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Our Miami Homeowners’ Insurance Lawyers Answer Some of Your Questions

Most homeowners purchase homeowners’ insurance to protect themselves against considerable losses that they may occur in the event of a fire, hurricane, or another disaster.  While homeowners’ insurance offers peace of mind, many homeowners are rudely surprised when they go to file their first claim and it is denied. With so much confusion swirling around homeowners’ insurance, it is understandable that many homeowners have questions about their coverage and homeowners’ insurance claims. Our homeowners’ insurance attorneys answer some of your questions below:

  1. What should I do if my property has been damaged?

Your first step should be contacting your insurance company to report the incident.  You will need to inform the insurance company when the damage occurred, how it happened, and whether the police were contacted (as in the instance of theft).  Once you have reported the damage, you should contact our Miami homeowners’ insurance attorneys for help with your insurance matter. Continue reading →

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Our Homeowners’ Insurance Attorneys Define Some Important Homeowners’ Insurance Policy Terms

Have you ever read your homeowners’ insurance policy?  If you have, chances are you were left with more questions than answers when you reached the end of it.  Insurance policies are complex and the terminology is often quite technical.  Terminology is rarely even consistent among policy, leading to even further confusion. To aid in your understanding of your homeowners’ insurance policy, we discuss below some key terminology you should know.  For individualized assistance with your claim or other homeowners’ insurance related matter, contact our Miami homeowners’ insurance lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano.

  1. Replacement cost: Replacement cost is the amount of money it will take to replace your damaged or destroyed home or covered personal item in the same or similar market.  Replacement cost is calculated based on the initial price you paid for the home or item.  Depreciation is not considered.
  2. Actual cash value: Actual cash value or ACV varies from replacement cost in that the actual cost value is based on market value or the initial cost of your home with depreciation taken into account.  Most homeowners’ insurance policies will cover the actual cash value of your damaged or destroyed personal property, but the replacement cost of your home’s physical structure.
  3. Water backup: Water damage is one of the most common incidents to inflict property damage.  Water can backup due to a variety of malfunctions with appliances or other features within your home.  Most standard homeowners’ insurance policies will not cover water backup.  You will want to explore separate coverage for this serious problem.
  4. Allrisk coverage: All-risk coverage will list everything that is not included in your coverage, which can make it easier to assess your policy exclusions.  All-risk coverage is fairly comprehensive and will allow many homeowners to feel secure with their policy.
  5. Additional living expenses: Homeowners can seek reimbursement for the costs of temporary housing, food, and other living expenses if the home has been damaged due to a covered peril that makes the home uninhabitable.  Additional living expenses are generally capped.
  6. Deductible: Your deductible is the amount you must pay before any payment is due from the insurance company.  You should review your deductibles so that you anticipate this sum in the event you ever need to file a claim.
  7. Material misrepresentation: Your claim could be denied due to a material misrepresentation, which is a significant misstatement on your application form.  If your claim has been denied on this basis, contact our homeowners’ insurance attorneys for assistance.  Your denial may be appealable.

Continue reading →

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What Happens If Your Tree Damages the Neighbor’s Home or Property?

Trees abound in Florida, with numerous species of palms, oaks, and pine trees growing several feet into the air.  While Floridians tend to love their trees and landscaping, disputes may arise if your tree causes damage to a neighboring property.  Our Miami homeowners’ insurance attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano have witnessed numerous falling tree arguments.  We understand that homeowners’ insurance claims for falling trees can be complex and will fight to see that our clients obtain the coverage they deserve.

Responsibilities for Tree Overgrowth

Homeowners may wonder, who is responsible for the damages that result from overgrown tree branches or roots?  The early case of Gallo v. Heller answers this question.  In the case, Gallo sued his neighbor claiming that several of Heller’s trees were causing damage to Gallo’s property.  The Third District Court of Appeal held that Gallo could not recover damages from Heller for the encroachment of his trees, but he could take the measures necessary to trim or cut any infringing roots that ended up on Gallo’s property.  Continue reading →

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When the insurer acts in bad faith in denying a claim, homeowners can file suit to recover the benefits they were wrongfully denied in addition to attorney’s fees.  The award of attorney’s fees is important as it can significantly increase the sum awarded to the insured.  In a recent case, the Florida Supreme Court considered a unique question—if the insurer denies a claim in good faith, is the insured still entitled to attorney’s fees?  Our homeowners’ insurance lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano discuss the case of Johnson v. Omega Ins. Co. and its potential implications on the award of attorney’s fees in future homeowners’ insurance disputes.

Bad Faith Denial Not Required for Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees

In Johnson v. Omega Ins. Co., the insured submitted a claim with her homeowners’ insurance company for damage caused due to a sinkhole.  The insurer investigated the claim and made an initial determination that the damage was not caused by a sinkhole and was not covered by the policy.  The insured filed suit claiming the insurer acted in bad faith.  Meanwhile, the insured continued to investigate the claim and ultimately concluded the damage was caused by a sinkhole.  The insurer filed an answer to the lawsuit admitting that the insured should receive benefits.  Based on this, the insured moved for a judgment and attorney’s fees, which the trial court granted. Continue reading →

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As South Florida homeowners insurance claims attorneys, we are very familiar with sinkholes. Sinkhole damage is a common problem in Florida as many Floridians are aware. Folks moving to the area for retirement or purchasing vacation homes are learning a hard lesson about the havoc a sinkhole can reap.  According to the Tampa Bay Times, once the Florida legislature amended its sinkhole insurance coverage law in 2011, finding adequate coverage for sinkhole damage has proved difficult. Before 2011, however, getting compensation for your sinkhole claim was very easy. Now, the newspaper reports, insurance companies hire contractors who render favorable opinions for the insurance company, to the detriment of homeowners.

Despite the apparent difficulties, Florida homeowners should consider purchasing sinkhole coverage as an individual rider on their homeowner’s policy. Sinkhole coverage is an add-on to your policy, unlike catastrophic ground collapse which is covered by your standard homeowner’s policy. Sinkhole damage, not amounting to catastrophic ground collapse, usually causes cracks in foundations, walls, and floors. Also, the home can shift if the sinkhole opens deep enough. The problem with the amended law is that insurance companies, in particular, the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, is no longer obligated to compensate homeowners adequately for their loss. Homes are losing their value because of sinkhole damage for which the insurance company refuses to reimburse. Continue reading →

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Condominium living offers so many advantages, in particular for people who bought condominiums as a vacation property. As South Florida’s homeowners insurance claims attorneys, we have seen cases in which the condominium association, whether run by the group of condo owners or run by a property management company, is inadequately insured. We counsel our clients to make certain that the condo they wish to purchase has the proper insurance. Failure to maintain appropriate insurance creates a huge problem. Under Florida law, the condo association is responsible for keeping the right insurance. If the association fails to do so, you may be forced to sue the condo association, of which you are a member by owning a unit.

Florida law regarding condominium insurance is complicated. The law designates the condo association as the entity that must have an insurance policy in place at all times. However, a developer must purchase the policy when the developer runs the condo association. The developer is liable to the condo owners for a breach of fiduciary duty for failing to maintain a policy. The developer has a defense under the statute. There is no breach of fiduciary duty if the developer can prove that it made “best efforts to maintain coverage.” Unfortunately, the law does not define what is meant by “best efforts.” The costs of the insurance must be maintained in the budget of the condominium association. Continue reading →

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As experienced South Florida homeowners insurance claims attorneys, we carefully scrutinize the work insurance adjusters perform when evaluating our client’s claim. It is a good idea to understand the role of the insurance adjuster in the claims process, that way you know what to expect if you have to file a claim on your homeowner’s insurance policy.

Some insurance companies employ adjusters. However, some adjusters are public adjusters. They are not beholden to any company, and the claimant can hire the public adjuster to evaluate the claim. An insurance adjuster estimates the owner’s claim of loss or damage. An important part of the adjuster’s responsibilities is to determine whether the claim is fraudulent. The adjuster does not only take the word of the claimant; rather the adjuster investigates the alleged loss. The adjuster will visit the property in question. The adjuster may take photographs, take measurements, and make other attempts to document the damaged area.  The adjuster can interview property owners and any witnesses, depending on the loss. The adjuster can also research police reports, fire reports, and medical reports as part of the investigation.  Continue reading →

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As property insurance claim lawyers practicing in homeowner’s insurance claims, we would like to offer advice to Florida residents and property owners about things you should consider when filing a claim.  The following list is by no means comprehensive, and some situations may call for different responses, but it gives the reader an idea of some issues of which they should be aware when filing a claim on their homeowner’s insurance policy. Some issues may be problematic for folks who own vacation property in Florida, especially if they are away from the property when a disaster strikes. Regardless of whether you are a year-round resident or a “snow bird,” your insurance company has an obligation to deal with you fairly when paying your loss. We can help you recover what you deserve if your homeowner’s insurance firm refuses to pay your claim.

Now that you have decided to file a claim, what are the best steps to take? The precise sequence depends on the nature of the claim, but there are a few steps every homeowner can take. First, you should document your claim. Must, if not all of us, have access to a camera. You should document the damage with photographs. Each homeowner should consider photographing their home in its pristine state, so when the time comes to file a claim, the homeowner can use the before and after shots to depict the extent of the damage. Florida vacation homeowners should strongly consider protecting themselves in this fashion. Additionally, homeowners should consider retaining receipts for high-value items. Keep them in a safety deposit box or fire-proof safe. Continue reading →

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Florida insurance law is a comprehensive set of statutes that govern how insurance companies operate within the state. Florida’s insurance laws serve the consumers in the state and protect them from unfair business practices. A vital component of legitimate insurance business focuses on compensating their insured adequately for their loss. Otherwise, unfair business practices committed by insurance companies can cause a homeowner to lose money and lead toward financial ruin. Florida homeowners claim attorneys must be very familiar with the laws that regulate Florida’s insurance industry so they can provide their clients with appropriate legal advice and help them maximize their client’s recovery.

To comply with Florida law, the insurance carrier must off their customer a choice between two alternative repayment schemes. The insurer must offer the homeowner the option to choose between replacement cost or actual cash value. Replacement cost may not exceed the company’s liability under the policy. Importantly, replacement cost may not include expenses paid to bring the dwelling into compliance with health and safety codes or the cost of tearing the structure down and removing debris.

The insurance company must also inform its customers of the option to select a different repayment option. The insured may choose the replacement cost of the lost items, not to exceed the policy limits. This option allows the insured to include the compliance expenses in the amount adjusted by the insurance company. However, the amount spent bringing the premises into compliance is limited to either 25 or 50% of the total cost of the home. The homeowner selects the percentage.  This additional coverage is known as law and ordinance coverage. Continue reading →

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Our experience as Miami Homeowners Insurance Claims Attorneys has taught us that what should be simple can frequently be complicated. We are here to help you with your flood claim if your insurer refuses to pay your claim.

Having a home near the coast in Florida most assuredly means you will deal with rising water from the ocean. Ocean waters can flood homes and condominiums when tides overflow the beaches and breakwaters from a combination of high, onshore winds and high tides. The water pushed onto land, called the storm surge can flow up to a mile inland. Tropical storms and hurricanes can cause flooding. Heavy or torrential rains can also cause flooding. Consequently, having flood insurance on your property is of vital importance to protecting your assets.

Homeowners must be aware that damage or loss caused by flooding from rising waters is not automatically covered by your standard homeowner’s insurance policy. Flooding events from burst pipes are covered under the standard policy. Therefore, you must purchase flood insurance. Many Florida insurance carriers offer flood insurance. If you are not able to find flood insurance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can help you locate a policy to provide you coverage. A homeowner must be aware that the flood insurance does not take effect until 30 days after you purchase the coverage. Interestingly, FEMA indicates that 20% of all flood loss claims originate from areas not situated in a flood plain.  Continue reading →

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