2017 – the year was active with hurricanes in the Caribbean. Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida on Sunday, September 10, 2017 and since then many families in the area are still attempting to recover. Some have already filed hurricane claims with their homeowner’s insurance company, only to be let down by a complete denial, an underpayment of funds from the estimate submitted to the insurance company, or have simply yet to hear from their insurance company. If you are one of those families whose claim has been denied by their insurance company or simply received a response that was not what you expected, don’t despair. You still have options to potentially get the funds you need.
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If your insurance company has denied your claim or underpaid on your claim, there is no reason to believe that you do not have a meritorious claim. Instead, insurance companies typically deny insurance claims or pay less than the amount on your estimate because there is a disagreement between the carrier and the homeowner as to what the claim amount should be. For example, an insured may claim that their home damage was caused by the storm, while the insurance company may believe that damage was caused by something not covered in the policy, such as mold, rust, or insect damage, to name a few. If you believe that you have a meritorious claim and you have arrived at a disagreement with your insurance company, whether it be about coverage or the amount of loss, you do not need to accept the company’s denial or underpayment.
You might be wondering what options you have. Well, they largely depend on your insurance policy. Some policies allow for what is known as appraisal. This is where you dispute the fee with normally disinterested personnel to resolve the differences in the estimates and arrive at a proper conclusion. However, if your policy is silent on appraisal or you disagree with the amount set forth in appraisal, the next option is to sue the insurance company.
When you sue the insurance company, you are placing them on notice that they have not followed through their obligations to make you whole. And, because of the Florida statutes, insurance companies are under a contractual duty to pay your attorney’s fees and costs if you win or settle with the insurance company. Generally, law firms, if they determine your case is meritorious, will not charge you as a client upfront for fees and collect their fees at the conclusion of the case from the insurance company. Therefore, there is usually no financial obligation to pursue this course of action. Further, just like with filing an insurance claim for damage to your home, your insurance rates will not automatically increase by filing a lawsuit with the insurance company.
Recovery on a claim due to hurricane damage is not limited to homes. If you live in a condominium and have damage to the interior of your home or damage to a commercial building, that damage is covered under your individual homeowner’s policy. If the damage was caused by other residents of the condo, you can still get money for the repair! The claim would be done through your individual insurance policy, who then substitutes (as defendant) either the individual resident who caused the damage or the condominium association. You can also recover from damage caused to personal property as a result of the storm such as boats, planes, and certain other items depending on your insurance policy.
Keep in mind, some outside structures in a home may not be covered by the insurance policy. Structures in this category include fences, trees, tiki huts, and sheds. If you had post-hurricane damage in one of these structures and your insurance policy does not cover its repair, the proper course of action would have been to file a claim with FEMA. However, you may still qualify for an SBA loan but must contact the SBA to determine your eligibility.
As you can see, there is still hope for recovery! Hire an insurance lawyer today that will assist you with every step of the recovery process. As we stated, the attorneys’ fees for litigation are generally not paid out of your own pocket, or out of your recovery fees. Florida statute dictates that the insurance company must pay attorneys separately upon successful litigation or settlement, thus your fees remain intact! This statute not only extends to real estate, it may also apply to claims for personal property depending on what is covered under the policy, such as boats. If you are not sure what is or is not covered by your policy or what would be the next steps to obtain the funds you feel you entitled to, give us a call. We would be happy to evaluate your claim and determine what options you have available you have.