you.

It should also be stressed that insurance companies are notoriously difficult to work with. They don’t hand out money easily. Their adjusters and lawyers will work hard to find ways to pay you as little as possible. From claiming you don’t have evidence of the damage to saying you left a window open (in flood scenarios), we’ve seen it all.

Gain Legal Expertise from a Florida Property Damage Attorney

Naturally, you might be apprehensive. That’s where we can help. As Florida property damage attorneys, we’re very familiar with the tricks insurance companies pull in hurricane insurance claims.

We’ll ensure you meet the deadline to file a claim and have a solid case. Our team works to collect evidence, so there’s no chance for an insurance adjuster to come along and underpay.

We also don’t give in to low ball figures. We get you the money you deserve in your hurricane insurance claim.

Florida Property Damage Attorneys Specializing in Hurricane Claims

Free Consultations!

If your home or business has suffered from hurricane damage in Florida, then contact us today.

Attorney Jonathon Douglas leads the property damage claim 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 you navigate hurricane insurance claims.

Regardless of your situation, you can receive a free consultation today.

28 06, 2021

New Florida Property Damage Bill: What Does it Mean?

By |2021-06-28T08:38:47-04:00June 28th, 2021|Categories: Fire Damage Law, Hurricane Damage Law, Insurance Claims, Tree Damage Law|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed Senate Bill 76 into law which will have a significant impact on homeowner’s insurance claims in Florida.

Created to give relief to a large sector of the state’s insurance industry, the SB 76 bill will cause wide changes to the handling and litigation of homeowner’s insurance claims.

Here’s what the new Florida homeowner’s insurance bill may mean for you if you’re making a property damage claim in Florida:

No More Soliciting From Contractors

From July 1, 2021, contractors will be prohibited from soliciting property owners, including offers for making roof damage claims.

Specifically, contractors will be prohibited from advertising to ‘encourage, instruct or induce’ a consumer to contact contractors or public adjusters in order to make roof damage claims.

That means no more door hangers, flyers, signs, emails, magnets, pamphlets, business cards or people knocking your door with property damage claim offers.

This statute applies to anyone working for a contractor, either as an employee or specifically for soliciting. Contractors can also no longer interpret insurance policies or advise insured people without being a licensed public adjuster.

No More Offers for Roof Inspections

Florida Statute § 489.147 will also prohibit financial incentives for roof claims.

Contractors in Florida often offer rebates, gift cards, coupons and other deals in exchange for roof inspections.

Similarly, the new statute restricts the use of referral fees or rewards for any roof repair or replacement services payable by property insurance proceeds.

Reduced Time Frame to Make Property Damage Claims

SB 76 also expands the existing Florida property damage claim notice statute. Previously, property owners had 3 years to file and reopen property damage claims.

But now, beginning July 1, 2021, if you want to make a property damage claim, or reopen a claim you must do so within two years of the date the damage occurred.

A ‘supplemental claim’ is no longer allowed, unless you make notice of that claim within three years.

Additionally, this will now also cover all property damage claims, not just hurricane claims.

Note: This will not change the existing five-year statute of limitations for filing a breach of contract lawsuit under Florida Statute § 95.11.

What Are Reopened or Supplemental Property Damage Claims?

  • A reopened claim is a property damage claim that was closed, but has been reopened to help cover additional costs or damage that was previously disclosed.
  • A supplemental claim is a property damage claim for additional damages not previously covered, from the same situation as previously adjusted or for costs incurred during repairs.

Other Changes in the New Florida Property Damage Bill

  • Allows for larger annual rate increases for customers of Citizens Property Insurance, the government-backed insurer. Currently, the cap is at 10%, but that could gradually increase to 15% over the next five years.
  • Steps to limit fees of attorneys representing homeowners in lawsuits against insurers. This will be done via a formula that compares how much money is awarded in court judgments and how much was offered by insurers in claim settlements before the lawsuit.

What Impact Could This Have on Florida residents?

While insurers may claim the new Florida property damage bill will keep costs down, many critics are concerned these law changes will raise premiums on homeowners who receive coverage from state-backed providers as a last resort.

When Does The New Florida Property Damage Bill Begin?

Florida SB 76 takes effect July 1, 2021.

Why The New Florida Property Damage Bill?

The insurance industry argues that it has suffered considerable losses in recent years through property damage claims and this is an effort to minimize the number of claims.

Lawmakers also believe the bill is needed as private insurers have raised rates, forcing many homeowners to turn to Citizens for coverage.

At the bill-signing event in Sarasota, Senate sponsor Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton said, “I think we’ve gotten at the cost drivers here, the unscrupulous contractors, the unlicensed contractors. We’ve got significant penalties and responsibilities for them that will get at the costs. And then some of the claims reporting and some other areas that I think will definitely make a difference, and it will drive costs down.”

But Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami argued, “There is no sugar-coating this, it literally is going to raise the rates.”

Did You Know?

How to Make a Property Damage Claim?

If your property damage claim has been turned down by an insurer or if you’re unsure on where to start, then contact a Property Damage attorney as soon as possible.

Insurers are notorious for finding ways to avoid paying out what property owners deserve. From denying claims, to stalling and putting the blame on you, we’ve seen it all.

By hiring a property damage attorney, you can find help to navigate the claims process. They’ll take on the daunting team of lawyers that insurers are armed with and will give you the best chance at receiving compensation to cover your repairs.

Property damage claims often include:

  • Fire Damage
  • Sinkhole Damage
  • Storm and Hurricane Damage
  • Theft Damage
  • Tree Damage
  • Water Damage
  • Wind Damage
  • And More

Act Fast!

Acting fast to make your property damage claim has always been important. But starting July 1, 2021, you have even less time than before.

Be sure to file your property damage claim with your insurance company as soon as possible. SB 76 now shortens the time frame to file your initial claim, so time is of the essence! By contacting a property damage attorney, we can guide you through the claims process.

Property Damage Attorney in St Petersburg, Florida

Free Consultation Today

If you’re suffering from property damage and facing a problematic insurance company, then contact us today.

Attorney Jonathon Douglas leads the property damage claim 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 you tackle the insurance companies.

Regardless of your situation, you can receive a free consultation today.

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.

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!

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.