Since Florida requires that actions for breach of contract and bad faith insurance claims be bifurcated, insurance companies routinely oppose discovery and presentation of evidence pertaining to an insurance carrier's conduct in processing the claim. Our property damage claim attorneys understand that while an insured frequently will contend that evidence of an inadequate investigation should be relevant during discovery and admissible at trial for purposes of impeachment, insurance carriers routinely claim that such evidence has no bearing on the issue of whether a breach of the insurance contract has occurred.
When homeowners experience a loss after faithfully fulfilling their obligation to make premium payments, they should be able to presume that their insurance carrier will cover a loss when disaster strikes. Unfortunately, many claims are denied or underpaid when policyholders lack legal representation. Sometimes policyholders notify their insurance company of a claim and presume it is being resolved only to discover that they have run afoul of some policy term or condition. There are other times that an insured does not pursue a claim because it does not appear that the claim is covered. An experienced Miami insurance claims attorney will carefully analyze the policy language and may be able to develop a persuasive argument for coverage.
Insurance companies in Florida have a duty under state law to try to settle insurance claims in good faith, which encourages such companies to act honestly towards its insured parties. When they fail to do so, insured homeowners are permitted to bring separate civil actions for bad faith against the insurance company once the questions of liability and damages have been determined. This principle is illustrated in the case below.
This blog has analyzed issues involving the denial of property damage claims based on a multitude of bad faith practices by insurance companies. A bad faith claim against an insurance carrier involves seeking extra-contractual damages for the insurer's failure to exercise good faith in executing its obligations under an insurance policy. Common examples of acts of bad faith by an insurance company that our Miami property damage insurance attorneys have seen include denying a claim without investigating, refusing to provide a relevant policy provision to justify a denial, or intentionally low-balling the settlement of a claim.
Our Miami property damage attorneys find that there are many procedural and evidentiary issues that make the process of pursuing a legal claim complicated when your insurance carrier denies your claim. While the law provides remedies and legal venues to pursue your rights, the path to obtaining benefits under a homeowner's policy can be convoluted and complicated. One issue that homeowners will have to understand and navigate effectively if they pursue a lawsuit for breach of contract against their insurer is the nature of the shifting burden of proof in a lawsuit involving an insurance claims dispute. A recent case decided by the 2nd District Court of Appeal of Florida provides an overview of this shifting burden under an "all-risk" homeowner's policy.
Our Miami-Dade County homeowners coverage attorneys recognize that bad faith claims pose special challenges because the issues of liability and damages must be bifurcated in a separate legal proceeding from the first-party bad faith action. Fortunately, this does not mean that an insured must obtain a breach of contract verdict or settlement before moving forward with the bad faith lawsuit. Forms of alternative dispute resolution can constitute a sufficient determination of liability and damages to permit a bad faith action to move forward against recalcitrant homeowners insurers.
Our homeowners insurance claims lawyers understand that many policyholders rely on their insurance agent or an adjuster from the insurance company to determine their rights and potential benefits under their policy. Although you should contact your insurance agent and promptly notify your insurance company of a claim, your insurer might not always act to protect your best interest. A fair number of policyholders who suffer devastating financial losses when their homes are damaged by hurricanes, fires, or other perils receive less than they are entitled to under their policies because they do not seek legal advice.
Although Florida law can be tough on policyholders, our insurance coverage attorneys know that there are statutory provisions that provide important protections to consumers. A valuable statutory protection under Florida insurance law is referred to as the Valued Policy Law (FVPL) [§627.702, Fla. Stat. (2008)]. The FVPL provides expedited procedures for homeowners (including owners of mobile homes) who experience a total loss. The FVPL imposes a duty on an insurer to determine the insurable value of a building and specify the value in the policy. In the event of a total loss (i.e. the cost of repair exceeds the value of the building), the insurer is to pay the value indicated upon which premiums are collected. While this law does not prevent your homeowners insurer from raising defenses to coverage, the established value often prevents the need for costly and time-consuming litigation when an insured suffers a total loss.
When a burst pipe damages your living room or a defective water heater, time is of the essence in mitigating the damage. Failure to properly remove the water can cause long-term structural damage, mold hazards, and other problems. However, water damage remediation efforts can make the problem worse if qualified professionals do not perform these measures.
A range of remedies exists to resolve homeowners insurance disputes in Florida. Since the availability of these remedies and venues depends on the facts and circumstances, homeowners should carefully review and analyze their entire policy. If you are a Florida homeowner, our Florida Homeowners Insurance Attorneys find it is common for a homeowners policy to include a provision for appraisal. Under Florida law, the extent of the loss is the proper subject of appraisal, but the question of coverage is solely within the purview of judges. A decision from the Florida 2nd DCA provides insight into what constitutes the scope of issues that can be the subject of appraisal, as well as the types of conduct by the insured that constitutes a waiver.