This is the second installment in our blog post discussing important issues regarding homeowners claims related to fire damage. These claims can be complicated because insurance carriers often deny claims based on allegations of insurance fraud even when official investigations have concluded a fire was not intentionally set. While this two part blog post provides an overview of a variety of fire claim issues, specific claims can be affected by subtle differences in the facts, so you should seek prompt legal advice from an experienced Miami fire damage insurance claims lawyer.
Maintain Insurance Payments after Your Loss
While there are a significant number of policyholders who discontinue making premium payments once they have filed a fire damage claim, this can pose serious problems. Even if you have a current pending claim, this does not mean that you cannot submit a claim for subsequent losses caused by other perils. For example, your house could be vandalized or burglarized while you are waiting for your home to be repaired. Unless your home and the contents are a total loss, you might have property with substantial value that you want to protect from subsequent perils, so you should not stop paying your premiums. If the home is a total loss, you might be able to obtain a reduction in premiums for the portion of the costs devoted to the structure until your home is rebuilt.
Avoid Settling Prematurely
When homeowners suffer fire damage, the insurance company may be quick to close the file and settle the claim. This is particularly the case in the wake of mass disasters that cause fire damage to many claimants. While your claim remains open, you have time to discover damage to your home or belongings that you did not originally notice. Homeowners can improve their prospects of maximizing their claim if they take some time to ensure they have not forgotten to indicate any specific damage to their home or destruction of personal property. If you realize you have omitted damaged property from your claim, you should submit an amended proof of loss that includes the items omitted.
The insurance company might try to sneak closure of the claim by you with language included on a settlement check. If the check includes language like “acceptance of this check constitutes full settlement of your claim”, you should seek immediate legal advice from an experienced insurance claims lawyer before cashing the check.
Save Receipts and Maintain Records Regarding Living Expenses
Many people are displaced from their home in the aftermath of a fire. Temporary relocation will typically result in increased expenses, such as hotel/motel expenses, extra dining costs for restaurants, higher gas expenses and more. Homeowners insurance policies include coverage for “loss of use” that provides reimbursement to policyholders for extra costs associated with these expenses. It is important to understand only the increased cost of living expenses will be subject to reimbursement. In other words, you might pay $5,000 per month for your mortgage, groceries and related living expenses. If your relocation drives these costs up to $6,500 per month, you can seek $1,500 for loss of use expenses. If you live with friends or family, you might be able to get your hosts additional expenses covered. If the insurance company balks, you can point out the amount the insurer is saving because you are not staying at a hotel and dining at restaurants.
If you have questions about Miami-Dade homeowners fire insurance claims, we invite your to continue reading our other blogs on fire insurance claims. You also 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.