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.

9 10, 2018

Hurricane Michael Preparedness

By |2018-10-09T14:27:43-04:00October 9th, 2018|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law, Insurance Claims, Tree Damage Law|Tags: , , , |

As Tropical Storm Michael formed into a Category 1 hurricane on October 8, 2018, I couldn’t help but recall the weeks-long drama leading up to the landfall of Hurricane Irma in September of 2017. Unlike Irma, which developed off the coast of Africa, Hurricane Michael developed from a low-pressure system off the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. While Floridians will not have nearly the amount of time to prepare as they did for Irma’s landfall, there is still plenty of time to take necessary precautions to protect your property and safety. The forecast has Hurricane Michael making landfall Wednesday, October 10th, along the Panhandle/Big Bend area of Florida. According to recent news reports, Hurricane Michael is forecast to strengthen to a Category 3 prior to making landfall. Hurricanes with a rating of Category 3 or higher are considered to be “major” hurricanes. The sustained winds in a Category 3 storm are between 111-129 mph. According to the National Hurricane Center, the type of damage resulting from a Category 3 storm is considered “devastating”. The National Hurricane Center defines devastating damage as “well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Water and electricity will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.”

Considering the nature of this rapidly strengthening hurricane, Governor Rick Scott extended a State of Emergency for the Tampa Bay area as well as areas along the Panhandle and Big Bend. Governor Scott was quoted as saying “This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous”. The life-threatening nature of hurricanes often times occur after the hurricane has already passed but the damage has prevented people from receiving emergency medical treatment based upon road closures, power outages, and supply chain interruptions. Accordingly, to avoid these life-threatening type of scenarios and to heed Governor Scott’s warning, please follow of all evacuation recommendations made by authorities. If you are in an evacuation zone, do not take this recommendation lightly. Only take what you really need with you like your cell phone, medicines, identification, and cash. Be sure you have an emergency kit for your vehicle and ample fuel in your vehicle to avoid the path of the hurricane and seek a safe evacuation location. Finally, be sure to follow the roads which emergency workers recommend, even if there is traffic. Other roads may be blocked and while services such as Waze or Google Maps may show open roads, these roads can quickly become overrun or blocked by debris.

It is important to give consideration to developing an evacuation plan which you share with friends and family members outside of the evacuation area. This will allow them to know where you should be at important time intervals, even in the absence of cell phone service. Developing a written evacuation plan does wonders in reducing the already astronomically high levels of stress that evacuees are going through as well as reducing the stress of their loved ones not impacted by the evacuation orders.

While Michael is developing into a major hurricane, please be sure to stay up to date on the latest news developments. If you are able, try to take photographs of your home/business as well as personal belongings within each so as to document any and all before and after evidence which will be valuable in your hurricane property damage claim which will follow Hurricane Michael. Hurricane Michael will be causing significant damage to homes and businesses throughout the Panhandle area of Florida. It is important to immediately report your insurance claim when the infrastructure and reporting avenues are renewed. Even though an insurance policyholder may have coverage for hurricane loss, this does not mean that the insurance company will properly or fairly adjust your Hurricane Michael claim. Please remember that it is very important to receive a second opinion with regard to your hurricane damage insurance claim. As oftentimes is the case, insurance companies hire outside adjusting firms who may not have the knowledge or experience to fully and fairly adjust your hurricane loss. Accordingly, don’t delay in contacting St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon W. Douglas for a free consultation regarding your Hurricane Michael insurance claim.

2 10, 2018

Will President Trump’s Tariffs Impact Insurance Claims?

By |2018-10-02T16:22:04-04:00October 2nd, 2018|Categories: Fire Damage Law, Hurricane Damage Law, Insurance Claims, Tree Damage Law|Tags: , |

The news outlets have been covering the various different sectors which President Trump’s recent tariffs on steel and aluminum have impacted. Everything from auto manufacturing, small business manufacturing, and even the military. But will President Trump’s tariffs impact the property insurance industry? The most direct way the tariffs will impact the property insurance industry will be the delay in applicable pricing standards to be applied to property insurance claims.

Imagine you file a claim for roof damage as a result of a hurricane or a wind event. Now your insurance company will assign a field adjustor who will come out to your property and evaluate the damages. Assuming they determine it is a covered loss, they will then determine how much it will cost to replace the damaged portions of your roof or whether total replacement is necessary. In either event, the adjustor will be using certain predetermined pricing guidelines found in estimating software such as Xactimate to determine the cost the insurance company will offer to pay you for your covered loss. Unfortunately, these predetermined pricing guidelines are not factoring in the actual real cost which a roofing contractor would have to charge a consumer to perform the recommended repairs or roof replacement. The costs to the roofing contractor have been rapidly increasing on aluminum, lumber and plywood, as well as steel products as a direct result of the tariffs. Additionally, however not necessarily related to the recent Trump tariffs, asphalt, felts, and coatings have jumped in price as well. These cost increases are initially incurred by roofing contractors and will therefore be passed along to the consumer.

The increase in the cost of construction materials creates a scenario where the insurance companies’ estimating programs provide costs at a far smaller value than what it actually costs a contractor to perform the recommended work. This creates a situation of an underpaid insurance claim and is a primary factor in an insurance policy holder’s decision to seek help from a property damage attorney. All too often, the insurance companies will draw a line in the sand based upon their own estimate, not realizing or not caring about the fact that the real cost to replace damaged property far exceeds their paltry estimates.

President Trump’s Tariffs May Very Well Impact Insurance Claims

The reality of an insurance company underpaying an insurance claim is all too real to Florida homeowners. The Trump tariffs only increase the likelihood of this insurance company practice occurring; homeowners and business owners must remain vigilant in their efforts to get fully compensated for their insurance claim. If you have experienced a denied, underpaid, or delayed property insurance claim, do not delay in contacting St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon W. Douglas at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. for a free consultation. We will ensure that your loss is given the proper valuation in light of all existing site conditions and trends in the construction industry.

ST PETERSBURG PROPERTY DAMAGE ATTORNEY JONATHON W DOUGLAS
5858 Central Ave suite b
St. Petersburg, FL 33707
(727) 381-2300