Understanding Water Leak Claims: The Ongoing Seepage Exception

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

The most frequent dispute between homeowners and homeowners insurance companies in Florida involves whether water damages fall within the coverage of a homeowners policy.  Because our state is humid and rainy, damage caused by water impacts many homeowners.  Water leaks can cause devastating damage to a residence.  Although water damage is frequently covered by homeowners policies, insurers often rely on the constant or repeated seepage exclusion to avoid water damage claims.  This approach essentially uses an expert opinion and an inspection of the damage to deny long-term water damage from a broken pipe, burst supply line or roof leak.  As a Miami property damage attorney, I have provided an overview of the types of evidence insurance companies typically rely on to prove that these types of water damages are not covered.

Water Bills

 Monthly water bills can provide persuasive evidence regarding the sudden occurrence of a water leak.  If a pipe bursts or a toilet suddenly is affected by a massive leak, this type of sudden loss will usually be reflected in the water bills.  When such a surge is not present, a slight increase in the bill over a period of months might suggest that the leak was a product of prolonged leakage.

The Fourth DCA of Florida in the case of Hoey v. State Farm relied on water bills in determining that a water damage claim was excluded.  The court considered the persistent but marginal increase in water bills over a period of approximately three months.  The court determined the persistent seepage escaped not from a pipe that suddenly leaked but deterioration of the nylon used in the toilet supply line.

Expert Reports/Testimony

There are experts that might be used by the insurance company to evaluate water damage and attribute the loss to long-term seepage.  Some of these experts will provide opinions on the appearance of the damaged materials because they contend certain types of post-exposure appearances of certain building material suggest prolonged exposure to water.  Experts might even indicate that the type of damage to the materials allows the expert to determine the temperature of the water, which might be relevant in determining the duration of time the water caused damage.

Photographs

The condition of the walls and cabinets impacted by the water often provides evidence that is used to establish a long-term water leak.  If the particle board of a cabinet or drywall in a bathroom exhibit warping or staining, this will often be offered by the insurance company as evidence that the water damage was the result of seepage over a protracted period rather than a sudden loss.  Policyholders might be faced with a challenge when trying to prove that water damage was caused by a single sudden leak if particle board cabinets have rings of deep brown stains or the wood is disintegrating and falling apart.

As a former insurance claims adjuster and experienced insurance claims attorney, I understand the types of arguments and evidence necessary to combat these types of defenses by insurance companies.  If you have questions about Florida property insurance claims, you are welcome to contact my Florida insurance claims dispute 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.

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