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Insurance Claims Lawyers Discuss 1st DCA Ruling that Valued Policy Law Trumps Insurance Policy Appraisal Provision

Although Florida law can be tough on policyholders, our insurance coverage attorneys know that there are statutory provisions that provide important protections to consumers.  A valuable statutory protection under Florida insurance law is referred to as the Valued Policy Law (FVPL) [§627.702, Fla. Stat. (2008)].  The FVPL provides expedited procedures for homeowners (including owners of mobile homes) who experience a total loss.  The FVPL imposes a duty on an insurer to determine the insurable value of a building and specify the value in the policy.  In the event of a total loss (i.e. the cost of repair exceeds the value of the building), the insurer is to pay the value indicated upon which premiums are collected.  While this law does not prevent your homeowners insurer from raising defenses to coverage, the established value often prevents the need for costly and time-consuming litigation when an insured suffers a total loss.

Given the power of this provision, our Miami homeowners coverage lawyers know insurance carriers frequently search for ways to circumvent this protection provided to policyholders.  The 1st District Court of Appeal for Florida considered an insurer’s contention that the appraisal provision in a policy could trump the FVPL in Freeman v. Integrity Insurance Company of Florida.  In Freeman, the policyholders’ residence was badly damaged by vandalism during a burglary.  They notified their insurer of the loss and their assumption of total loss, which would trigger their FVPL rights. 

The carrier invoked the appraisal provision under the policy based on a dispute over the amount of damages.  The insured filed a lawsuit asserting the applicability of the FVPL, which entitled the policyholders to the full policy limit for the total loss of their mobile home.  The insurer responded by requesting that the trial court’s decision abating the lawsuit until the appraisal was conducted made the FVPL inapplicable.  The appraiser for both parties and the referee all agreed that the extensive damage constituted a total loss.  However, the insurance company contended that the trial court’s order compelling appraisal made FVPL provisions inapplicable as a matter of law and entitled the insurer to summary judgment.

On appeal, the 1st DCA articulated the objective associated with the FVPL as creating a way “to fix the measure of damages” and “require[ ] the insurer to pay that amount listed on the face of the policy in the event of a total loss without the necessity of any additional proof of the actual value of the loss incurred.”  While the court conceded that appraisal clauses are preferred under Florida law because they discourage lawsuits, it also pointed out that a statute controls when it conflicts with an insurance policy provision.  The court also reasoned that this conclusion was supported by the principle that a policy which is subject to two interpretations with one providing and one denying coverage, the policy must be construed in favor of the insured.

Although the language in your policy might pose difficult issues in terms of coverage or the value of your claim, sometimes statutory provisions will override policy provisions.  If you seek legal advice from an experienced Miami insurance claims lawyer, the attorney can carefully review your policy in the context of existing statutes and case law to identify legal principles that might improve the strength of your position.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Policyholders from Homeowners Insurance Companies

If your homeowners insurance company is using sharp practices or otherwise fails to process and pay your claim reasonably promptly, you might have a legal claim for financial compensation.  Our Miami property damage attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano will tenaciously pursue the full compensation 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.


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