You purchase insurance with the expectation that it will help reduce your losses. In some cases, the law requires you to purchase insurance, which is why we all must have car insurance. In other cases, you are contractually required to carry insurance, including when you have a mortgage (homeowners insurance) or when you rent or lease a property (renters insurance).
Suddenly, you suffer a catastrophic loss from a hurricane. You think that your homeowners or renter’s insurance have you covered. After all, you’ve timely paid your premiums.
RESPONDING TO HURRICANE LOSSES
It’s important to understand that in Florida, there is usually no blanket coverage for hurricanes. While homeowners insurance will usually cover wind damage, damage caused by flooding or storm surge is usually covered separately by flood insurance. Moreover, hurricane damage usually has a deductible equal to a percentage of the policy’s overall value, which means that you are likely responsible for certain out-of-pocket damages before insurance will pay your valid claim.
When a loss does occur, there are some steps that you can take to make it more likely that your insurance claim is handled fairly and quickly. First, do your best to protect your damaged property. Insurance companies may deny your claim on the grounds that your property that was already damaged became more damaged after the loss. Second, make sure to fully photograph the damages, which includes taking pictures of all sides of your house, yard, and the interior portions of your house that were damaged. As you take pictures, make a record of each piece of damaged property. Finally, file your insurance claim as soon as possible after the loss.
Insurance Companies Sometimes Play Games
Most insurance companies will act fairly towards their insureds. But, in the wake of large natural disasters that could cost insurance companies millions or billions of dollars, insurance companies sometimes play games. When you submit your valid claim, an insurance company may refuse to pay for all of your damages, or may engage in some other unfair or deceptive practice. These “games” can include:
- Unreasonably delaying the adjustment, payment, or processing of your claims;
- Denying that coverage exists for your claim;
- Denying your claim by asserting that your damages fall under a policy exclusion;
- Trying to get you to settle under one policy coverage, while refusing to pay under another coverage;
- As a condition of settling your claim, trying to make you sign a written release of any supplemental claims;
- Sending you payment for a claim that includes language like “final” or “full” when you reasonably believe that you have a supplemental or additional claim.
What Remedies Do You Have?
It’s possible that when you purchased your homeowners' insurance, the agent misled you or misrepresented the benefits you could expect under your coverage, or misled you about the terms of your policy. Under Florida law, you may be able to bring a civil action against your insurance company based on your insurance agent’s misrepresentations.
Once you file a claim, your insurer has an obligation to attempt, in good faith, to settle claims when under all the circumstances, it could and should have done so. Your insurance company must act fairly and honestly towards you and must consider your interests when you file a claim.
If you have a dispute with your insurance company, you want an attorney who will advocate for you and your interests. Vernon Litigation Group approaches each case and each client in a customized way. Clients contemplating litigation need skilled lawyers who know how to develop a successful strategy to file a claim. We zealously represent our clients from the inception of a case through the conclusion of litigation. Drawing on our decades of experience, we fully appreciate that client-centered determination at every step in a case is vital to achieving our clients’ goals.