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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.

11 05, 2021

Florida Flood Prone Areas and Tax Breaks

By |2021-05-11T08:51:36-04:00May 11th, 2021|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law|Tags: , , , |

Flooding and the resulting damage to properties is a topic on many Florida homeowners’ minds. Rising sea levels and frequent hurricanes mean an increasing number of homes are at risk from flood damage. More and more homeowners have to face the ever-increasing odds of their homes suffering damage due to natural disasters.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, around 114,000 additional homes in Florida are at risk of flooding in a severe storm than the current figures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would suggest. Tampa is cited as the second-most affected city in Florida, behind Cape Coral.

While homeowners suffering damage from storms only have limited tax breaks available currently, proposed legislation dealing with flood-prone areas and tax breaks could provide property owners with opportunities for tax breaks in the future.

Homeowners do not only face uncertainty when it comes to flood-prone areas and tax ramifications but can also have a hard time recovering payment from their insurance company after suffering damage in a natural disaster. If your insurance company is delaying your claim or refusing a payout altogether, contact St. Petersburg property damage attorney Jonathon W. Douglas to learn more about your legal rights. Schedule a free consultation with our property claims team today: (727) 381-2300.

Getting a Tax Break for Flood Damage Can Be Tough

Florida property owners can no longer enjoy some of the tax benefits they were previously entitled to when their property suffered damage from natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding. A recent provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act means that homeowners now face a limit on the deductions they can claim for any property damage.

Before this new tax law came into effect in 2018, taxpayers could claim property damage that was not covered by their insurance company, provided the damage happened as a result of natural disasters such as storms and flooding. Now, taxpayers suffering property damage due to a natural disaster such as flooding or storms are not able to receive tax deductions unless their specific area and county is declared a federal disaster area after a major storm or flooding event.

Getting a tax break may be challenging. However, it is not impossible. Homeowners can still claim this particular deduction if the natural disaster that caused their property damage is a federally declared disaster such as a major hurricane, and providing the total losses amount to more than ten percent of the homeowner’s gross income.

Net Operating Losses

Homeowners whose property damage due to a flood exceeds their income could in some cases claim a net operating loss, a negative amount of income, on their tax return. Property owners can carry the loss back to a previous year or use it for next year’s tax return, depending on their circumstances.

The benefits for homeowners claiming a deduction on the past year’s return mean they could see a refund of taxes sooner, potentially providing them with urgently needed funds for repair expenses. Property owners who have already filed their tax return for last year still have the possibility to claim the deduction by filing an amended return with Form 1040X.

Tax Filing Extensions

While not a tax break as such, a filing extension can provide some help to homeowners affected by flooding and other damages. If the event that caused the damage to your home is a federally declared disaster, the Internal Revenue Service can postpone the deadline for filing taxes and making payments for those affected by the disaster. In this circumstance, the IRS may also waive penalties for late filing or late payments, provided homeowners file their returns and make any payments before the extended deadline.

If you suffered damage due to flooding or storms, dealing with the tax implications and insurance companies can be challenging. However, if you are struggling to get what you deserve and need to repair your property, help is available. Contact our property claims team for advice and help today regarding all of your legal options.

New Legislation Could Provide a Tax Break to Homeowners

When it comes to flood-prone areas and tax breaks, homeowners could be getting a welcome boost sooner rather than later. Bills potentially providing a tax break to Florida homeowners in flood zones are currently under consideration by the Florida legislature. Under this proposed new legislation, homeowners who elevate their properties to prevent damage from flooding would be exempt from paying tax on the added value of their improved home.

This new legislation could significantly help homeowners in coastal areas throughout Florida, especially in the Tampa Bay area where many properties are located in flood-prone areas.

At this time, homeowners who undertake the work to elevate their properties above the base flood elevation level are required to pay higher taxes on their improved and reassessed property.

The new law is designed to not only help homeowners located in coastal zones but would also have an impact on non-waterfront homes located in special flood hazard areas. If the proposed legislation gains approval of the Florida legislature, it is due to be voted on in the general election in November 2022 and, if approved by voters, could become law in early 2023.

St Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon W Douglas Can Help

Flooding can cause devastating damage to your property and necessitate urgent, extensive, and costly repairs. Getting your due from an insurance company can be a challenging and lengthy endeavor. If your insurer is giving you the run-around and either delaying, underpaying, or denying your claim, do not hesitate to contact us for help. An experienced and knowledgeable property damage attorney can help you receive the coverage needed to repair your property.

Attorney Jonathon W. Douglas has experience in dealing with some of Florida’s largest insurers and is committed to helping homeowners who are struggling to recover an adequate settlement.

We understand that homeowners who have incurred flood damage may be facing steep repair bills and mounting financial responsibilities. We work on a no-win-no-fee basis so there is no financial risk for you when we take on your case.

Call St. Petersburg property damage attorney Jonathon W. Douglas today to schedule a free consultation with one of our property claims team members: (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.

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!

21 08, 2019

Tips to Prepare Your Home, Family, and Insurance Claim for the 2019 Hurricane Season

By |2019-08-21T10:45:55-04:00August 21st, 2019|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law|Tags: , , , , , , |

The 2019 hurricane season is upon us. It began on May 20, 2019, and runs through November 30, 2019. Just passing the halfway mark, the tropics have been fairly quiet (knocking on wood now!). However, a quite beginning should not give rise to a false sense of security. Being hurricane prepared throughout the entire season is exceptionally important. We all remember the long lead time that Irma gave the entire state of Florida, but even with this lead time, the storm was devastating and people were still unable to be fully prepared. The homeowner’s insurance claim team at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A. wants to provide some valuable tips to help you and your family prepare for the worst and hope for the best when it comes to the 2019 hurricane season.

Preparing your home is one area of preparation that can be done in advance of a hurricane watch or warning. One of the most obvious tasks is to be sure all of your home’s exterior openings have the appropriate protection. Whether that means hurricane rated windows, shutters or plywood, protecting all of your home’s exterior openings is crucial.

If you have hurricane rated windows, doors, and garage doors, this should suffice. However, we recommend checking the window and door ratings to be sure that they are actually rated for the velocity zone where your home is located. If you do not have hurricane rated windows and doors, be sure to have a plan in place regarding how you will protect your home’s exterior openings. Properly fabricated and fastened plywood over windows and doors can be effective if installed properly. Additionally, these plywood pieces can be pre-cut in advance and stored for easier installation. If there are any questions about how to protect your home’s openings, contact a contractor to have them help in exploring your options for hurricane proofing the exterior of your home. Alternatively, you may wish to invest in some sort of shuttering system. There are many different options on the market at varying price points. Regardless of what type of protection you choose for your home, be sure to choose something before the hurricane warning or watch.

Preparing your home for a hurricane also means preparing your home for a hurricane insurance claim. In the event of an evacuation, be sure to have all of your insurance policies with you in a safe and waterproof container. You will need the vital information on these policies to help in making your hurricane claim. Before the hurricane hits, it is advisable to take photographs or videos of the condition of your home both inside and out. This documentation will be helpful in establishing your home’s pre-loss condition. In the event of damage or loss to valuable personal property, be sure you have photos or videos of the property, proof of purchase, and the number of items. Insurance companies require this information before they will provide full value for your damaged personal property.

All insurance policies require prompt reporting of any insurance claim. After a devastating hurricane, power and cell phone reception is often down for days. Be sure to keep track of your efforts in attempting to report your insurance claim in the days and weeks after a hurricane. Insurance companies are inundated with claims after a hurricane and therefore, you must be persistent in reporting your claim and following up with the claims adjusters.

Unfortunately, many of the insurance adjusters who are dispatched to adjust hurricane losses are not full-time Florida adjusters. While it is required that adjusters are licensed in Florida to adjust hurricane losses on behalf of an insurance company, this does not equate to having experience in adjusting Florida hurricane claims. It may seem hard to believe, but we have seen Hurricane Irma claims that have actually been denied! In addition to the denied hurricane claims, the adjusters on behalf of the insurance company more often than not underestimate the total value of a hurricane loss leaving homeowners severely underpaid for their hurricane claims. Couple this underpayment with sometimes expensive deductibles can leave a homeowner, who believed they were covered for a hurricane loss, tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hole.

The solution for Florida homeowners if they find themselves in a situation where the insurance company has denied or underpaid a claim is to immediately seek the assistance of an experienced insurance claim attorney. If the insurance company fails to pay what you are entitled to, the attorney can file a lawsuit for breach of contract to hold the insurance company accountable for what they are contractually obligated to pay a policyholder in the event of a covered loss. The laws in Florida are helpful to homeowners in this situation; if a homeowner is a prevailing party in a lawsuit against their own homeowner’s insurance company, then the insurance company has to pay for the homeowner’s attorney’s fees and costs. This aspect of homeowner insurance claim disputes helps homeowners in their most desperate time of need by allowing law firms to represent homeowners without requiring attorney’s fees or costs to be paid upfront but instead paid by the insurance company upon the resolution of the case.

Finally, how to prepare your family? Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. has put together a 2019 Hurricane Guide which you can download here. This guide has many suggestions for how to protect your family and home in advance of a hurricane. Some of the highlights include, following recommendations for evacuation, ensuring adequate medication for extended stays away from home, having adequate water supply, and be sure to have a plan in place for the family pet!

If you or anyone you know have any questions regarding hurricane preparedness or hurricane insurance coverages, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation.

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.