Overcoming Special Issues Associated with Contents Claims Under a Homeowner’s Policy

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
Founder of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.

When your home is badly damaged by fire or an intense storm, the physical structure will typically constitute a homeowner’s greatest concern.  Despite this natural tendency to focus on the residence, fires and other causes of loss also tend to do significant damage to the contents of a home.  Content claims pose special challenges because insurers often impose barriers to recovery that are not present when asserting a claim for damage to the building.  This blog post discusses some of the special issues that must be dealt with when pursuing a claim for the contents of a residence under a homeowner’s policy.

Proof of Damaged or Destroyed Property: Although insurance carriers often dispute the magnitude of damage to a home and the cost of repair or replacement, the fact that a loss has occurred will typically be apparent.  The insurer might contend that the loss is not covered, but allegations of fraud regarding the existence of an event that causes a loss are uncommon.  Damage to a home is relatively easy to verify when compared to harm to furniture, appliances, jewelry, artwork, and other contents of the residence.  Homeowners can ease the burden of proving their loss by creating an inventory and taking pictures/video of all of the contents inside their home.

Dealing with Sub-Limits: Sub-limits restrict the amount paid under a homeowner’s policy in a number of ways.  First, the total coverage for contents of the home tends to be restricted to a proportion of the coverage limits for the building.  Sub-limits also apply to coverage for certain categories of personal property.  Policyholders who own a significant value in categories of home contents like rare art and jewelry might need to purchase riders to ensure adequate financial protection.  Because these sub-limits are common, homeowners should periodically review their policy to determine whether changes in their personal property profile justifies coverage modifications. 

Determining the Value of Home Contents:  Many types of contents in a home can present difficulties in estimating their value.  In the case of art, collectibles, and jewelry, homeowners might want to retain an appraiser to evaluate such items.  Efforts to quantify the value of these losses following a loss will go more smoothly if you have documentation in the form of a formal appraisal.

Keeping an Inventory: An inventory that documents the existence of all property with its estimated value should be kept in a safe place.  Many insurance companies offer Android and iPhone Apps that provide for documentation of contents by allowing for the storage of pictures, receipts and descriptions of contents inside a home.

Exercise Care Not to Claim Items You Never Owned: Some property owners make the mistake of “padding” their claim to ensure they receive a fair settlement.  While the intent of the policyholder might not be to obtain more than the actual value of his or her loss, this process of overstating the claim is intended to compensate for an insurer’s anticipated lowball offer.  In other cases, an insured simply makes an innocent mistake.  A claim that includes items that were not owned or that exaggerates the value of lost items can result in denial of the claim and potential charges of criminal fraud.

If you have questions about an insurance claim, you are invited to contact our law firm to speak to an experienced Miami insurance claims attorney.  My law firm specializes in representing policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. Click here to read about some of our case results.  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. 

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