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Our Miami homeowners insurance coverage attorneys are well aware of the advantages the Florida Legislature has bestowed on the insurance industry by bifurcating the issues of liability and claim value from bad faith litigation.  This legislation created a strategic advantage by permitting insurers to have the jury shielded from learning extensive details about sharp practices in an insurer’s adjusting process when considering liability.  Since the determination of damages can have a subjective component, insurance companies vigilantly leverage the bifurcation advantage by uniformly opposing attempts by policyholders to introduce evidence of its wrongful conduct and policy adjustment patterns.

In this blog, our Florida property damage attorneys review an appellate court decision demonstrating how insurers use the bifurcation process to shield juries from their bad faith practices.  In State Farm Florida Insurance Company v. Marascuillo, the policyholders originally filed a sinkhole claim related to the covered property (“the 2004 claim”).  The insurance company hired an engineering firm to investigate the claim and conduct testing.  The engineering company concluded sinkhole activity occurred and suggested compaction grouting as a remedy.  The insurer paid the estimated cost of this remedial approach to the sinkhole activity.  However, the policyholders hired a different engineering firm to remediate the sinkhole issues by way of grouted piers as opposed to compaction grouting. Continue reading →

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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.

When a homeowner lacks the hundreds or thousands of dollars that might be needed to pay for a water remediation service, one available option is the assignment of insurance benefits to a water remediation company. This approach permits the insured to get the damage handled immediately without the need to pay the cost (or full cost) or to wait for the insurer to adjust and pay the claim.

This two-part blog series explains a policyholder’s right to assign their claim following a covered loss in the context of a decision by the Florida 4th District Court of Appeals.  In Part I of this blog, our Miami homeowners insurance claims lawyers review the factual background of the case and rulings by both the trial court and the 4th DCA.  Part II of this blog focuses on the court’s analysis of an insured’s right to assign a post-loss claim despite the presence of a non-assignment clause in the insurance policy. Continue reading →

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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.

In Florida Ins. Guaranty Assoc, v. Lustre, the policyholders pursued a sinkhole damage claim.  The insurer retained BCI, an engineering firm, to conduct an inspection and perform testing.  BCI produced a report that indicated the property damage was related to several causes with sinkhole activity among those factors.  The insurer notified the policyholders that the BCI report had been submitted to three contracting firms for bids to stabilize the residence.  The insurer also contacted another company for cosmetic repairs.  The insurer subsequently tendered payment to the policyholders for the actual cash value of the property damage based on an estimate by one of the contractors, Paul Davis Restoration. Continue reading →

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When your home is seriously damaged by a windstorm, fire, or other force of nature, you might end up being displaced from your residence.  Although the repairs associated with many insurance claims occur while homeowners remain in their homes, this may not be a safe or feasible option.  If your home is a total loss or the kitchen is unusable, the only viable option might be to relocate on a temporary basis.

Homeowners who must temporarily move out of their residence will be exposed to living expenses that would not have been incurred without the event that caused the loss.  These extra living expenses can impose a substantial financial burden because homeowners will be “doubling up” on certain expenses, such as housing in the form of both mortgage payments and motel/hotel bills.  These expenses also include such items as the increased cost of dining out if your normal practice is to prepare meals at home.  An insured’s homeowners policy might cover these increased living expenses.  This type of insurance company benefit, referred to as “additional living expenses” (ALE), are not automatic in every case where an insured suffers a loss caused by a covered peril.

Our Miami homeowners insurance lawyers understand the home must be rendered “uninhabitable” for ALE coverage to be triggered.  This term is not necessarily as straightforward as you might assume.  Even if an insured could elect to continue residing in his or her residence, this does not mean that the home is habitable under the terms of a homeowners policy.  While the basic definition of “uninhabitable” is “not fit to live in,” the standard for making this determination typically is based on state, county, or city code standards.  As a general rule, almost every locality requires that the occupants’ basic needs be met for a home to be considered habitable.  When such fundamental services as water, electricity, heat, or plumbing are unavailable, these deficiencies will usually constitute a basis for determining the residence is not habitable. Continue reading →

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Homeowners’ insurance policies universally include a provision that requires an insured to provide notice of loss on a reasonably prompt basis.  This notice requirement often constitutes a condition precedent to payment of a claim.  Insurance carriers frequently assert “late notice” as a basis for denying a claim and as a defense in breach of contract lawsuits.  Policies typically do not establish a specific deadline or time-frame within which notice must be given to a carrier by an insured.  This two-part blog post provides a review of a court decision analyzing when the “prompt notice” provision in a homeowners policy is triggered.  In Part I of this blog, our Miami Hurricane Damage Lawyers provide an overview of the specific facts and circumstances of the case.  Part II reviews the court’s analysis of when the notice provision commences based on the insured’s knowledge of events or damage to the property.

The 3rd DCA of Florida in the case of Laquer v. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation ruled that notice is not necessarily late even when it is provided several years after exposure to the covered peril.  The insured was the owner of a condominium unit that was rented to a tenant at the time of Hurricane Wilma.  Although notice was not provided to the insurance company until three years after the hurricane, the appellate court rejected Citizens’ contention that it was entitled to summary judgment because notice provided after this period was late as a matter of law.  Continue reading →

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While many homeowners pursue insurance claims for damage to their home without an experienced Miami homeowners insurance claims attorney, the technical requirements of pursuing legal remedies can make this a costly decision.  Florida insurance law involves many hypertechnical procedural and administrative requirements that can derail a valid claim.  These procedural hurdles frequently are compounded by technical minutia inserted into insurance policies that homeowners do not notice as their eyes glaze over while reading page after page of complex legal terminology.  These complicated procedural requirements might even be subject to strict timing requirements.

In this blog, our Florida homeowner insurance property damage attorneys review a case decided by the 4th District Court of Appeal of Florida, State Farm Florida Insurance v. Lime Bay Condominium, Inc.  The case provides an example of the importance of timely compliance with a notice requirement associated with the appraisal process.  The insured submitted a claim for replacement of the roof of a condominium complex after damage caused by a hurricane.  The insured submitted an estimate for repair amounting to $1.5 million.  State Farm conducted several inspections and concluded that the roof needed repair rather than replacement.  The insurer tendered $6,940 to the insured to cover the repairs in September 2006. Continue reading →

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The language in a homeowners insurance policy can often be difficult to interpret especially in the context of other provisions of the policy.  Ambiguity in a policy generally will be construed to provide coverage when the language is susceptible to conflicting interpretations authorizing and negating coverage.  However, our Miami homeowners’ insurance claims attorneys understand this rule must be understood in light of the distinction between latent and patent ambiguity.  Patent ambiguity refers to provisions or terms that are conflicting or unclear language within the four corners of the policy.  Because the insurance company drafts the policy, such ambiguities will be construed against the insurance company.  Latent ambiguities involve situations where the policy is clear on its face, but unanticipated facts emerge that render the policy unclear under the circumstances.

The 2nd DCA, in Price v. Castle Key Indemnity Company considered this distinction in reversing summary judgment against an insured.  The court considered whether a loss caused by 195,000 gallons of water over a prolonged period would be considered “seepage.”  The parties to a homeowners insurance policy agreed that the massive water loss was caused by a leaking pipe in an upstairs bathroom during an extended absence of the policyholder.  The policy covered “sudden and accidental physical loss to property” subject to the following exclusion: Continue reading →

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Our Miami homeowners insurance claims attorneys recognize the critical importance of a homeowners insurance policy after a serious loss caused by perils like a severe windstorm, fire, or another covered peril.  While a homeowners policy provides vital financial protection against a potentially devastating loss, insurance companies deny many legitimate insurance claims.  This tendency of insurers to search for defensible reasons to refuse to pay a claim makes it imperative that homeowners carefully read and understand their policy.  Every homeowner policy imposes certain duties on the insured to undertake post-loss actions.  Failure to comply with these conditions can result in the insurance company having a valid basis to refuse to pay a claim.

The Florida 3rd DCA case of State Farm Insurance Company v. Xirinachs, et al. provides an example of the fundamental way that non-compliance with the terms of an insurance policy can adversely impact the insured during the claims process.  The insureds brought a claim for supplemental benefits under a policy with the insurer after their home was allegedly damaged during Hurricane Wilma.  The insureds sought an order compelling appraisal that was granted by the trial court. Continue reading →

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When Florida property owners experience a loss in the form of damage to their home, they often are shocked when their insurer handles the claim in less than an expeditious manner.  While the purpose of insurance is to cover unexpected losses, the insurance industry maximizes its profits by finding ways to avoid paying valid claims.  When homeowners file a property damage claim, insurance companies frequently look for justifications to deny coverage.  As an insurer investigates a claim, the process often begins with scrutiny of the insurance application.  In this blog, our Florida homeowners insurance claim attorneys explain how questions that are answered incorrectly may lead to a denial based on claims of misrepresentation or non-disclosure.

Florida Law Authorizes Rescission for Some Application Inaccurracies

Although inaccuracies or lies in a policy application can constitute a valid basis to deny a claim, insurance companies cannot automatically refuse to settle a claim because of incorrect or missing information in the application.  By the same token, our Miami homeowners claim lawyers recognize innocent mistakes by policyholders can have devastating consequences in certain situations.  The relevance of the inaccurate information to the decision to issue a policy, policy limits, and the amount of the premium will determine whether the omission or misstatement allows the insurance to rescind the policy and deny the claim.  Florida Statutes, Section 627.409 authorizes insurers to rescind an insurance contract under certain circumstances based on false statements or non-disclosures. Continue reading →

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Greenberg, Stone & Urbano Discusses Your Hurricane Insurance Policy

After 10 years without a single hurricane-making landfall in Florida, hurricane Hermine broke the streak when it hit Florida as a Category 1 hurricane near the Big Bend area.  The storm brought heavy wind and rains, knocking out power and inflicting widespread damage.  One person was killed in Marion County while storm damage caused damage to several homes.  Not longer after Hermine cleared the state, Hurricane Matthew formed and turned towards the state of Florida.  Matthew reached a Category 5 storm before making landfall, the first storm to reach these wind speeds since 2007.  Matthew left much of the east coast with power outages, flooding, and damages.  While the storm fortunately turned slightly out to sea, it  left lasting damages in many areas.

At Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, our Miami homeowners’ insurance lawyers know that hurricane season is a time of stress for many Floridians. Bracing for a hurricane is stressful, and worrying about your property in the event of a storm can add far more anxiety. As a Florida homeowner, it is imperative that you obtain the coverage you need to protect yourself in case a hurricane strikes.  Continue reading →

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