Experienced Miami Insurance Litigation Lawyer
Homeowner’s insurance coverage pays out for property loss — generally caused by natural events, such as a flood or a hurricane, or a fire. Various other property losses may also be covered, depending on how comprehensive the coverage is.
However, homeowners often feel confused as to what they can or should do after they have suffered a loss. This is perfectly natural. There are many strategic complexities to homeowner’s insurance coverage, and the correct approach to pursuing a claim is not always clear — especially for those who have minimal experience in navigating negotiations and disputes in this context.
As such, it is important to consult an experienced Miami insurance litigation lawyer for guidance on how to proceed.
Here at Ver Ploeg & Marino, P.A., our team of attorneys have represented insurance policyholders for decades, helping them to secure the benefits to which they’re entitled (and recover damages through litigation, when necessary). We encourage you to contact us as soon as possible to schedule a consultation.
For now, let us briefly explore some common homeowner’s insurance issues that you may encounter in the wake of a property-related loss.
Many homeowners — even if they feel they have a legitimate claim to submit for property loss under their policy — are worried about submitting a claim and in doing so, raising their premiums.
This is a common problem faced by homeowners, and reasonably so, as there may be confusion as to 1) the amount of benefits that could potentially be recovered through submitting a claim; 2) how much the premiums would increase; and 3) whether the advantage would be significant enough to justify the effort, on balance.
Rising premiums are often misunderstood. Generally, the rates only go up under specific circumstances. If you make frequent claims (i.e., one every 5 to 10 years), then rates may go up accordingly. If your area has suddenly been subject to several catastrophic weather events, then rates may go up. If your claim is considered “high risk” by the insurance company, then rates may go up accordingly.
Premium increases are not always predictable. Generally, if you have sustained serious property damage, it is not worth holding back on submitting a claim simply over concerns that the premiums will increase.
The circumstances influencing premiums are varied and difficult to evaluate for a homeowner with minimal experience in negotiating with insurance companies. As such, it is best to consult a qualified attorney for guidance. Your attorney will be able to identify the dollar value of the claim more precisely and weigh that against the potential increase in premiums.
Initial Settlement Offers
Insurers — those who offer homeowner’s insurance coverage and otherwise — are not to be trusted as allies. That is not to say that they are going to act in bad faith, but it’s important to understand that even a “fair” insurance company will act to maximize their own interests, and those interests run in opposition to your own.
Insurers want to avoid paying out for claims, when possible — even if they are required to do so under the policy. As such, they will either deny claims or offer middling settlement offers in the hopes that the policyholder will resign themselves to no payout (or a reduced payout).
This approach plays itself out during initial settlement negotiations, as well, particularly if an attorney has not yet been hired by the homeowner-policyholder. The insurance company is likely to make an initial settlement offer that is significantly below what the homeowner is entitled to.
It is critical that you do not accept this offer.
The settlement offer can be improved over time by presenting a comprehensive record of the damages, and by potentially having an independent inspector look over the property. In some cases, simply going through the normal legal processes forces an insurance company to throw in additional money to “sweeten the deal” and avoid a dispute.
For these reasons (and many others), it is strategically preferable to hold off on making a premature deal with the insurance company.
Homeowners who purchase homeowner’s insurance coverage have some responsibilities under the policy, too — if they fail to hold up their end of the bargain, then they could have their claim denied.
Among these responsibilities is the duty to mitigate losses. This duty requires homeowners to engage in reasonable effort to reduce the impact of their losses. Failure to do so could result in a reduced claim payout or even a denial.
How does this work, exactly?
Suppose that you are submitting a claim for property loss with your insurer. The damage was caused by the basement being flooded by a leaking water pipe. Instead of getting the basement fixed by a professional, however, you wait for weeks. As a result, the damage becomes much more extensive: there is wood rot, and parts of the structure have weakened, too.
Under these circumstances, the insurer may deny the claim (or reduce the payout) as the losses are more than they would have been had you taken immediate and reasonable steps to mitigate.
Covered Perils May Be Limited
Homeowner’s insurance policies vary quite a bit. Some policies specifically limit coverage to naturally occurring events (i.e., they would not cover damage caused by a drunk driver smashing through your living room). Other policies specifically exclude coverage for certain events, such as hurricanes.
These coverage limitations may not be obvious to you when you first purchase homeowner’s insurance, so it is important that you consult with a qualified Miami insurance litigation lawyer for help.
Your lawyer will evaluate the insurance policy and determine whether there is coverage — and if the language of the insurance policy is ambiguous, then you may be able to secure benefits under the policy. After all, Florida law requires that courts interpret ambiguity in insurance contracts in favor of the policyholder.Share