Most standard homeowner’s policies provide coverage for damage to personal property. Personal property includes such things as clothing, furniture, artwork, jewelry, furs, firearms and electronic devices. However, this coverage is limited in scope and amount. Most policies limit the scope of coverage to losses caused by certain events. For example, coverage is usually extended for loss caused by fire, lightning, windstorm, hail, explosion, vandalism and accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from within a plumbing, heating, air conditioning or automatic fire protective sprinkler system or from within a household appliance. Most policies also limit the amount of coverage available for certain losses. For example, dollar limits ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars exists for damage or for loss to money, securities, jewelry, artwork, firearms, electronic devices and business property. Higher limits usually exist for damage to clothing, furniture and appliances. Continue reading “Personal Articles Policy- Protecting Jewelry, Artwork and more”
Mold exists everywhere in Florida. Our state is a veritable paradise for mold, with its high levels of humidity, abundant food sources and temperate climate. Many homeowners become quite concerned when mold is found in their home. Fortunately, mold is usually harmless. However, it can be a problem for certain individuals who are sensitive to mold, especially when there are elevated levels of certain strains of mold. Continue reading “Homeowner’s Insurance and Mold Coverage”
You were attacked and bitten by a dog, either while at someone’s home or off the dog owner’s property. Your injuries are serious and the dog owner tells you not to worry because their homeowner’s insurance will cover claim. Can you rest easy? Are all your bills and lost wages going to be taken care of? What about all your pain and suffering, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life? Are you going to be compensated for this? Continue reading “Insurance coverage for dog bites?”
Do insurers have a responsibility to pay for long term leaks in the house? The answer is usually no. Most homeowners’ insurance policies have an exclusion for long term leaks. The policies will pay for leaks that are discovered and attended to right away, and insurers do have a responsibility to pay for these leaks (after the deductible is met, of course). However, no insurer will pay for damage that could have been avoided by fixing the leak when it was first noticed.
Insurers will also contest paying for long term leaks that took a long time for a homeowner to notice. That is because there is a reasonable expectation that a homeowner would notice something that would indicate to them that a leak was going on and get it fixed before it became a larger problem.
If the homeowner only lives in the house part-time, or was away for several months for work or other reasons when the leak first occurred, there might be an argument that there was no way to avoid it turning into a long term leak, due to the absence of the homeowner. It will be an uphill battle to get a homeowners insurance policy to pay for leaks even in these circumstances, and the responsibility for them to pay for those leaks is questionable. However, if there is ever a chance to get a long term leak repaired by homeowners insurance, it is in this circumstance alone.
Since long term leaks are an exclusion to coverage, it is the responsibility of the insurance company to prove that the damage was not sudden and accidental, but occurred over a long period of time. A homeowner who makes a claim for leak damage and says the leak was recent can expect insurance adjusters to come to their home to gather evidence to prove their case. The leak and the damage it has caused will be closely examined, pictures will be taken, and statements from the homeowner may be taken, as well. The insurance company will use this evidence to try to prove the leak is a long term one instead of a recent problem.
If the insurance company cannot definitely prove the leak is a long term one and the homeowner cannot definitely prove it was a sudden leak, the case for the claim may go to court. There, it will be up to a jury to decide the true nature of the leak.
If the leak is determined to be a recent one, the insurance company will be ordered to pay the claim, and probably attorney’s fee and the court costs of the homeowner. If the leak is found by the jury to be a long term one, the insurance company will not have to pay for it, and the homeowner may responsible for the court costs of the insurance company.
Of course, most leak cases do not get to the point of going to court. Going before a jury is not the most desirable outcome for either the homeowner or the insurance company. If length of time over which the leak has occurred cannot be determined, both the homeowner and the insurance company’s interests may be best served by a compromised settlement.
In every case, the best outcome is for the homeowner to avoid long term leaks by taking care of leaks as soon as they occur. This way, there will never be any question of the nature of the leak, and the homeowners insurance company will pay the claim without argument.
Attorney Luckman’s practice areas include personal injury, insurance and disability claims, long term care claims and insurance law. There are no legal fees in contingency fee cases and no fees at all unless your case is successfully resolved through negotiation or court award. For a complimentary case review, call Attorney Eric Luckman at (561) 867-6010.
All Americans feel for Oklahomans right now, and our Florida property insurance lawyer feels compassion for those affected by the devastating tornado. But for those in our state struggling to pay already high insurance costs, it will be a relief to know aggressive insurance companies can’t use the tragedy of the Oklahoma tornado to jack up insurance rates in Florida.
Bob Hartwig, the president of the Insurance Information Institute, reminded reporters recently that by law insurance companies have to set rates based on the costs involved in doing business in that particular state. But he did note that after a major natural disaster, like a tornado or hurricane, the question is usually about the cost of reinsurance, which is what insurance companies buy to try to help with payments to policyholders after these natural disasters. But, Mr. Hartwig said that even at the highest estimates of the losses in Oklahoma, which are possibly above $2 billion, wouldn’t have an impact on the reinsurance market. He pointed out that $2 billion is only one tenth of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy last year. Continue reading “Oklahoma Tornado Not Going to Affect Florida Insurance Rates”
Over the last few years, there seems to have been an increase in sinkhole activity in Florida. This has had much impact on the properties affected, as Florida property insurance attorneys know. And now the nation’s attention has been turned to the issue because of the tragic sinkhole that took Floridian Jeff Bush’s life a few weeks ago, when a sinkhole swallowed him while he was in his bedroom in his home, preparing to retire to bed for the night. Continue reading “Sinkholes and Your Home”
Insurance customers of Florida’s state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. have filed a class-action lawsuit in Broward County to stop their reinspection program, according to news reports. The policyholders claim they’ve been hit with potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in what they call “back-door” rate increases. They claim Citizens managed to do this by performing what the plaintiffs say were arbitrary reinspections of their properties and then hitting the policyholders with higher windstorm premiums. Continue reading “Class-Action Against State-Run Citizens Insurance”
Debra Peters is the hardworking co-owner of Custom Wood Creations, Inc, a Pompano Beach company that made high-end cabinets and furniture. The other co-owner is Debra’s husband, Ronald. The company suffered significant damage in 2005 due to Hurricane Wilma, but their insurance company, FCCI Commercial Insurance Co, refused to pay what they owed the couple, despite the fact that the Peters’ policy was up to date and paid in full. Florida insurance attorneys see this kind of scenario all the time, unfortunately. But what happened next brought Debra Peters’ case from the unfortunate and unfair to the horrific and nightmarish.
According to news reports, the insurance company not only refused to pay the claim, but the company instead accused Debra of insurance fraud. FCCI filed false and incomplete information on her to the Florida Department of Insurance, which resulted in criminal charges against Debra. She was arrested and spent 16 hours in jail. The criminal case was eventually thrown out for lack of evidence, but not before she and her family suffered from the emotional strain of the experience. And due to FCCI’s refusal to pay the claim for the hurricane damage, Ronald and Debra had to borrow money from friends to fix their building. In addition, they could not gather enough money to fix their equipment, so they ended up having to lease the space to another company, where Ronald now works.
This week, the Peters got some vindication when a Broward County Circuit Court jury awarded them $6 million from FCCI for breaching a contract and malicious prosecution after a three-week-long trial. It is broken down as $4.8 million in compensatory damages to recover what the Peters’ lost, and $1.2 million in punitive damages to punish the bad behavior of the insurance company. The jury found that FCCI intended to harm Debra Peters and that the company did so with unreasonable financial gain as the motivation. Their attorneys stated that Debra and Ronald Peters “just want to get back to work and restart their business, as they would have done if the insurance company had only paid what was owed after the hurricane.”
FCCI’s senior vice-president said they were disappointed with the Broward County ruling and are considering appealing the judgment, claiming their reputation is “paramount.” This could delay settlement of the case.
Cases like Debra and Ronald Peters’, where an insurance company pushes the less powerful customer around and tries to cheat the policyholder out of benefits paid for and due, show why it is important to talk to a Florida insurance attorney about your situation. And it is also important to remember that if you proceed with a case, under Florida law, if you succeed, the attorney’s fees will automatically be the responsibility of the insurance company. This means that no matter how big or small your claim, if you win your case, you get to keep the entire award and the insurance company will pay all of your lawyer’s fees.
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Hurricane Fund Problems
Force Placed Insurance in Florida
Florida insurance attorneys know that insurance companies sometimes try to take advantage of consumers’ lack of sophistication or understanding and use that advantage to gain business or make more profit. This is why having an experienced insurance attorney in your corner can be helpful. Our insurance attorneys noticed an interesting story along those lines in the Insurance Journal this week about a case of an adjusting firm suing a blogger for claiming their name, United States Adjusting, was misleading. Continue reading “Claims Adjuster Name Issue”
Florida is a particularly difficult state when it comes to property insurance. The risk and damage from hurricanes plays a large role in that. Property owners rely on the state to ensure that they are covered and can rebuild after a catastrophic hurricane, but that reliance is looking shakier these days, as Florida deals with budget shortfalls and diminishing resources. Continue reading “Hurricane Fund Problems”