Do you have coverage if two forces damage your property or injure someone? The easy answer is yes, but that is not always the case. Remember that insurance companies take your premium then try to find legitimate excuses not to cover your losses. That is one of the ways insurance companies make money. Ever notice some of the biggest buildings in some cities are named after insurance companies? They are good at assuming risk then avoiding paying that risk. Homeowners’ insurance lawyers, Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, are good at making insurance companies pay.
In a typical homeowners’ policy, two different yet complimentary coverages round out your policy. The first is general liability coverage. General liability insurance ensures the homeowners against injuries suffered by third parties at your home. Homeowners’ policies exclude intentional acts like intentionally shooting someone. Liability policies cover negligent acts committed by the homeowner. Property insurance protects you against loss of the home due to fire or another natural disaster, theft, burglary, floods caused by broken pipes and the like. Insurance policies cover some “perils” while refusing to cover others. The insurance contract must specifically the risks it includes and excludes. Specificity avoids confusion, hopefully.
Confusion sets in when covered, and uncovered risks join forces, and each risk has something to do with the loss suffered by the insured. This scenario creates a substantial problem. Florida courts have dithered back and forth about what is covered. The Florida courts finally settled on the idea that if a covered peril proximately caused the harm, then the insurance policy must cover the risk. If the loss is the proximately resulting from the non-covered peril, then there is no coverage available to the insured. Thus, if natural hazards and damages caused by others combine to damage the property, then the primary cause of the injury will determine what is covered.
This factual scenario reared its ugly head in a recent court case. The plaintiffs bought a home and insured in against loss for $8 million. Not long after they made the purchase, they observed water leaks during rain storms. The water damage increased with the storm’s intensity. Additionally, mold grew inside the home. The homeowners made a claim against their policy for the damages. Their insurance company only paid for the mold damage and denied all other claims. The insurance company argued that the building was negligently constructed. Hurricane Wilma struck Florida and caused greater damage. The residence was a total loss and the owners demolished it. They sued several parties including the homeowners’ insurance company because the company refused to cover the loss.
The insurance company claimed that because negligent construction caused the damage, they need not cover the plaintiffs’ losses. Negligent construction was not a covered peril under this contract. But, negligent construction is arguably a basis for a claim of third-party liability. A jury awarded the plaintiffs $8 million after trial, but the Second District Court of Appeals reversed that decision. That court remanded, or sent the case back, to the trial court for a new trial. The appeals court ruled that a jury must determine what caused the loss of the property: was it the bad workmanship or was it the weather? The answer to that question will resolve the question of whether the damage is covered.
Do Not Attempt to Navigate These Waters Alone
Contact one of the top law firms in Miami, according to the Miami Herald: Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano. They have a combined 130 years of legal experience to help you with your South Florida homeowners’ insurance question. Call the Miami law firm Martindale Hubbell rated as AV for the dedicated service they offer to their clients. Call Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano today at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 for a free consultation.