When an individual’s home is damaged in a hurricane, the homeowner may reasonably presume that his or her insurance company will fulfill its obligation to make the policyholder whole by returning the home to pre-hurricane condition. Paradoxically, insurance company profitability is increased when insurers are able to evade paying claims even though most policyholders believe that paying claims is the primary function of an insurer. This difficult dichotomy between the role of insurance companies and the tactics they use to increase profitability often relegates homeowners to fighting to obtain what years of premiums were supposed to have secured.
As a Florida property insurance attorney, I have observed this conflict from both sides. My time as a claims adjuster and my time working for an insurance defense law firm provided an opportunity to develop firsthand knowledge of the tactics insurance companies use to avoid paying the full value of legitimate claims. During my time as an adjuster and representing policyholders, I have seen the devastating impact of such tactics on the lives of insurance company customers. I often hear from policyholders involved in a dispute with their insurance company who have questions about retaining an attorney. I have provided answers to a couple of common questions I receive concerning this issue.
What if I think my insurance company is mishandling my hurricane damage claim, but I am not ready to retain an attorney?
There are a number of preliminary steps you can take when you are struggling to get your insurance company to pay for the damage to your home. Insurance companies in all states are subject to the oversight of state regulators, so there are a number of resources that you might utilize to get your insurance company to pay attention. Some of these strategies include:
- Sending a letter threatening to retain counsel and to pursue legal action
- Filing a complaint with the Florida Insurance Commissioner
- Submitting a complaint through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners
- Contacting the Florida Attorney General
- Speaking with a public adjuster
While this certainly does not constitute an exhaustive list, these are preliminary steps you might consider. An important point to keep in mind is that our law office works on a contingency fee basis and offers a free consultation. This means there is no financial risk associated with talking with me. We might direct you to the above resources or others depending on your individual situation. The benefit of speaking with us is that we can explain the advantages of various resources, so you can make an informed decision about how to proceed.
What will your law firm charge to pursue the full value of my claim from my homeowner insurance carrier?
If my law firm takes your case, we typically work on a contingency fee basis. This type of fee arrangement generally means that you only pay for attorney fees and costs if we obtain a recovery. Florida insurance companies owe a fiduciary duty to their policyholders. This fiduciary duty includes your insurance company’s obligation to search your policy for language that permits coverage rather than looking for an exclusion to deny coverage. When your insurance company does not act in good faith, you might have a claim for insurance bad faith against your insurance carrier. If you prevail in your bad faith claim, you can receive “extra-contractual” damages, which include attorney fee reimbursement.
If you have questions about your property damage claim in the aftermath of a hurricane, my office can analyze your situation and advise you of your options. My law firm handles disputed claims 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.