Our Miami homeowners insurance claims attorney explains the important things homeowners need to know about their policy to protect their legal rights.

Homeowners insurance provides critical financial protection for the asset with the greatest value for most families.  However, many policyholders who experience significant property damage from hurricanes, theft or other perils find that their insurer stonewalls their claims.  When an insurer denies, delays or lowballs a claim, the financial hardship and emotional distress endured by homeowners can be overwhelming.  As an experienced Miami homeowners insurance claims attorney, I have provided some things you need to know about homeowners coverage.

Purchase Replacement Cost Value Insurance: If your home and personal property in your home are damaged, you are not going to care what your property could fetch on the open market.  The “cash value” based on fair market value of a home and possessions inside the residence is not what homeowners are interested in.  Homeowners want the ability to restore their home to the pre-loss condition.  When your home and belongings are damaged, you want to be able to rebuild your home and replace all of your property.

Conduct an Inventory: If you need to file a claim, you must prove the property that you had in your home and the value of that property.  This is a much easier process if you have a video inventory of all personal property, including items in closets, the basement and the attic.  A copy of the footage should be stored in a safe deposit box with a copy of the policy.

Understand the Insurance Claims Process: The claims process can differ substantially even if the amount of coverage is the same between policies.  You should have your insurance agent explain how claims will be handled particularly in terms of payments.  Depending on your policy, you might receive all of your money up front or only a portion.  You also need to determine whether your insurance company will pay you for everything you lost or only those things you actually replace.  While the policy might provide actual cash value of your possessions immediately following a loss, the insurer might postpone paying replacement value until you actually repurchase the items and provide receipts.  This can pose challenges if you do not have the cash to replace these items.

Consider an Umbrella Policy: If someone is injured on your premises or you are sued for a car accident, you might not have enough coverage to protect your assets.  Many homeowners policies provide a coverage limit of $300,000, which will typically not be sufficient if you face a liability claim under your homeowners insurance policy or auto policy.  An umbrella policy can provide excess liability coverage so that your personal assets are protected.

Weigh Riders or Other Forms of Coverage: The standard homeowners policy does not cover all types of perils or reimburse all types of loss.  For example, flood insurance will not be part of your standard homeowners policy, rather it must be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program.  There also might be other types of coverage that you need like ordinance or law coverage for the additional costs associated with bringing a building into compliance with building codes after your home is damaged.

If you think you might need an insurance attorney to assist you with your claim or you have questions about your rights, 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 case evaluations.  No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees.  Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.

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