Articles Posted in Fire Damages

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Our homeowners insurance coverage attorneys often meet people who are given the run around by their insurance carrier when they file a claim for damage to their home.  These individuals frequently assume they have no real recourse.  While policyholders usually understand that they can file a lawsuit for breach of contract, they might be concerned about their ability to afford attorney fees on an out-of-pocket basis.  Our law firm handles homeowners insurance claims involving denied policy benefits on a contingency fee basis.  Further, Florida courts can award lucrative attorney fee awards when an insurance carrier loses a breach of contract action.  In a case from the Florida 3rd DCA, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. v. Pulloquinga, the court not only granted attorney fees but applied a 1.5 multiplier to the amount of the fee award.

The insured filed a homeowner’s claim with Citizens after her house was destroyed by fire.  The insured promptly provided notice of the loss to her insurer and participated in an Examination Under Oath (EUO) without an attorney.  At the EUO, the insured provided documents supporting her claim.  Citizens issued a check for $5,000 to the insured but paid nothing more for the complete loss of her home.  The insured filed suit, and the carrier defended based on allegations of arson, insurance fraud, and misrepresentation in the application.  The homeowner was forced to continue paying her mortgage during the two-year period between the fire and date of trial.  She also was forced to seek out meager, alternative housing and to stay with friends.  Because the homeowner had to maintain her mortgage while living somewhere else, she experienced extreme financial hardships during this period.  Continue reading →

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Homeowners’ insurance policies are typically lengthy documents that contain many provisions most homeowners would find surprising. However, many homeowners fail to perform their due diligence and adequately examine the provisions of an insurance policy before signing. As a result, disputes often arise between insurance companies and insured individuals over the meaning of particular language in the policy. These disputes frequently occur when dealing with exclusions from coverage outlined in the policy. As the case below illustrates, parties should ensure that terms are well-defined in a policy and that the parties agree to the definitions before executing a policy.

In Bottee v. Southern Fidelity Ins. Co., an arsonist intentionally caused a fire that destroyed the plaintiff’s home. The plaintiff’s home was vacant for more than a month when the arsonist caused the fire. The plaintiff filed an property insurance claim with her homeowners’ insurance company, which denied the claim because the insurance policy in question excluded losses caused by malicious mischief and vandalism if it had been unoccupied for greater than thirty days before the loss occurred. The plaintiff then filed an action in state court against the insurance company. The court granted the insurance company’s request for summary judgment in its favor, and the plaintiff appealed. Continue reading →

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Recently, a house fire erupted in Immokalee, leaving two families homeless. The fire department arrived to find a home engulfed in flames.  They determined the point of origin of the fire to be a bedroom window where an air conditioning unit was installed.  Though the fire department responded quickly, the flames destroyed the home.  Two families who were jointly residing in the home are now struggling to determine how they can repair the damage done.  Unfortunately, our Miami Homeowners’ Insurance lawyers have to report that the family lacked homeowners’ insurance at the time of the fire.

Dealing With the Insurance Company after a Fire

If your home has been damaged by a fire and you have homeowners’ insurance, you can obtain compensation to repair or replace your home, but it is important you handle the claim correctly and seek assistance when needed.  The first important thing is that you do not delay in reporting your claim.  The insurance company will handle claims on a first come, first serve basis and delaying reporting will not only delay resolve of the matter, but could even result in denial.  Continue reading →

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Nationwide Insurance reports that there are over 20 million lightning strikes across the United States.  Florida is the lightning capital of the world and home to a high percentage of such strikes.  Each lightning strike can carry over 100,000 volts of power and a strike can result in significant damage, even far away from the point of impact. As a result, hundreds of thousands of insurance claims are filed each year due to lightning strikes.  Our Miami property insurance claim lawyers find that average claims can total over $4,000 dollars, with some ranging far higher and these claims cost the insurance company more than $1 billion in losses.

Will the insurance company cover my home or business?

Most standard homeowners’ insurance and business insurance policies will cover lightning related damage, including any fire damage coming from the strike.  Certain types of homeowners’ insurance policies will also cover power surges triggered by lightning strikes.

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Many Florida homeowners make premium payments amounting to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars over many years to purchase security against unanticipated losses caused by a broad range of perils including fire.  While you might be aggravated when your insurance company drags its feet in adjusting and paying your claim, this aggravation can turn to shock if your insurance company accuses you of arson or insurance fraud.  Many homeowners are unprepared for the stress and anxiety of such an allegation after enduring the loss of a dream home, valuable furnishings, other personal property and irreplaceable heirlooms.

Unfortunately, the strategy of threatening criminal charges and employing a private fire expert to open an investigation is a common tactic used by insurance companies to avoid paying fire damage claims and to strong arm policyholders into accepting low-ball offers.  Our Florida homeowner’s insurance claims attorneys have provided some suggestions that an insured can take to undermine this strategy.

Try to Document the Cause of the Fire: The scene following a major structural fire can be chaos and pandemonium, which precludes safely getting close to your home or looking around inside the structure.  However, there are situations where the fire only damages certain parts of the building and does not preclude re-entering and investigating.  If you know how the fire started, such as faulty wiring, a defective space heater or similar factors, you should take pictures or video footage that provide evidence of the cause of the fire.  Although the insurance company has the burden of proof on the issue of whether you started the fire, critical debris and evidence can disappear when the scene is cleaned up and investigated.  An insured should make sure to document available evidence that can be used to respond to allegations of arson.

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If your home is damaged in a fire, you are likely in shock and at a loss as to what will happen next.  The following is a look at some frequently asked questions concerning fire claims in Florida.  For individualized assistance, contact a fire damage insurance claim lawyer in Miami as soon as possible.

What should I do if my home or business has been damaged by a fire?

            In the event your home is damaged by smoke or fire, contact your insurance provider immediately.  If you do not receive a prompt response, contact a homeowner’s insurance attorney.  Your insurance company is going to want a list of all of your belongings damaged in the fire.  This is a difficult task, but an important one.  Start to compile this list as soon as possible.  It can also be helpful to offer photographs of the home or business prior to the fire.

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