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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!

11 09, 2018

Hurricane Preparation: What is Needed, How to Prepare, and Legal Action for Damage

By |2018-09-11T14:44:34-04:00September 11th, 2018|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law|Tags: , , , |

Hurricane season officially began on June 1st. It will last until the end of November. 2017 was a busy year for tropical storms and hurricanes. At times people were wondering if 2017 was going to be the worse year we’ve ever had in terms of hurricanes. With storms brewing on the coastal horizon, it is wise to address the needs of the many people who live in areas, such as Florida, who deal with hurricanes often. A Florida hurricane can pop up at any given time during the hurricane season. Lately, it appears like they often do. With storms being so consistent, it is always smart to go over proper hurricane preparation. These preparations would include things such as: what a person needs to prepare, how to waterproof or protect their house as much as possible, and how to reach out for legal support if needed.

What Do I Need to Prepare for a Hurricane?

When it comes to hurricane preparation people often feel overwhelmed. A hurricane hitting your home is a situation that tends to cause a raised level of anxiety. It is 1st important that you do not panic. Remember, there is nothing you can do to move, stop or sway this hurricane. The only thing you can do is stay calm and plan for the worse, as best as you possibly can.

To begin, let’s take a look at some of the most common emergency supplies in preparation for a storm.

  • Bottled Water: It is important to remember that you will need enough water for everyone for at least a few days. A typical person needs about a gallon of water a day, while dogs need 1.75L of water per day. Cats will need significantly less water than this.
  • Radio: Keeping a battery powered or wind up radio is important to gather news as to what is currently happening in your emergency situation, you can also have a radio or cell phone to call out for help if required.
  • Canned Goods: Remember to gather enough food for everyone for a couple of days. Canned food is perfect as it last longer and does not spoil without refrigeration.
  • Medical Supplies: Always keep adequate medical supplies on hand in case of a medical emergency. Simple things like bandages, gauze, antiseptic and other disinfectants can be useful. You can also add in simple medications such as over the counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Flashlight: Remember to keep at least 1 flashlight with your emergency kit. The electric will likely go out during a hurricane and you will require light.

There are always less significant and less common materials that people often keep on hand, some of these include things such as:

  • Toilet paper
  • Manual can opener
  • Hygiene products
  • Medical guides, printed from the internet
  • Flares
  • Jumping Cables
  • Can of Gasoline

Keep in mind that many people also add additional ice to their refrigerators and freezers to store their water and to help keep food longer. It is important that if you do this, you remember to keep the fridge and freezer door closed as much as possible. By keeping the cold locked in the airtight space, you ensure that your food does not spoil very quickly. If your foo spoils and you eat it, you risk illness in an emergency situation. Which, of course, can be very dangerous and even life-threatening.

Protect Your House

In addition to proper flood insurance, make sure you fortify your house to protect glass windows and reduce water damage. A Florida hurricane can devastate your house, protect it with the following tips:

  • Board up windows
  • Turn gas and power off
  • Keep trees cut away from the house

If you decide to stay home during a hurricane always remember to make a family plan and designate a safe room for your family. Follow the tips on turning the gas and power off to prevent gas leaks and potential fires. Remember to board up all windows to reduce shattering glass and prevent injuries.

What About Legal Help When It Comes to Damage?

You would not think to link together legal advice and hurricane damage. However, more times than not, people find themselves on one side of a legal battle after a natural disaster. There are many times a person may need to seek the advice of a lawyer after a hurricane.

Many flood insurance and house insurance policies try to word things in their contracts and plan to trick members. You may find yourself on the worse end of this after a hurricane strikes and destroys your home. There are laws protecting the people against unfair practices in insurance claims. Do not simply take “no” for an answer from your insurance provider. Always seek legal advice as to what can and cannot be covered. There is no reason for you as an insurance holder to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars in insurance yearly just to be told that you are not covered. Seeking legal advice can help with damage and allow you to rebuild what you lose.

You can also use a legal team to help with damage to your business. Be sure to obtain proper insurance for your business alongside your house. Be sure to utilize a legal team to assess the damage done to your business and to your house. While flood insurance companies can provide these services, their quotes can often be on the low side. Make sure you are getting a fair and accurate quote by supplying your own damage assessment.

11 09, 2018

How To Hire The Best Attorney After Suffering From Hurricane Damage

By |2018-09-11T13:54:11-04:00September 11th, 2018|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law|Tags: , , |

A hurricane is sea-storm-cyclone that generates winds of 74 miles per hour or greater. It typically occurs in conjunction with thunder, lightning, and rain. What do you do when your house is damaged? This is the time for a good insurance policy, a great lawyer and in some cases both.

The Aftermath Of A Hurricane: Crisis Control

Being a lifelong resident of Florida I’ve seen my shares of hurricanes. Some came and went with little to no serious damage, while others have caused devastating damage. We should feel some comfort that our insurance company will take care of us when we file an insurance claim. But, what happens when your insurance company fails you in regard to coverage and support? When should you get a lawyer involved in the process?

Picking Up The Pieces

Property damage and even loss of life can knock us off track. It can be an arduous task of picking up the pieces and rebuilding. Don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer to help settle with insurance companies that aren’t honoring your policy. But don’t settle for just any lawyer. This is something you need to consider carefully so vet your choice properly.

What Are Public Adjusters?

Often after suffering damage from a storm, like a flood damage, wind damage, trees falling through a rooftop and even lightning damage, homeowners may be contacted by a public adjuster. Public adjusters have licensed representatives that are legally qualified to manage claims on behalf of policyholders. They negotiate with the insurance companies with the aim of getting the best outcome for their clients. They will charge their clients a percentage of their settlement as compensation for their time and effort.

How Much Does A Public Adjuster Charge For Their Assistance?

Public adjusters typically receive between 10%-20% of the settlement they are engaged in.

What Exactly Do Public Adjusters Do?

  • They represent the policy holder’s best interest (negotiate for their client) and help settle with insurance policy discrepancies with insurance companies
  • They enter and oversee all submissions made to the insurance company
  • They appraise all damages incurred
  • They draw up all related documentation associated with the claim (Estimate, presentations, arguments, etc…)
  • They will attempt to resolve issues with claims that are not covered under their client’s policy

The Pros And Cons Of Public Adjusters

Although it may be true that Public Adjusters usually charge less than a lawyer for their services, the thing to be aware of is that there are some adjusters who work for insurance companies. These public adjusters have their employers best interest at heart, not yours. There is currently no licensing or regulatory agency so be careful. Make sure you vet your choice. Check reviews and see if how high their customer satisfaction rating is.

You might come across an independent public adjuster that is good at what he/she does. But guess what, even though you may have found a good public adjuster, you’ll still have to hire a lawyer. So you’ll have to pay the public adjuster 10%-20% and then 25%-50% to a lawyer. Those figures are simply unacceptable.

Get yourself A Qualified Attorney To Represent You

When your claims are not honored as you feel they should when their compensation isn’t sufficient enough for your needs, begin researching lawyers. Contact only qualified lawyers with experience in hurricane damage claims. If you have a legitimate claim that your insurance company has denied, a qualified lawyer will know what avenues to explore to get the best outcome for you. They get you the best resolution without involving the unnecessary middleman (public adjuster).

Why Should I Hire An Attorney To Help With My Hurricane Damage Insurance Claim?

Insurance companies have a culture of paying their customers the least possible amount they can get away with. Often they deny claims that are legitimate because most people won’t fight for what’s rightfully theirs. You need to have a fearless presentation. Acquire a law firm with a proven track record of winning for their clients. Do your research and once you’ve collected three or more candidates call them and see if you can consult with them.

How Much Will It Cost To Hire An Attorney?

Believe it or not, they usually will not cost you any out of pocket expenses. This will be compensated from the insurance company, along with every fee and costs associated with your claim.

Everything You Should Do Before Contacting Anyone

  • Note And Catalog All Damages (date all photos, audio, and notes)
  • Analyze your insurance policy in totality
  • Create a witness list and video record everyone along with their account of the damage and loss they incurred
  • Create your list of loss and video as much as you can to make your claim stronger (Brand names, the number of the model, etc…)
  • Recording materials for when you do contact your insurance company (paper for notes, audio recording devices) you want to keep a log of all contact with your insurance company

The damage associated with Irma alone was estimated at over $64 billion. Make sure you’re prepared and hired a qualified lawyer when you’re dealing with an insurance claim.

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.