Articles Posted in Water Damages

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Homeowners often presume that they are covered for property damage to their home caused by flooding.  This misconception can be even more harmful to homeowners because the term “flood damage” is far more expansive within the context of an insurance policy than the meaning when the term is used in everyday parlance.  Water damage caused by a swimming pool located on higher ground that overflows into the entrance of a backyard might be considered flood damage.  Since flood damage must be covered through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), homeowners must understand the importance of ensuring they have flood coverage.  In this blog, our  homeowner insurance lawyers review a decision revealing the devastating consequences of terminating or failing to obtain flood coverage.

In Hodde v. American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida, the policyholders purchased two separate Standard Flood Insurance Policies (SFIP) on May 31, 2011.  The policies included a 30-day waiting period.  The terms of the policy allowed the insureds to cancel the coverage and obtain a full refund of all premiums during the waiting period.  On June 6, 2011, FEMA announced the Missouri River was flooding, which made the policies worthless for the June flood because the 30-day waiting period had not expired.  After FEMA designated the impending flood, the policyholders exercised their contractual right to terminate the policy and obtain a refund.  The policyholders home was subsequently destroyed when the Missouri River flooded shortly after the policies were canceled.  Continue reading →

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Our Miami homeowners insurance coverage lawyers recognize that many people who have a basement in their home are unaware that standard flood insurance policies exclude coverage for damage to their basement.  Some people also have no idea that flood damage to the lower level of their home might not be covered by their policy because of the nuanced definition of the term “basement” under Write-Your-Own policies issued under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  Because policies must conform to the language and terms dictated by the NFIP, this flaw in the protection of the lower level of homes from flood applies to many policyholders.  Further, our Miami homeowners insurance claims lawyers want policyholders to be aware that flood policies are interpreted narrowly because the program is subsidized by public funds.

The First Circuit opinion in Matusevich v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance Company offers a cautionary tale for those who perform improvements like adding a patio, deck, swimming pool, or similar upgrades to their home.  The insured purchased a Standard Flood Insurance Policy that included an exclusion for coverage of damage to the basement.  Under the policy, a basement was defined as “[a]ny area of the building, including any sunken room or sunken portion of a room, having its floor below ground level (subgrade) on all sides.” 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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Homeowners benefit greatly from the right to summon a water mitigation company to remove water from their home after a severe storm without waiting for their insurance company to adjust and pay the claim.  However, the right of an insured to assign post-loss benefits to a loss mitigation contractor is being hotly contested by Florida insurance companies.  Insurers presume that taking on an individual homeowner in an insurance claims dispute presents less of a challenge than taking on a water mitigation company.

Fortunately, a fair number of decisions have favored the right of policyholders to assign their right to proceeds under their policy to obtain services to remedy water damage.  A recent decision from the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeals (2nd DCA) continues this trend, affirming the ability of homeowners to use this effective approach for prompt remediation of water damage.  While our property damage attorneys discuss a single case in this blog post, many other Florida appellate court decisions also have affirmed the right of policyholders to assign post-loss benefits without the consent of the policyholder’s insurance company.

In Bioscience West, Inc. v. Gulfstream Property and Casualty Insurance Co., the insured experienced water damage to her home and hired a water mitigation contractor to perform “emergency water removal and construction services.”  The insured executed a document with the heading “Assignment of Insurance Benefits.”  The document provided as follows: “I hereby assign any and all insurance rights, benefits, and proceeds, pertaining to services …. I hereby authorize direct payment of any benefits or proceeds to my property… as consideration for any repairs ….” Continue reading →

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Florida state courts, over the last several years, have heard numerous cases dealing with the assignment of benefits by homeowners’ insurance policyholders to third-party entities such as home repair companies without the approval of insurance companies. These entities file suit to recover benefits if the insurance companies fail to pay, either in part or wholly, according to the assigned rights. Florida courts seem to favor the assignability of benefits unless the language of the insurance policies prohibit the assignment, and therefore, insurance companies may be revising their policies to include language to that effect.

In One Call Property Services v. Security First Ins. Co., an insured homeowner, assigned insurance benefits to a third-party company that performed emergency services and property restoration work. The owner had experienced severe water damage on her property and asked the company to perform remediation and water removal, which the company completed. The owner executed the assignment of insurance benefits as payment for the company’s services. However, the insurance firm failed to pay the remediation company adequately for its services, and therefore, the company filed a claim for breach of contract. The insurance company requested for the trial court to dismiss the suit contending that the insurance policy in question had a provision prohibiting assignment of benefits. Consequently, the policy prevented the remediation company from filing a lawsuit as an assignee. The trial court ruled in the insurance company’s favor and dismissed the lawsuit, which the company appealed. Continue reading →

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Our water damage attorneys find that water damage is still one of the reasons most commonly stated in home insurance claims, particularly in Florida. Water damage may stem from a wide range of reasons – severe weather events, bursting pipes, overflowing tubs or sinks, etc. Consequently, many homeowner’s insurance cases that policyholders file in court raise issues regarding the denial of claims involving water damage. The case below shows how one homeowner prevailed against an insurance company that denied a claim arising from water damage.

In Cheetham v. Southern Oak Insurance Company, the plaintiff filed an insurance claim with Southern Oak Insurance Company, their insurer. The plaintiff’s home had sustained some water damage, but Southern Oak denied the claim, stating that the insurance policy had a water damage exclusion statement that applied to the claim and supported its denial. Specifically, the damage exclusion provided that the policy excluded losses caused by water that backs up in the drains or sewers or overflows or discharged from a sump pump or other equipment. However, the policy also states that the policy covers accidental release or overflow of water from a sewer pipe in the premises or plumbing system on the premises. Continue reading →

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Water damage can cause significant issues for homeowners.  Not only can property damage be costly and stressful, but some homeowners and their family members suffer health consequences, such as exposure to mold that may lead to illness.  When insurance companies do not act quickly to help you repair your home by processing your claim as efficiently and quickly as possible, the consequences can leave you feeling uneasy for weeks, months, or even years in certain situations where the water damage is extensive.

Insurance companies scrutinize every claim, even if it seems obvious that water damage to your home is covered by your insurance policy.  Many Florida homeowners are dealing with water damage claims on a regular basis, especially in the Miami area, where 15,491 water damage claims were filed from January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2015, the fifth largest in the country during this timeframe.

The property insurance claims attorneys of Greenberg, Stone & Urbano are no strangers to insurance claims that involve water damage, as we all know that the state of Florida is, for a lack of a better term, a wet state.  The potential exists for any homeowner to experience water damage for a variety of reasons stemming from weather and general maintenance issues.  Our attorneys have helped clients determine if their insurance companies are addressing their property damage claims fairly, and if not, what options exist for seeking to have a claim covered in accordance with an insurance policy.  There is simply too much at stake to handle the claims process alone when you are concerned that your claim may be wrongfully denied.  Determining the true cause of the water damage is the first step to getting your matter resolved. Continue reading →

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Water damage within your home can result in substantial damage.  When it comes to homeowners’ insurance coverage, water damage is a complex issue.  Many homeowners do not fully understand what types of water damage are covered and what may be excluded.  Our homeowners’ insurance attorneys have assisted a number of clients with water damage to their home.  We understand that these claims may be denied or minimized and the insured often needs help to receive coverage.  The following is a look at mold and water damage as it relates to homeowners’ insurance in Florida:

The Source of the Water Matters

When it comes to coverage, the source of the water is extremely important.  Some types of water damage will be covered, while others are excluded and this distinction stems from the source of the water.  A flood results from external water rising onto your land, often occurring during heavy rains, hurricanes, overflowing rivers, and the like.  Damage caused by flooding is generally not covered under a standard homeowners’ insurance policy.  Rather, flood damage will require a separate flood policy. Continue reading →

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The heavy rainfall in the past few weeks has caused flooding in some areas of South Florida.  Many homeowners are still mopping up and rainy season in the state is still not over.  Our Miami flood damage claim lawyers provide the following look at what you should do in the event your home has flooded.

There is water everywhere, what should I do?

If the flood damage is minimal, clean up any standing water as soon as possible to protect your floor boards and your personal possessions.  If your home is actually underwater, then you should start by calling your insurance company as soon as possible.  Most insurance companies offer 24 hour emergency help lines.  The insurance company will often recommend that you wait until waters start to recede before you began your cleanup.  Continue reading →

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Although water damage caused by burst water pipes, toilets that overflow, or defective hot water heaters constitute one of the most common forms of property damage, homeowner’s insurance claims for such damage can be complicated.  Although standard Florida homeowner’s insurance policies cover water damage for direct physical loss caused by water damage, homeowner’s policies typically include many exclusions and policy limitations that undercut the value of this coverage.  This blog post provides information relevant to common questions our Florida homeowner’s insurance lawyers receive about water damage claims.  While we have attempted to address the most common questions, we invite you to contact us to discuss your specific situation.

What arguments do insurance companies advance to avoid paying water damage claims?

Some of the most common contentions made by insurance companies when denying water damage claims involve timing and deadline issues.  The insurer might contend that the damage occurred prior to the policy period or that the insurer was delinquent in providing notice of the claim.  A common exclusion seen in many homeowner’s policies denies coverage for water damage when a leak has existed for a period of longer than 14 days prior to submission of a claim.  Insurance companies often try to use this exclusion under circumstances which are extremely unfair to the insured.  While a policyholder might not know a leak exists until long after the 14 days if the source of the leak is inside a wall or under the floor, this will not discourage an insurer from attempting to rely on this exclusion to deny a claim.

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