Almost all homeowners obtain insurance to protect their most vital asset if catastrophe strikes. When your home is damaged by fire, theft, vandalism or a storm, your homeowner’s insurance provides a sense of security if the physical structure and/or contents of your home are damaged or destroyed. Unfortunately, many homeowners find their expectations are disappointed because their insurance carrier fails to cover the full value of their loss. As an experienced Florida insurance claims attorney, I have provided some suggestions for homeowners:
Be Aware of What Your Policy Covers: There are many types of loss and perils not covered by a standard policy. Some examples include government action, maintenance issues, zoning issues, utility outages, faulty workmanship, earth movements, flooding, radiation damage, war, sinkholes and landslides. Hurricanes also may not be included in your policy because Florida is a high risk area for this type of hazard. Many of these listed perils or types of damage can be covered by purchasing a separate policy or rider to your homeowner’s policy. However, the additional coverage will also increase your premiums.
Do Not Delay in Pursuing a Claim: When you purchase insurance, policyholders should always inquire about the applicable timeframe for providing notice of a claim. Policyholders often have a short time frame to provide notice under a policy. Homes often are damaged further if homeowners delay in notifying the insurance company of damage. If you delay in notifying your homeowner’s carrier of water damage, for example, you might find that you have a subsequence mold claim that is denied.
Distinguishing Actual Cash Value from Replacement Cost: Actual cash value refers to the replacement price of the damaged item after allowing for depreciation. While this is the less expensive form of coverage, claims under such a policy tend to pay less than under a replacement cost policy. If cabinetry in a kitchen is fifteen years old, for example, the recovery under an actual cash value policy will be substantially less because the amount paid out will reflect a substantial amount of depreciation. By contrast, replacement cost will reflect that actual cost of repair or replacement without regard to depreciation.
Impact of Damage Prevention Measures on Premiums: Insurance companies base premiums on the number, severity and nature of hazards. This means that homeowners can impact their premium by taking steps that reduce these risks. Examples of steps policyholders can take might include installing pool fences, pool covers, burglar alarms, etc. Although these measures might have a cost, the savings in premiums can offset these costs.
Carefully Maintain Records: The best way to obtain the full value of your loss is to maintain exhaustive records both before and after your claim. When you make upgrades or renovations to your property keep receipts, invoices, records of payment and other documents establishing such improvements. Similarly, you also should preserve documents regarding the contents of your home. Policyholders who take photos or video of their home and contents prior to damage have a significant advantage in terms of receiving the full value of their loss. Documents related to steps taken to mitigate your loss should also be preserved both to establish that you fulfilled your contractual obligation to mitigate damages and to recoup these costs.
If you need to file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance carrier, you should seek prompt legal advice. 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.