Buying a home is a nerve-racking experience, but after becoming a homeowner you quickly take pride in your home. Year after year, you pay your homeowner's insurance premiums for the ‘just in case' scenario. Your insurance premiums increase annually, and you continue to pay them for the peace of mind to protect your home. Then, when the dreadful time comes when you need your insurance, you are almost afraid to submit a claim. You are afraid to submit a claim and cause your premiums to skyrocket, but you need the financial help. After you submit the claim, your insurance company either wants to exclude the claim from coverage or offer you a fraction of what you are owed to repair the damage.
You are not alone. According to studies, one in twenty (20) insured homes has a claim each year. This means there is roughly a 5% chance you will have a homeowner's insurance claim each year. One in fifty (50) homes has a property damage claim every year for wind or hail damage. Approximately one in fifty (50) homes has a property damage claim caused by water damage or freezing each year. About one in 325 homes has a property damage claim due to theft. About one in 360 homes has a property damage claim related to fire and lightning. Fortunately, in Florida, we do not have to worry about property damage due to freezing. However, we still have plenty of property damage claims to consider.
The chances are, you will have a claim at some point in your life. Insurance companies continuously record profits. Over the past ten (10) years, the property/casualty insurance industry has enjoyed average profits of over $30 billion a year. These insurance companies are able to do this by increasing premiums and paying out less on claims. It is simple math that drives this business model. Unfortunately, this is where you as a homeowner may get caught up in their business model. An insurance company's financial interests are averse to your financial interest. The less money they pay to you, the more money they save. It is not right that after years of paying into your insurance company, they are not there for you in your time of need. This is where a property damage lawyer can level the playing field.
Can you hire a property damage claim lawyer?
Yes, there are lawyers that specialize in property damage cases. At Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh, we recognize that property damage cases are unique and have their own specific issues. Anytime you are dealing with a property insurance issue, there are lengthy policies that are designed to make the company more money. In other words, the policies are written to exclude coverage when possible and to pay a lesser amount when possible. Most people do not take the time to sit down and read through their lengthy insurance policy. Even if you took the time to read it and did not like certain portions of it, your remedies as a single consumer are limited. However, hiring an attorney to fight for you is one of the most efficient remedies you do have.
How much does is cost to hire a property damage lawyer?
Our firm handles property damage cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not pay anything out of pocket. We are only paid if we make a recovery for you. In some cases, we are even able to go after the insurance company to force them to pay the attorney's fees.
Why should you hire a property damage lawyer?
We approach every case individually. We take the necessary time to review your case and your lengthy policy to see what we can do for you. As the saying goes, “The devil is in the details.” The policies are very detailed, but a thorough and comprehensive review of your policy and its addendums can make an enormous difference in your property damage case. The review of your current policy and past policies can be the difference between your claim being paid out or being excluded from coverage. There are some situations where the insurance company will cover some damages and exclude coverage for portions of your damage.
Once you get past the issue of whether there is coverage, the insurance company fights you on the amount they want to pay out for your property damage. This is where an experienced property damage lawyer can help. Studies have shown that people represented for their claim consistently receive more money than people who represent themselves. Insurance companies are for-profit corporations. They are set up to make money. One of the ways to level the playing field is to hire an attorney to fight for you.
Is it too late to hire a property damage lawyer if you have a public adjuster?
No, it is not too late to hire a lawyer if you already have a public adjuster. Public adjusters can be very helpful in driving your property damage claim. However, public adjusters are not lawyers. If there becomes an impasse between your public adjuster and your insurance company, the only thing left is to file a lawsuit. A good public adjuster will have detailed records regarding your case to help make a seamless transition with your lawyer into the court system.
What types of damages can you claim through your homeowner's insurance?
There are various types of damages that you may be able to claim including:
- Hurricane Damage
- Theft and Vandalism
- Fire and Smoke
- Wind and Hail
- Falling Objects
- Water Damage
- Electrical Surges
These types of covered damages may vary depending on where you live. There are certain types of damages that are excluded or are partially excluded from coverage. However, if the damage is not excluded, then it will be covered under your policy.
After your home has property damage what should you do?
The first thing you should do is document the damage. Take photographs and make detailed notes about everything that is damaged and the extent of the damage. This can include a list of all personal property that is damaged or needs to be replaced. This is an important step that should be completed before any clean up or repair is conducted. Begin gathering any receipts of the property that was damaged or destroyed, if you have them. You need to contact your insurance company to initiate a claim. The insurance company will want to send out an adjuster to assess the nature and extent of the damage. The insurance company's adjuster will also want to determine the cause of the damage. For example, if the insurance company determines that the damage is due to your negligence or lack of maintenance, they will try to deny your claim. This makes your documentation of the damage imperative for later if you have to go to court on your claim.
Will your homeowner's insurance pay for another place for you live?
Generally, yes. Your homeowner's insurance will cover your living expenses if the extent of the damage to your home makes in unlivable. These living expenses may also include the cost of your meals. Your insurance policy will have limits that determine how long they will pay for your living expenses and how much you can spend. It is important to keep these limits in mind.
Can your homeowner's insurance drop you for making a claim?
It depends. Generally, a homeowner's insurance company can cancel a new insurance policy only within the first sixty (60) days. After this sixty (60) day period, they can only cancel the policy for nonpayment, fraud, or significant risk changes. Typically, when people think of being dropped from their insurance, they are thinking of the insurance company deciding against renewing their policy. Deciding not to renew your policy after it expires is not the same thing as dropping you. An insurance company cannot generally terminate your insurance because you made a claim.
At Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh, we know your home is your castle. You deserve to have your home protected when it is damaged. We handle property damage cases throughout the state of Florida. Let us use our knowledge and experience to help you. Remember the no-fee guarantee: we don't get paid unless you win. Call us at (561)295-5825 for a free case evaluation.