Property Damage Insurance: What You Need to Know
With hurricane season rearing its ugly head, many Florida residents will again be caught off guard by mother nature. Sadly, 2020 has been a year of difficult and unforeseen challenges, but it is within our power and control to seek relief for what has happened and what is coming next, especially damage to homes and businesses caused by windstorms, roof leaks, water damage, and other perils. This article focuses on the financial compensation available to policyholders of residential and commercial property damage insurance policies who have suffered damages due to roof and other leaks, storms and hurricanes, fire, busted pipes, and even Covid-19-related business income losses.
Floridians are lucky to reside in one of the friendliest, if not the friendliest, legal jurisdictions for policyholders with respect to insurance claims and litigation concerning property damage insurance and loss of business income. One example is Florida’s unique attorney’s fees statute, which awards attorney’s fees to insureds (in addition to compensation for the damage to their property) who prevail against insurance companies in litigation involving wrongful denials or underpayment of property damage insurance claims.
Unlike “prevailing party” attorney’s fee statutes, Florida Statute 627.428 awards only policyholders if they win their property damage case, not insurance companies, should they prevail. This unique “one-way” fee statute basically limits the downside risk of pursuing a claim. Indeed, many policyholders simply give up after an improper denial or underpayment from their insurance company because they worry about costs or liability exposure associated with paying an attorney or fighting an insurance company, without realizing that their downside risk is actually limited. This is even more true when an insured retains an experienced attorney to handle their claims, like Daniel Smith, who covers any expenses out of his own pocket and only gets paid if you win.
Another benefit to policyholders in the sunshine state is Florida’s unique “matching statute,” which requires insurers to “make reasonable repairs or replacement of items in adjoining areas” when “items do not match in quality, color, or size.” See Florida Statute 626.9744. Stated otherwise, if a property owner in Florida suffers damage to a small portion of their roof, floor, or wall, they may be entitled to replacement of the entire roof, floor, or wall that matches the damaged portion of their property. This may sound too good to be true, but it serves a rational purpose as many floors popular in Miami homes, like terrazzo, for example, cannot be sufficiently replaced in pieces/portions, but only as a whole.
If you believe you have suffered damage to your property or home, the attorneys at the Salomon Smith law firm will answer any of your questions as part of a free consultation. If we take your property damage insurance case, we will immediately hire an estimator to review the damage to your home at no cost to you.
Even though Floridians are armed with unique weapons to take on the big insurance companies, many claims are usually denied or underpaid as part of a business model that relies on policyholders giving up and failing to pursue their claims. Most insurers are required to cover “all risks” to property unless they clearly fall within their insurance policy’s exclusions. Denials of legitimate property damage insurance claims are usually based on these incorrectly applied or vaguely worded exclusions, that could be interpreted in a few ways, which may render the policy “ambiguous.” Auto–Owners Ins. Co. v. Anderson, 756 So.2d 29, 34 (Fla.2000) (if the relevant policy language is susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation, one providing coverage and the [other] limiting coverage, the insurance policy is considered ambiguous.”
Importantly, ambiguities in insurance policies susceptible to more than one interpretation must be construed in favor of the policyholder. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Steinberg, 393 F.3d 1226, 1230 (11th Cir.2004). In yet another policyholder friendly case, Castillo v. State Farm Florida Ins. Co., 971 So. 2d 820 (Fla. 2d DCA 2007), the court stated: “when an insurer relies on an exclusion to deny coverage, it has the burden of demonstrating that the allegations in the complaint are cast solely and entirely within the policy exclusion and are subject to no other reasonable interpretation.”
To recap, the insurance company business model consists of accepting your premiums, denying legitimate claims, and betting on you not challenging the denials. This is true in both property damage claims, but also business interruption and loss of business income claims on commercial property policies stemming from Covid-19-related business closures ordered by the government.
Attorney Daniel Smith defended insurance companies for years and is now devoted to helping policyholders recover damages for their covered losses. He and the team at the Salomon Smith law firm typically pay all litigation-related expenses and do not get paid unless they recover money for you, the policyholder. Ideally, pursuant to Florida Statute 627.428, this payment will be entirely independent of any payment owed to you for your losses, which may help you pay for an entirely new ceiling, roof, or floor, by utilizing Florida’s matching statute, Florida Statute 626.9744.
Salomon Smith PLLC is currently working on all types of insurance claims and lawsuits relating to property damage for our clients. We want to hear from you to help you navigate this complicated area and get you paid for damage to your home or business. After all, you paid good money for your premiums and deserve compensation for a legitimate claim. Remember, time is of the essence to preserve your claim! It is also in your best interest to seek experienced legal counsel prior to making a claim yourself. Contact attorney Daniel Smith directly at 305-297-1018 or email@example.com to discuss your options and answer your questions.