Florida homeowners can face many types of damage from theft, hurricanes, fire and other perils. In theory, homeowners insurance coverage should provide a form of security that permits the repair of your home in a fast and efficient way. If you are a homeowner who has had to file an insurance claim, you know that the reality is that the claim process can be long and convoluted. While an experienced Florida insurance claims attorney can help homeowners navigate this circuitous process, the decision to go it alone can result in a denial or lowball payout. While there are many tactics that insurance companies use to delay or avoid paying claims, one common approach is to use voluminous requests for documents.
Standard Florida homeowners insurance policies will have provisions that require an insured to cooperate with efforts of the insurer to investigate a claim. This requirement includes responding to requests for information and documents. Even if you put together a litany of documents that include receipts, title documents, invoices, repair bills and more, chances are that the insurance company will ask you to submit even more documents.
These document requests serve multiple functions from the perspective of the insurance carrier. When you are unable to provide receipts for items, the insurance company might use this failure to provide documents evidencing ownership or value to reduce the amount of the payout or to support a bogus claim of insurance fraud. Another purpose of these document requests is to frustrate policyholders who might abandon their claim or settle for less than the full value of the claim. The third function of these requests is to uncover facts which might mitigate the liability of the insurance carrier. If you have had prior work performed following sinkhole damage, for example, the insurer might analyze paperwork from a prior claim to suggest that the damage was the result of faulty prior remedial measures related to a prior claim with another insurer.
While the process of burying policyholders in an avalanche of document requests can be frustrating, there is a way that an insured can fight back. Section 626.9541(i) imposes nine duties on insurers. Failure of an insurance company to comply with these obligations constitutes an “unfair settlement practice,” which can give rise to a bad faith insurance claim. Policyholders can use one of these duties as a shield from unreasonable or overly burdensome document requests. An insurance company must “clearly explain the nature of [the] requested information and the reasons why such information is necessary.”
This provision is designed to limit the ability of insurance carriers to use its investigation process as a tool of harassment. This statute is just one of the weapons that our Florida insurance claims law firm employs to protect policyholders from abusive tactics by insurers. The insurance company’s failure to comply with this requirement can constitute a bad faith practice. If the insurer cannot justify the request, the insurer should withdraw it.
If you have questions about Florida homeowners insurance claims, you are welcome to contact my Miami bad faith insurance claims law firm. My law firm represents policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.