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Category: Property Insurance

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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 […]

You Have a Duty to Mitigate Losses

Fri Jan 26th, 2018 on     Property Insurance,    

Property insurance policyholders have an obligation to mitigate their losses whether they’re in Florida or any other jurisdiction.  Failure to mitigate such losses can have a myriad negative consequences for the would-be claimant, up to and including a relinquishment of reimbursement rights under the insurance contract.  As such, if you have suffered various property losses for which you are entitled to be paid out, it’s important to consult with an experienced property insurance attorney as soon as is practicable — your attorney will help you identify the steps you can take to ensure that you have expended reasonable mitigation efforts, and that you remain qualified to make a claim for such property losses (pursuant to your coverage plan). Mitigation Basics All property insurance policyholders have a duty to mitigate their losses in the wake of some adverse event that causes covered losses.  Though the specific obligations imposed upon the policyholder may differ from plan to plan, as a general rule, policyholders are expected to make reasonable efforts to mitigate losses to the extent possible. Reasonable mitigation efforts do not require that you exert unlimited efforts in order to prevent further losses.  What is deemed “reasonable” will depend largely on the circumstances.  Exposing yourself to significant harm is not required, nor is the exertion of effort that may confound your abilities. For example, suppose that a tree has fallen onto your house during hurricane-force winds.  Substantial damage has been caused to your house.  When the tree fell, however, an additional nearby […]

Exclusionary Clauses in Property Insurance Policies

Fri Jan 5th, 2018 on     Property Insurance,    

In Florida, as is the case in other jurisdictions, almost all property insurance coverage includes exclusionary clauses that are meant to constrict the ability of policyholders to claim a covered loss.  Depending on the language of the insurance contract at-issue, your claim may be clearly excluded from coverage, or the exclusionary clause may be ambiguous enough that a skilled attorney can convince a court of law to find on your behalf. Fortunately for Florida policyholders, ambiguities in the language of the exclusionary clause are more favorably interpreted for the policyholders, as opposed to the insurer.  Let’s take a look at how it all works. Ambiguities and Exclusionary Clauses in Florida According to the Florida Supreme Court in Swire Pacific Holdings, Inc. v. Zurich Insurance Company, an established principle of insurance law is that — where the insurance contract may be construed either as providing or limiting coverage — the particularities of coverage must be strictly construed against the insurer.  More specifically, exclusionary clauses are construed even more strictly against the insurer than coverage clauses.  As such, ambiguities in the language of your exclusionary clause are much more likely to be construed in your favor.  An insurer cannot therefore benefit from ambiguous exclusionary clauses in the insurance contract that are intended to induce you into entering the contract, only to later interpret them in ways that circumscribe coverage and prevent you from claiming a loss. The Concurrent Cause Doctrine In Florida, the concurrent cause doctrine is applied when there are independent […]

Homeowner Loss Assessment Factors

Fri Oct 13th, 2017 on     Property Insurance,    

Most people — and especially in Florida, where tropical storms and hurricanes are a regular threat — purchase home insurance under the assumption that their insurer will make reasonable attempts to compensate them when something goes wrong and they suffer property damage.  The unfortunate reality, however, is that insurers (even in the homeowner insurance context) are in the business of minimizing their claim payouts.  If you’ve suffered property losses to your home, you may find that your insurer makes you a lowball offer, or denies your claim entirely.  In some (rare) cases, your insurer may even fail to make payments after reaching a settlement. A number of different factors can negatively affect the likelihood that an insurer will settle a claim for a reasonable value.  Consider the following non-exhaustive list. Failure to Mitigate Homeowners have a responsibility to make reasonable efforts to mitigate damages and protect their home from suffering further damages, where possible.  This may involve repairs.  For example, a homeowner cannot knowingly allow wood rot to destroy their home without making reasonable efforts to prevent the spread (perhaps by hiring a contractor to treat the rot and repair the damaged areas). Partial or Non-Disclosure of Facts Your homeowner insurance policy application should have contained a full disclosure of all material facts pertaining to the property.  If certain relevant facts were not disclosed in the application, the insurer may use that as justification to deny your claim. Event is Not Covered by the Policy Whether a given event is […]

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