Have you ever wondered why Florida property lawyers deal with numerous water-related property damage claims? The answer is simple — the state has a flood problem that puts residents' houses at risk of extensive damage. According to FloridaDisaster.ORG, flooding is among Florida's most common hazards. It can happen at any time of the year.
Flooding is a huge cause for concern anywhere it occurs, and it can affect anyone regardless of location. However, your likelihood of encountering a flood disaster depends on whether you're in a low, moderate, or high-risk flood zone. According to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), 90% of the natural disasters in the United States involve flooding. The Insurance Information Institute says that flooding inflicts a substantial financial burden by causing billions of economic losses yearly.
It's wise to insure your home against such disastrous occurrences, especially if you live in a high-risk flood area. In some cases, your mortgage lenders will mandate it. However, sometimes, you may encounter an insurance claims dispute that will necessitate drastic legal actions against your insurance companies. We'll discuss your possibility of insurance claim litigation in this article.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) explains the common causes of flooding. According to FDEP, while hurricane storm surge is primarily responsible for Florida's floods, flooding can also result from heavy rainfall. Meanwhile, natural disasters aren't the only ways water can cause physical damage to your property.
Sometimes, other sources like plumbing problems, damaged foundations, blocked gutters, HVAC issues, etc., can cause water damage problems. Two primary property insurance policies cover water-related damage. They are:
Homeowners' insurance policy typically covers physical damage to a property's interiors and exteriors. There are three basic coverage levels with homeowners' insurance — actual cash value, replacement cost coverage, and extended replacement cost.
Standard homeowners insurance policies will cover damage due to fire, theft, vandalism, and other destructive events. It may also cover your liability for property damages to others. The thing about homeowners insurance policies is that they're customizable. Many factors like the extent of damage, source, etc., can affect your homeowners' insurance coverage.
Homeowners' insurance companies may cover water damage from internal sources like roof leaks or burst pipes. However, many do not include destructive events like earthquake damage or hurricane damage. You'll need a separate insurance policy to handle such excluded damages.
Flood insurance is one of the separate insurance policies for addressing flood damages to your home. The Federal Emergency Management Agency runs the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that provides flood insurance through private insurance agents. However, you can also find some private insurance companies that offer flood insurance.
NFIP provides up to $250,000 for structural damage and $100,000 for damaged personal possessions due to flood. The program offers replacement costs to cover your structure and actual cash value coverage for your possessions. Insurance companies calculate actual cost value by subtracting depreciation from replacement cost.
It's always essential to understand the terms of your insurance policy. Check specifically for any limitation on your policy like a policy deductible, insurance coverage limit, etc. This prepares you for what to expect in an insurance claim.
There are many processes you must undertake to get compensation for damages after water/flood damage to your home. First, you must contact your insurance carrier and give them a written notice of the damage to your property. Next, take clear pictures and videos of the damage. This includes structural damage, damaged possessions, etc.
Document every damaged item, including the ones you need to dispose of. Be as detailed/specific as possible when writing them down.
Then, ensure that you do everything possible to salvage the situation. That's because you have a responsibility to mitigate damages by preventing additional deterioration when you can. For example, you can seal your doors and windows properly to avoid huge losses in a storm.
Now, it's time to negotiate your settlement sums. This begins after the insurance company sends an insurance adjuster over to inspect the damage to your insured property. You can contact a professional to evaluate the damage before the insurance company adjuster arrives. That way, you'll have an idea of the settlement sum you deserve and can prove it.
Filing an insurance claim doesn't always mean that you'll get what you deserve. In fact, many insurance companies will propose to pay you paltry sums to maximize their profit. Sometimes, they may even deny your claim altogether to avoid their responsibility.
In such situations, you must remember that all hope is not lost. Florida's insurance laws allow claimants to sue insurance companies that act in bad faith. Bad faith practices include any action by the insurance company that deviates from their duty to treat you fairly. It means that their activities are a deliberate attempt to frustrate your insurance claim.
They include the following:
If you think your insurance company is acting in bad faith, speak with your Florida property damage lawyer immediately. They will review your insurance policy and check for essential details. If you have a valid case, they can file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Generally, your flood insurance company will cover water damage to your property due to heavy rain, storm surges, snow, etc. It may also protect property outside your insured buildings like the fences, walls, swimming pools, detached garage, etc. For businesses, flood insurance will compensate for economic losses due to business interruption.
Unfortunately, flood insurance will not cover damage to your vehicle, even if it may protect the possessions inside. That means that you'll have to take a separate policy to insure your car during flood damage.
Comprehensive auto insurance provides the best protection for your automobile after a flood. This type of insurance covers a wide range of non-collision damage to your car. Apart from a flooding catastrophe, it offers coverage for other natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes. It will also protect your vehicle from destruction/loss due to fire, vandalism, riots, fallen objects, theft, animal contact, etc.
You can receive the following types of compensation when you file a bad faith insurance lawsuit in Florida:
If the court finds that your insurance company denied your claim wrongly, they'll award you the original claim's value. This happens when the initial claim is valid, but the insurance company denied it anyway. This will include replacement costs and fair market value for damaged structures/personal items, additional living expenses, etc.
A bad faith insurance lawsuit can make you incur expenses that wouldn't have been necessary for a good faith claim. The court will consider those consequential costs when awarding your compensation. This includes your attorneys' professional fees, the cost of filing your case in court, etc.
Surviving water/flood damage to your home can be a traumatizing experience. It's even more disheartening when your insurance company betrays your trust by denying your claims. This can quickly affect your mental/psychological wellbeing and cause you emotional distress. In such a case, the court will mandate the insurance company to compensate you for the mental pain.
Bad faith insurance claims are against the principles upon which companies in insurance industries should operate. The court has no tolerance for such dishonest actions. They may punish the erring insurance companies by awarding punitive damages against them. This will also serve as an example to other insurers.
Generally, your homeowners' insurance policy will be liable for first-party losses. However, it's another issue when someone else, like your neighbor, is responsible for the water damage to your structure. In such a case, you may consider filing a claim against the other party's insurance company for their negligence.
This works when the at-fault person has liability insurance coverage for such cases. They will file a claim against their insurance company since homeowners insurance includes liability for injury to another's property. However, this claim may not be successful if the damage was intentional.
If the party doesn't have insurance, you can mandate them to pay out-of-pocket. However, this can be impractical as they may not have enough in their personal savings to compensate for the damage. As such, you may have to file a lawsuit against them to recover compensation for the damage to your property.
In a lawsuit, the court will determine the responsible party. The court will also specify how much the liable party must pay as compensation. Your property damage attorney will provide you with more personalized advice on how to go about your third-party claims.
From severe storms to internal sources, many factors can cause your water-related property damage. Regardless of what led to the water/flood damage, the cost of repairs can drain your finances. That's why it's essential to have flood/homeowners insurance coverage to cushion the harsh effects of any such destruction. With those, you'll get insurance benefits that can cover the damage to your structures and possessions.
Unfortunately, insurance providers tend to shy away from their responsibilities to maximize profit. They may try to deny your water/flood insurance claim in bad faith. If that's the case, all hope isn't lost. Our experienced attorneys at the VG Law Group can get you maximum compensation for damages.
At our law firm, we understand how devastating it can be to get your claims denied for no good reason. That's why we'll stand our ground in ensuring that you get justice. We have the resources and expertise to make this happen. Contact us this minute to book a free case review with a Florida property damage attorney.