Hurricane Damage Claims
Hurricanes have historically caused the highest dollar amount of property damage in the United States (especially in Florida) over the years. Engraved in our collective memories are the damages caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the second costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, estimated at over $40 billion. In 2004 and 2005, Floridians had to deal with Hurricanes Frances ($10.4 billion), Jeanne ($8 billion) and Wilma ($29.1 billion), which caused considerable property damage in Florida, as well as in other states and countries. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina became America's costliest natural disaster with damages estimated at over $81 billion. These storms also caused injuries and deaths.
The preceding "excerpt" from our country's most recent hurricane history does not include the many storms that we have had to prepare for each year and that thankfully, have ended up "missing" us. Therefore, it is safe to say that Florida homeowners and business owners are used to dealing with hurricanes each year. The one thing they should not have to get used to is dealing with insurance companies that use all kinds of excuses for refusing to pay legitimate claims for property damages.
Experienced Legal Help With Your Hurricane Damage Claims In Miami, Fort Lauderdale And Throughout Florida
Throughout the years the Miami property insurance claims attorneys of Greenberg, Stone & Urbano have represented both homeowners and business owners in the pursuit of their claims for damages caused by hurricanes and other windstorms against insurance companies that wrongfully refuse to pay the damages covered under their homeowners policies and business owner policies. Whether the windstorm caused water damage, structural damage, loss of business, or other property damage, our Miami business and property damage attorneys have more than 130 years of combined experience helping Florida property and business owners recover for the damages they have suffered, including but not limited to:
- Roof damages
- Damages caused by water or other elements to ceilings, walls and floors (including mildew and toxic mold claims)
- Damages caused by the wind, water, or other elements to windows or doors
- Damages caused by water or other elements to furniture, appliances, electronics, clothes and jewelry
- Damages to aluminum porches and other dwellings within the property
- Damages caused by trees and shrubbery, as well as payment for their removal
- Removal of debris from covered damages
- Damages caused by fires and explosions
Steps To Protect A Hurricane Damage Claim
When your home or business suffers exposure to a hurricane or another strong storm, the damage to your home and property can be costly. Types of damage caused by severe storms and hurricanes include wind damage, water damage, flooding and other storm damage. Exposure to the elements in a severe storm can damage your property, home, inventory, office furnishings, equipment, vehicles and more. If your business is damaged, you also can experience losses related to evacuations, power outages and route closures. Certain steps taken promptly can go a long way toward preserving your insurance claim:
Mitigating the risk of further losses: Policyholders have a legal duty to take steps to minimize the impact of the loss they experience in the aftermath of a hurricane or tropical storm. For example, the property owner might use tarps and plastic to prevent further water penetration after damage to a roof (subject to safety considerations). The responsibilities of an insured will be detailed in the "Duties After Losses" section of your policy. Our experienced Florida insurance claims lawyers can advise you regarding your pre-claim duties and help you access professionals who can assist you in minimizing any damage to your property.
Review insurance policies: Review your policies and identify the designated procedures for reporting a loss. Insurance companies require policyholders to report a loss promptly, so the insurer can send an adjuster to investigate the loss to determine the cause and the amount of the claim. If you delay in providing notice and submitting a written proof of loss, the insurance company will rely on such noncompliance with the policy to justify denying your claim. Policyholders need to carefully review their entire policy to ascertain all available coverage, potential grounds for exclusion, and limitations on coverage. Because insurance policy language can be convoluted and ambiguous, you should talk to an experienced Miami property damages claims attorney regarding provisions or terms that you do not understand.
Seek legal advice: Many people believe that the slogan "You Are In Good Hands" can be relied on when disaster strikes. However, insurance companies maximize profits for shareholders by minimizing payouts on claims. Insurance companies frequently engage in bad faith practices that include delaying, denying and low balling claims. An experienced Miami insurance property damage lawyer can help you navigate past these potential pitfalls that could derail your claim.
Understanding Special Complications In Bad Faith Insurance Claims
If your insurance company engages in bad faith tactics in refusing your claim without a legitimate basis, unreasonably delaying the processing of your claim, or attempting to strong-arm you into accepting a lowball settlement, the insurer can be liable for damages beyond the value of your claim. These types of conduct are referred to as insurance bad faith, and such tactics can justify recovery of damages that exceed the value of your loss. While there are many forms of bad faith conduct, some common examples include:
- Denying coverage without conducting an investigation
- Refusing to negotiate with an insured after a legitimate claim has been filed
- Improperly explaining the law to "trick" an insured to compromise his or her claim
- Lack of negotiation with an insured when liability for coverage is clear
- Misrepresenting the statute of limitations to mislead an insured into forfeiting a claim
- Failing to provide a written explanation for denial of a claim, including references to provisions of the policy and applicable law
- Withholding information in the insurer's possession obviously relevant to your claim
- Failure to deny or pay a claim within a reasonable period
Although your insurance company might be liable for bad faith extra-contractual damages if it engages in these types of conduct, the process of pursuing a bad faith claim against an insurance carrier is complicated in Florida. Florida law bifurcates breach of contract lawsuits from bad faith lawsuits when policyholders pursue claims against their insurer. In this context; bifurcation means that you must receive some determination that the insurer is liable for breaching the policy before pursuing a bad faith action. This bifurcation process creates complicated issues, involving obtaining discovery of the claims file in the breach of contract case and obtaining a breach of contract determination to pursue the bad faith lawsuit. Our experienced Florida property damage insurance lawyers have the experience and expertise to assist you in navigating these complex issues.
Contact Our South Florida Insurance Claims Law Firm
To receive experienced and dedicated legal help with your hurricane or other windstorm-related insurance claims for damages to your home, condo, business or commercial property in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and throughout Florida, contact our firm as soon as possible to start on the road to protecting your legal rights. Our firm received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell* and was ranked as a top firm in South Florida by the Miami Herald. Put our exceptional personal injury attorneys to work on your case.
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