Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
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What are some sinkhole activity signs I should look for?
Below are just a few tell-tale sinkhole activity signs you should be on the look out for:
Foundation cracks that are forming in a zig-zag fashion
Separation of walls from foundation or ceiling
Separation of house structure from foundation
Sudden or slow creation of uneven floors and cracks
Sinking or shifting of a portion of your home
Doors and windows that all of a sudden do not close appropriately
Crack on the walls and ceiling
Fence or mailbox posts that are sinking
Shifting of your entire property
Outdoor pavements that are starting to crack
Observation of holes in your yard that did not exist before
Bursting of pipes and swimming pool leaks
What are my rights as a homeowner when sustaining sinkhole damage?
All insurance companies licensed to do business in Florida must offer sinkhole coverage, usually as an addendum or rider to an existing policy, and for an additional premium charge. Furthermore, Florida law requires that once a sinkhole insurance claim is filed, the insurance company must send (at no cost to you) a geotechnical engineering firm to perform tests to eliminate sinkhole activity within a certain level of confidence. Therefore, the burden of proving that sinkhole activity is not present is shifted to the insurance company. Since the insurance company selects the testing firm, this may lead to a denial of your sinkhole claim.
If you feel your sinkhole claim has been wrongfully denied, please contact the insurance claims lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo for a free consultation.
My sinkhole damage claim was approved, but I disagree with the manner the insurance company wants to make repairs to the sinkhole, what can I do?
Your insurance company may attempt short cuts in repairing your sinkhole damages. One common method some insurance companies attempt is to pour concrete directly into the sinkhole. The problem with this method is that valid questions exist as to whether this is a temporary (patch work) or permanent repair to the sinkhole.
Please contact the Law Office of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation.
How much will it cost me to hire the Law Offices of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. for my sinkhole damages case?
We understand that many of our clients do not have the resources or means to pay lawyer fees out of pocket. This is why we offer a free consultation. In the great majority of cases, if we decide to go forward with your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis. This means that if there is no recovery on your claim, you do not pay fees for our services or costs advanced by our office. Furthermore, under certain circumstances your insurance company will become responsible for paying your attorney's fees and costs. Since not all insurance claim cases are alike, please contact our office to discuss your case in more detail.
What is a Renters Insurance Policy?
Renters insurance coverage is an insurance policy that insures your personal property while you are renting a property as a tenant.
Why do I need Renters Insurance?
Because your landlord's dwelling or building insurance policy will not cover your personal property in the event of a loss.
What does Renters Insurance Cover?
If you purchase a renters or tenants policy, in the event of a fire, your contents will be covered under your policy. Depending on your policy, damage to your personal property caused by theft, fire, windstorm, accidental discharge of water, and other perils, may be covered.
What is mold?
Mold is a simple, microscopic organism, present everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Mold is a fungi and is needed to break down the environment. For mold to grow and reproduce, it needs only one food source of organic material, such as leaves, wood, paper, and moisture. Mold grows by digesting the organic material, gradually destroying whatever they grow on. Mold growth on surfaces can often be seen in the form of discoloration, frequently green, brown, gray, and black. Mold releases countless tiny, lightweight spores, which travel through the air.
How does mold grow or multiply in my home or business?
Due to Florida's humid climate, mold can grow and cause many adverse affects. Mold can grow and multiply whenever conditions are right such as where sufficient moisture is available and organic material is present. Be on the lookout in your home for sources of indoor moisture that may lead to mold growth. Moisture control is the key, inspect your home regularly for indications of potential water leaks and establish a maintenance schedule to check the following regularly:
WATER HEATERS - Check for rust and deterioration. Make sure drain lines are not clogged. Drain and clean as recommended by the manufacturer.
A/C DRAIN LINES - Drain lines can become clogged and cause overflow from the drip pan. Periodically check the drip pan and service it annually.
APPLIANCE HOSES - Regularly inspect hoses and fittings on washing machines, ice makers and dishwashers, and replace washing machine hoses every two years.
SHOWERS, TUBS, SINKS AND TOILETS - Check for a watertight seal around all bathroom fixtures. Reseal as needed.
VISIBLE PIPING - Routinely check piping under cabinets and sinks for leaks, rust and evidence of deterioration.
WASTE/GARBAGE DISPOSAL SYSTEMS - Routinely check for leaks.
CAULKING AROUND WINDOWS AND DOORS - Keep a continuous bead of caulk or weather proofing to seal the interior from the weather. Reseal as needed.
ATTICS AND CEILINGS - Routinely check for wet insulation and water stains.
WALLPAPER - Routinely check for bubbling, peeling or stains.
ROOFS - Keep roofs free of debris. Promptly repair any damage and seal cracks or replace flashing around chimneys, skylights and vents.
LANDSCAPE - Yards should slope away from the house to prevent puddles near the foundation.
SPRINKLERS AND IRRIGATION SYSTEMS - Do not allow sprinklers to soak the exterior of your home.
Should I be concerned about mold causing damage to my home or business?
Mold can cause damage. In addition to the potential health hazards of mold, mold growth can damage your personal contents such as, furnishings, carpets and paintings. In time, unchecked mold growth may cause damage to the building and structural elements of your home or business.
Where can I learn more on the health effects of mold?
To learn more about the health effects of mold, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Is "mold damage" covered under my insurance policy?
Only by reviewing your insurance policy for details of specific mold coverage and limitations can the Law Offices of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. determine if mold damage is covered under your policy. Most insurers now offer limited levels of mold-related property damage coverage within the basic policy. Many insurers offer $10,000 of limited mold coverage with the opportunity to purchase additional coverage for an additional premium. Other insurers exclude mold related property damage entirely, but offer coverage in amounts of $10,000, $15,000, $25,000, $50,000 and policy limits for an additional premium. Any changes in mold-related property damage coverage may need to be approved by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.
What are some typical insurance company tactics for delaying or denying mold insurance claim?
Your insurance company may be stonewalling your mold claim with excuses such as :
- Our claims adjuster did not notice any mold when inspecting your property
- Construction defects caused the mold
- The mold was caused by your lack of mitigating the water intrusion or water damage
- The mold already existed prior to the effective date of the insurance policy
- The mold you see is not really mold, just clean it up with bleach and paint over it
- The mold was created over time due to unknown reasons, therefore we don't cover it under our insurance policy
If you believe your insurance company is cheating you on your mold claim, please contact Miami insurance claims attorney J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo for a free consultation.
Who administers and pays on my flood insurance policy?
Your insurance company administers your flood insurance policy and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) makes all covered loss payments.
How much time do I have to file a flood insurance claim from the date of loss?
Typically, you have sixty (60) days from the date of loss to submit a Proof of Loss statement detailing the amount of your claim.
I do not have flood insurance and have sustained damage from rising water as opposed to rain driven rain, what can I do?
If the President of the United States issues a "disaster declaration for your area" help may be available. To see if you can apply for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), call toll-free to 1-800-462-9029.
How do I determine what is wind versus flood damage?
Locate a visible water line mark in your dwelling. Generally, damage below the water line is considered flood and any damage above the water line is considered wind.
What should I do after a fire damages my home, business or property?
In the event a fire damages your home, business or property you should:
Mitigate - Use your best efforts to make temporary repairs so that the condition doesn't get worse. This will prevent the insurance company from later claiming that your fire damages are the result of your failure to mitigate your damages. For example, if you have a roof leak after a fire, hire a roofer to put a tarp over the leak area. Try not to pay the repairman in cash for the temporary repairs and if you do have to pay in cash, get a receipt and his name and contact information. Submit the temporary repair receipts to your insurance company for payment.
Document - Take pictures of all affected areas. Take video, if you can, of all affected areas. Hold on to any receipts and estimates for repairs. Get the contact information for any contractors that come to your property to give you estimates. Do not throw out any correspondence or documents that are sent to you by your insurance company. If you are mailing anything to your insurance company do it by certified mail, return receipt requested, and make copies of whatever you are sending for your records. Keep a journal of all your communications with your insurance company. If you become aware of any witnesses that have knowledge of any aspect of your claim, record their name and contact information. Don't throw out any of the fire damaged items in your house.
Notify - Put your insurance company on notice of the fire insurance claim. Call your insurance company and let them know what happened. Get the name of the insurance company adjuster assigned to your claim, his or her contact information and the claim number.
Call Us - Let us use our experience to help you. Even if your fire insurance claim has been closed or even if you unknowingly accepted the small check they gave you, you may still be able to pursue your claim - you may be able to reopen an unfair claim years after the fire loss.
How much will it cost to hire insurance claims attorney J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo for my fire insurance claim?
I understand that many of our clients do not have the resources or means to pay lawyer fees out of pocket. This is why we offer a free consultation. In the great majority of cases, if I decide to go forward with your case, I will work on a contingency fee basis. This means that if there is no recovery on your claim, you do not pay fees for our services or costs advanced by our office. Furthermore, under certain circumstances your insurance company will become responsible for paying your attorney's fees and costs. Since not all insurance claim cases are alike, please contact our office to discuss your case in more detail.
If my house or business is totally destroyed due to a fire, will my insurance company pay to have my property rebuilt?
The answer to this question will depend on the insurance coverage that you have. Since not all policies are alike, please contact our office to discuss your case in more detail.