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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!

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

11 09, 2018

What to Do If You Have Had Fire or Tree Damage

By |2018-09-11T12:08:35-04:00September 11th, 2018|Categories: Fire Damage Law, Tree Damage Law|Tags: , , , |

Owning a home is a responsibility. There are so many things to take care of and to pay attention to. Every homeowner needs to be concerned about the damage that can happen to their home and what they can do about it.

Fire or Tree Damage Can Happen To A Home Easily

For many people, fire or tree damage happens and is dreaded. It can be caused by a storm or other type of occurrence or by neglect. Homeowners will want to check the fire or tree damage as soon as something happens. It will be a good idea for them to contact an expert so that they understand what they need to do in order to get their home back in order. For many people, an attorney will be needed.

Finding A Good Attorney

In order to find a good attorney, many people ask other people for recommendations. They ask their friends, family, and co-workers who they have used in the past. This is because they need to be able to trust someone enough to tell them information about their home.

Know Your Rights When You Have A Problem With Your Home

It is very important that you know your rights when you are searching for a lawyer to help you with problems with your home. When you know your rights, you will be able to enlist the help of a lawyer that will give you the proper information that is needed to get your home back in order.

Other Ways To Locate A Good Lawyer To Help You

If you need to find a lawyer and the people that you know do not know of one, you can do a search on the Internet. Try to find one that is close in proximity to either your home or work. You will want them to be available when you need them.

Trusting The Lawyer Is Important

When you first have a consultation with the lawyer, you will want to make sure that you can trust them. Be sure that you have a good rapport with the lawyer so that you can be as honest as possible when you are dealing with them. In most cases, the consultation phase is free. Bring along photographs of the damage that was caused to your property so that the lawyer can have the information to keep in your file.

How Can The Lawyer Be Of Help?

Depending on what caused the damage to your home, the lawyer will be able to get you the money that is necessary to fix the problems. This may include dealing with your home insurance company. Be sure to give the lawyer all of the information from your home insurance policy. The lawyer will be able to discuss specific points with the insurance company to get you the money that is needed in order to repair the damages.

How Much Will The Lawyer Cost?

This will all depend on the lawyer that you choose. During the consultation phase, you will receive the information that you need in order to understand how much you will need to pay them. You will also receive information on what means of payment they will take for their service. In most cases, they will accept cash, checks and credit cards.

How Long Will The Process Take?

The process will take more time depending on how much damage there is to your home or property. Be prepared for it to take a while. Have several ways for you to get in touch with your lawyer. A cell phone number is a great way to be able to reach them when you need to. Texting is easy for many people to do, and you will be able to contact your lawyer quickly when you need to.

After The Case Is Completed

You will want to keep your lawyer’s information in case you need them again in the future. They will be extremely beneficial to you.

Since you are the owner of your home, make sure that you are making the time to do the upkeep that is necessary. When you do this, you can feel proud of the place that you live in. Don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer if you find that your house or property has been damaged. They can help you in so many ways.