Are you eligible to file an insurance claim?
If you have an insurance policy, you have a contract with your insurance company that requires them to provide certain coverage and to perform certain duties in exchange for the premiums you paid them. The coverage provided and the duties owed depend on the type of policy you have. There are several different types of property insurance policies including "homeowner's insurance policies," renters policies, and commercial property insurance policies. Hannon Legal Group handles an array of different insurance claims, and we have assisted many of our clients in getting the compensation owed to them by insurance companies.
To kick off the start of hurricane season, the Academy for International Disaster Preparedness at FIU invited James Hannon and Sherin Waggy to share their expertise on property insurance claims with graduate students enrolled in FIU’s master’s degree program for disaster management. They spoke to the class on the role of insurance in disaster preparedness and disaster management and discussed many of the difficulties faced by disaster victims when insurance companies put profits over people. They shared case studies from different hurricanes where insurance claims were improperly denied and others where the insurance company tried to justify paying only a fraction of the actual cost of repairs.
Jim and Sherin have over 40 years of combined experience representing the owners of residential and commercial property in claims against their insurance companies arising out of major disasters like hurricanes and more individual disasters like fires and plumbing leaks.
Homeowner's Insurance Claims
When your home is damaged by a hurricane or other windstorm, a fire, plumbing leak, a roof leak or other sudden unexpected peril, your homeowner’s insurance company will usually be responsible for paying for some or all of the repairs. These repairs can be very expensive – sometimes running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. While some insurance companies and their adjusters take these claims seriously and work to properly evaluate and pay them, most of them don't. Having an experienced insurance lawyer on your side can motivate insurance adjusters to treat you fairly. Florida allows attorneys to adjust claims for the homeowner just like a public adjuster can, so it makes sense to get a good insurance lawyer involved early in the claims process.
Insurance companies are happy to collect your premiums, but they often look for any opportunity to hold on to their money when a claim is made. It is a common practice for insurance companies to try to get away with paying only a fraction of what the necessary repairs will cost, leaving you stuck paying the difference. They often use delay tactics to pressure you into accepting an unreasonably low offer.
Not all insurance companies or individual adjusters behave the way they should. Unscrupulous insurance adjusters may try to take advantage of your difficult circumstances to gain an unfair advantage and so minimize the amount of money they pay out on your homeowner's insurance claim. Many of the adjusters who inspect damaged homes for insurance companies write unrealistically low repair estimates in the hope that the insurance company will continue to hire them again in the future to adjust other claims for them. This incentive to "low ball" is difficult to prove but causes much of the litigation over property claims.
The goal of home owner's insurance is to put the insured property back in the condition it was in before the loss. That means insurers are supposed to pay for materials that are of the same kind and quality as those existing at the time of the loss. That also means, in the case of a repair, matching the material existing at the time of the loss. For example, if your roof was damaged in a hurricane and the tile is no longer available so that a repair won't match, the insurance company may have to pay to replace a roof that could otherwise have been repaired.
Insurance Claim Disputes
Too often, an insurance adjuster will write an estimate and won't even show it to the homeowner. That's why it is important to get an estimate to repair or replace your damaged property yourself. You need an estimate you can trust.
Sometimes adjusters try to improperly "squeeze" the facts and circumstances of your loss into an exclusion that doesn't really apply so they can deny your claim altogether.
Once the claims process begins, the deck can be quickly stacked against the un-represented homeowner. Experienced legal representation can level the playing field.
The goal of home owner's insurance is to put the insured property back in the condition it was in before the loss. That means insurers are supposed to pay for materials that are the same kind and quality as those existing at the time of the loss. That also means, in the case of a repair, matching the material existing at the time of the loss. For example, if your roof was damaged in a hurricane and the tile is no longer available so that a repair won't match, the insurance company may have to pay to replace a roof that could otherwise have been repaired.
Water Damage Claims
These tactics can leave you stuck with enormous repair bills. The lawyers at our firm are experienced in handling all types of homeowners insurance claims and are available to help you get the compensation you deserve.
Most insurance policies require the homeowner to take steps to "mitigate" or minimize the damage to their house. When a home suffers water damage, the affected area must be dried out in order to prevent mold. If mold is permitted to grow, it can compound the damage to the house and pose a serious threat to the health of occupants.
There are water mitigation or restoration companies that will respond to your home very quickly and take the steps necessary to prevent further damage to your house. Often times they will make arrangements with the homeowner to bill the insurance company directly. Our lawyers are also experienced in assisting water restoration contractors in securing the insurance payment they are entitled to.
The insurance claim lawyers and paralegals at Hannon Legal Group are here to help you through every phase of the claims process - from beginning to end. In fact, it is usually best to hire an experienced insurance lawyer as soon as you believe you may have an insurance claim so they can guide you through the claims process.
Holding an Insurer Accountable for Fulfilling its Duties
When an insured individual files a claim with her insurance company, the insurer has a duty to respond to the claim, determine if the loss is covered by the policy and take the necessary steps to resolve it. The required response from the insurer may vary depending on the type of loss for which the claim was filed. Insurance claims arise when the insured property is damaged in some way. Damage can result from events which are covered by the policy or from events that are not covered. The type of policy you have determines what events are covered. For example, under a standard HO3 policy, also known as an "all risk" policy, every type of damage to the covered property is covered unless it is specifically excluded. Damage resulting from a broken plumbing pipe or by a hurricane are included in the types of loss that are usually covered by an HO3 policy. Conversely, damage caused by a long term roof or plumbing leak are usually excluded from coverage under most insurance policies.
When a loss like this occurs, the homeowner or her lawyer must report the claim to her insurance company to begin the claims process.
Notice of a Claim
Most insurance policies require an insured to notify the insurance company of a loss shortly after it occurs. Claims are often denied for providing "late notice." For this reason, it is important to provide notice of a loss or potential claim as soon after a loss as possible.
Delay in reporting a loss may result in your insurance company denying your claim. Sometimes insurance companies deny claims using the excuse of "late reporting" when they shouldn’t. If your insurance company denied your claim for any reason, you should seek legal advice from an experienced insurance claims lawyer right away in order to preserve your rights. The insurance claims lawyers at Hannon Legal Group are available for a free consultation. We can assist you in moving your claim forward and will use the legal system to hold your insurance company accountable if they improperly denied your claim.
Insurance Policy Exclusions
Every insurance policy contains exclusions – clauses which exclude coverage for certain types of losses. When a loss falls into one of the categories that triggers a policy exclusion, the insurance company will usually deny your claim. Unfortunately, some insurance adjusters will try to fit a covered loss into an exclusion and deny a claim that should be paid. The application of exclusionary clauses in an insurance policy can require a complicated analysis of several factors. If your claim has been denied because of an exclusion in your insurance policy, you should speak with an experienced insurance claim lawyer right away to make sure the exclusion was applied properly and to preserve your legal rights. The experienced property insurance claims lawyers at Hannon Legal Group are available to review your policy and help you obtain the insurance coverage you are entitled to.
Commercial Property Claims
Commercial property, including condominium associations, townhouse developments, apartment buildings, retail shopping centers, and office buildings are usually covered by insurance policies similar to homeowner’s insurance policies. When commercial properties suffer physical damage from a hurricane, plumbing leak, fire, or other peril, the owners may have a substantial insurance claim. Insurance companies that insure commercial property have specific duties and responsibilities which are explained in the commercial insurance policy.
Making a claim for damage or loss to a commercial property can be more complicated than making a claim under a homeowner's policy. In the case of a condominium association, the circumstances surrounding the loss and the cause of the loss must usually be analyzed in conjunction with the condo docs and bylaws and with individual renter or unit owners’ insurance policies.
Like homeowner’s policies, commercial insurance policies require the insured or property manager to notify the insurance company of a loss promptly and coverage can be denied for late reporting. Commercial policies also contain many exclusions and conditions which may affect coverage.
The trial lawyers at Hannon Legal Group are experienced in representing commercial property owners and condominium associations for insurance claims arising out of hurricanes, plumbing leaks, fires and other types of losses. Our team of lawyers, paralegals, expert witnesses and investigators is available to help initiate the claims process and see your commercial insurance claim through to a favorable recovery. Call Hannon Legal Group today for a free consultation about your commercial insurance claim.
Insurance Bad Faith Claims
Florida law imposes a fiduciary duty of good faith on insurance companies. That means they are supposed to treat their insureds fairly and act in the best interests of the insured - even when that conflicts with their own interests. The Florida Supreme Court recently acknowledged that "this is what the insured expects when paying premiums."
An insurance company is supposed to work "diligently" and "... with the same haste and precision as if it were in the insureds shoes." If your insurance company treats you unfairly or fails to perform the duties owed to an insured as a business practice, their actions or omissions may amount to "bad faith." Florida has a statute that sets out the types of practices that are considered "bad faith claims practices." Under the right set of circumstances, a policyholder may be able to bring a bad faith claim against the insurance company. Bad faith claims usually involve allegations that the insurer acted in a way that was dishonest, unethical or fraudulent in some way. Sometimes these claims can be based on the insurer's failure to respond to a claim or undervaluing the damage property.
If a judge or jury determines that the insurer acted in bad faith, the insurer will be found liable and may be required to pay damages to the insured that exceed the amount of coverage provided by the policy. They will also usually be required to pay the insured's attorney's fees.