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Category: Property Insurance

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Understanding Homeowners’ Insurance in Florida

Fri Apr 19th, 2019 on     Property Insurance,    

Floridians are well aware of the importance of homeowners’ insurance.  Planning ahead for the possibility of hurricanes, windstorms, sinkholes and other disasters, as well as individual losses such as home invasions or fires, can bring peace of mind and help minimize the disruption to your personal and professional lives. As Miami property insurance lawyers, we are experienced in assisting homeowners in maximizing their recovery following a loss.  The first step to a successful outcome for your claim is understanding what is covered under your policy and how the claims process works. What Does My Policy Cover? Generally, a homeowners’ insurance policy provides coverage against specific perils or events that cause damage to the property (such as fire, windstorm, theft) or the following: Structure (the dwelling itself) Other structures (such as sheds and fences) Personal property (the contents of the structures) Loss of use (also known as “Additional Living Expense,” which may pay some extra expenses if damage to your home prevents you from living there during repairs) Personal liability (against a claim resulting from injury to others on your property) Medical payments to others (for persons accidentally injured at your home, not included residents of the home) Most homeowners’ insurance policies cover damage caused by windstorms, hurricanes and hail, unless you sign to waive the coverage.  Importantly, however, you cannot obtain new or additional coverage when a tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning has been issued for your area.  You shouldn’t wait until the last minute to purchase your […]

What You Should Know About Sinkhole Coverage

Fri Mar 15th, 2019 on     Property Insurance,    

Florida has more sinkholes than any other state; thousands of sinkhole insurance claims are reported here every year.  Unfortunately, not all homeowners’ insurance policies provide coverage for damage to your home resulting from sinkholes.  Florida law, which defines a “sinkhole” as “a land form created by subsidence of soil, sediment or rock as underlying strata are dissolved by groundwater,” only requires insurance companies to cover “catastrophic ground cover collapse.”  What’s the difference between coverage for sinkholes and coverage for “catastrophic ground cover collapse?”  As Miami Property Insurance Lawyers, we have experience with both.  As for sinkhole coverage, while all insurance companies licensed in Florida must offer it, the coverage is usually an endorsement to an existing policy and costs an additional premium.  Moreover, insurance companies may require a property inspection before extending coverage, and if sinkhole activity is present on the property, or even within a certain distance of the property, the insurer may refuse to provide sinkhole coverage. If you do not purchase sinkhole coverage, or it is declined, the only coverage you have is for “catastrophic ground coverage collapse.”  Importantly, four conditions have to be met before this coverage kicks in.  They are: Abrupt collapse of the ground cover A depression in the ground cover clearly visible to the naked eye Structural damage to the building including the foundation; and The insured structure is being condemned and ordered to be vacated by the applicable government agency. All four of these criteria are necessary for coverage.  If, for example, […]

Concurrent Causation in Property Insurance Disputes

Thu Jan 10th, 2019 on     Property Insurance,    

Miami Property Insurance Lawyer In Florida, and elsewhere, property insurance policyholders frequently have their claims denied due to the existence of “concurrent causes” of loss.  A concurrent cause is one of multiple causes that contributed to the damages at-issue.  For example, if your house is damaged in a severe tropical storm, some of the losses may be due to water, and some due to wind.  The wind conditions and the water damage might each be reasonably defined as concurrent causes. Property insurance policyholders (i.e., homeowners, real estate developers, condo associations, small and large businesses, and more) may be put into a vulnerable position if their insurer denies a legitimate property insurance claim or pays out only a portion of the claim on the basis that there are concurrent causation issues. So, how might concurrent causation affect your own property insurance claims?  Let’s take a closer look. Florida Applies the Concurrent Causation Doctrine In Florida, the concurrent causation doctrine allows policyholders to recover for both covered and non-covered losses if they happen concurrently.  This prevents insurers from engaging in attempts to define some portion of your losses as non-covered (and therefore denying your claim on that basis), and only paying out the covered loss portion. For example, suppose that your home is damaged in a fire.  As a result, your water lines are damaged, which causes leakage and further losses to your home.  Even if your policy excludes water damage, but covers fire damage, you would be entitled to recover benefits […]

Common Justifications for Homeowner’s Insurance Claim Denial

Fri Dec 21st, 2018 on     Property Insurance,    

In the homeowner’s insurance context, insurers deny claims for a variety of reasons, some reasonable, some not so reasonable.  Fundamentally, insurers are incentivized to deny claims and minimize their payouts.  For example, if you are entitled to recover $100,000 in a homeowner’s insurance claim, but the insurer’s initial denial convinces you not to bother pursuing the insurance claim, then the insurer will have saved a substantial amount of money by simply acting adversely to your interests. It’s important to understand, however, that if the denial was wrongful, then you may be entitled to challenge their decision and secure the benefits that you’re owed.  Let’s take a closer look at the common justifications underlying a homeowner’s insurance claim denial. Loss Does Not Exceed the Deductible Most homeowner’s insurance policies include a deductible for various claims.  If you are attempting to make a “small” claim, the insurer may deny it on the basis that the loss is not significant enough to exceed the deductible amount. Loss is Not Due to a Sudden Event Losses caused by long-term issues — maintenance-related and otherwise — are generally not covered by homeowner’s insurance.  For example, if your home develops wood rot, the damage caused is often not accounted for by standard homeowner’s insurance coverage.  You may have to obtain supplemental coverage for such issues. There is Third-Party Liability In the event that a third-party is responsible for the damage to your house, your insurer is very likely to deny coverage — it is the third-party […]

What is an Appraisal Clause and How Does it Work?

Fri Nov 23rd, 2018 on     Property Insurance,    

In Florida — as in other states — attempting to recover fully for your property losses can be quite a challenge.  Insurers understand that you may be in a vulnerable position, and they may take advantage by undervaluing your property losses or by otherwise appraising the property at issue in a way that creates an even more lopsided dynamic. If you find yourself disagreeing with your insurer over the value of your property losses, then you may want to explore the insurance appraisal process.  “Appraisal” is an alternative dispute resolution process that is included in many property insurance policies as a voluntary option in the event of a disagreement.  It’s important to note that appraisal is not a panacea — it is problematic in many ways, though (depending on the circumstances) you may want to consider the option. Let’s take a closer look. Understanding the Appraisal Process The appraisal clause in a property insurance policy allows the policyholder to demand an appraisal of the loss when there is a disagreement.  Each party selects a competent and impartial appraiser to separately evaluate the amount of the loss at-issue.  A neutral umpire is also selected — this umpire will determine the correct amount of the loss if the two impartial appraisers cannot come to an agreement. Appraisal is binding, which is to say that the amount determined by the umpire must be accepted by each disputing party (the policyholder and the insurer). Given the high stakes of appraisal, it’s important to work […]

Benefits Available in a Property Insurance Claim

Fri Oct 26th, 2018 on     Property Insurance,    

Property insurance claims can leave many policyholders feeling vulnerable, and for good reason.  Whether they have had their home destroyed in a natural disaster, or have had their vehicle totaled in an accident, the policyholder may find that the property insurer is rather aggressive in denying, undervaluing, or otherwise mishandling their claim for benefits — given how difficult their circumstances may be at such a time, the adverse decisions of their insurer can deepen the already-significant emotional challenge. Let’s take a look at the benefits that you might be entitled to receive as a property insurance claimant. Property Insurance Benefits May Cover a Range of Losses Property insurance policies vary significantly from plan-to-plan, so there is really no “one size fits all” explanation that will be suitable for all claimants.  If you paid for a high-end homeowner’s insurance plan, for example, then your plan may feature a provision that grants you loss of use benefits, whereas if you paid for a cheaper plan, then it may lack such coverage. Loss of Use Loss of use coverage will grant you benefits to cover losses associated with: Having to rent another property to use in the interim period (until repairs can be performed, or a replacement is found) Costs for relocation Increased costs of living Storage costs For example, if you lose access to your house due to a natural disaster that destroys most of the home, then you may submit a claim and receive benefits for loss of use to cover […]

Diminution in Value and Securing Maximum Benefits

Fri Sep 28th, 2018 on     Property Insurance,    

If you are involved in a dispute with your insurer over benefits owed in the event that your property has diminished in value (following an accident), then you may be entitled to bring an action against the insurer to secure the desired benefits.  Effectively bringing a diminished value claim can be quite a challenge, however, given that Florida law does not allow such benefits recovery by default unless the insurance policy specifically empowers the claimant to recover benefits for diminution in value. What is diminution in value? Generally speaking, property — such as a motor vehicle — tends to lose value after an accident.  If it has not been adequately repaired, then the loss of value is quite obvious.  On the other hand, even if it has been repaired perfectly and returned to a condition that is otherwise impossible to differentiate from “new,” the property will lose at least some of its original value.  Purchasers who become aware of the fact that a motor vehicle has an accident history are less likely to pay as much for the vehicle than if it had not been involved in accident.  This is a fairly well-studied trend in purchasing. Given the likelihood that your property has diminished in value, adequate compensation must account for such loss.  If you are submitting a benefits claim with your insurer, then you may be wondering whether you are entitled to recover benefits that cover the diminished value of your property. Let’s take a look. Availability of First-Party […]

Can You Make a Property Insurance Claim That Includes Damage for Loss of Use?

Fri May 11th, 2018 on     Property Insurance,    

In Florida, where hurricanes, tropical storms, and other natural disasters are a regular feature of life, property insurance claims frequently involve “loss of use” coverage issues.  Standard property insurance coverage does not necessarily cover all the various losses suffered by a policyholder.  Loss of use coverage — which may be its own separate policy, or simply a provision built into an existing homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance policy — helps fill in the gaps, so to speak. What is the Purpose of Loss of Use Coverage, Exactly? Loss of use coverage is rather straightforward in terms of its function — simply put, it is designed to account for losses related to the policyholder’s inability to make normal use of the property.  What constitutes “use” will vary depending on the policy and depending on the particular nature of the loss. Generally speaking, most loss of use coverage makes provisions for benefits in three different and broadly-applicable situations: Heightened cost of living Loss of rental income Legal prohibition on access All this legalese may seem confusing at first glance, so let’s do a brief walk-through of some examples to clarify how it all works. Suppose that you have loss of use coverage through your existing homeowner’s insurance policy.  One day, your primary residence is severely damaged by a hurricane, and as a consequence, you are forced to move out and seek out an alternative residence (at least temporarily). The damage to your residence is significant enough that it will take up to […]

Florida Property Insurers Must Cover Damage to Personal Property Too

Fri Mar 16th, 2018 on     Property Insurance,    

Usually, property loss does not involve exclusive damage to the dwelling unit itself — there may also be damage to other, non-dwelling structures (such as a fence around the property), or more commonly, to items of personal property that also reside within the dwelling.  In some cases, the personal property of the policyholder may be of significant value, and as such, their loss may expose the policyholder to unexpected financial vulnerability. For example, suppose that you own a number of antiques of significant value.  You intend to sell them to help pay for your child’s college tuition fees.  One day, however, a fire destroys much of your home, and the antiques are damaged beyond repair.  Their value is lost in an instant.  If the insurer does not provide adequate coverage that accounts for the losses you sustained due to the damage to your personal property, then you could be left in a very challenging financial position. If you have valuable personal property, it’s therefore critical that you consult with an experienced Miami property insurance lawyer for guidance. Duty to Cover Losses Sustained Personal Property In Florida, insurance companies providing homeowner’s insurance must grant policyholders coverage for their personal property, though limits on such recovery are frequently written into the policy to minimize the insurer’s eventual liabilities. It’s worth noting that Florida law requires insurers to give a policyholder the option to exclude their personal property from coverage (so long as the policyholder gives a formal, written statement of intent).  Excluding […]

Property Insurance Provisions Must Be Construed in Favor of Coverage

Wed Feb 14th, 2018 on     Property Insurance,    

If you are challenging the wrongful denial of your property insurance claim, the insurer is likely to assert that the language in the insurance contract is rather ambiguous, and that it should be interpreted in a manner that favors them. For example, suppose that your property insurance contract includes various provisions that exclude lightning damage from coverage.  A tree near your house is hit by lightning, which results in a fire.  The fire then spreads to your house, causing it to burn down.  Would you be entitled to make a property insurance claim, given the exclusionary provision at-issue?  The insurer is likely to argue no.  On the other hand, the provision is rather ambiguous with regard to the chain of causation.  It could be argued that the damage was not directly caused by the lightning, but instead by fire, which is covered. Ambiguity has often been used by insurers to entice policyholders into signing, only later to be construed in a manner that retracts coverage, thus minimizing the potential liabilities for the insurer.  Fortunately, Florida case law favors policyholders in the interpretation of ambiguous policy language.  Let’s take a quick look. Ambiguous Property Insurance Provisions Must Be Construed in Favor of Coverage In Florida, ambiguous provisions — where true ambiguity exists — of an insurance policy must be liberally construed in favor of the policyholder (coverage), and strictly construed against the insurer.  As the policyholder, this is highly protective and is likely to benefit you when it comes to litigation […]

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