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.
Our insurance property damage lawyers offer the case of Clifton v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Co. as an example of the folly associated with expecting your insurance company or adjuster to aggressively protect your interest. Although this case is from another state and involves uninsured motorist coverage, the facts related to the insurance company’s handling of the claim provide a cautionary tale for homeowners.
The insured who was struck while crossing the street suffered severe injuries, including a leg fracture and head injury. The policyholder’s losses in medical bills alone amounted to $13,000. The insured contacted her insurance company to inquire whether she had uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. The insurance company claims representative indicated that no UM/UIM coverage was available, but the insured had access to $5,000 in medical payments coverage under her auto insurance policy. While the claims handler had the ability to use a software program called E-Commerce that indicates what policy coverage might be available, the representative did not use the software to see if the insured might be able to pursue other coverage. The insured also received $25,000 from the negligent driver.
The policyholder brought an action for bad faith and related claims against the insurance company. The insured’s basis for asserting bad faith was the failure of the insurance company representative to inform the insured that she was entitled to additional coverage under her parents’ UM/UIM policies. One of these UM/UIM policies provided limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident while the other provided benefits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. Although the insurer later paid a cumulative sum of $84, 000, the insured contended that the failure to disclose the availability of this additional coverage constituted bad faith.
The insurance company conceded that it made a mistake initially but claimed it corrected the error by later making payment under the other policies. The trial judge and appellate court agreed that the failure to inform the policyholder of the additional coverage in the early stages of the case did not constitute bad faith. The problem with this analysis is that under this approach insurance companies and adjusters have no incentive to carefully investigate other sources of coverage.
In Clifton, the conduct of the insurer demonstrates that carriers often have little incentive to “turn over every rock” when attempting to identify other forms of coverage that might be available to an insured. The best practice is to carefully review your entire policy and to seek legal advice from an experienced Miami homeowners insurance claims attorney if you have questions after a loss.
Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Policyholders from Homeowners Insurance Companies
If your homeowners insurance company is unreasonably refusing to pay your claim, you might have a legal claim for financial compensation. Our Miami property damage attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano will tenaciously pursue the full compensation our clients are entitled to under the law. For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted homeowners with damage claims across South Florida. We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages. Our skill and dedication have earned us an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.