Many individuals purchase their residence decades before needing to make a homeowners claim because of damage from a fire, broken pipe or other calamity. When disaster strikes, homeowners typically assume that their insurance company will act fairly in processing their claims. This is precisely the reason that homeowners pay premiums. Unfortunately, insurance companies generally view their first priority as increasing profits for their shareholders. This often is accomplished by minimizing payouts on legitimate claims. While property owners can challenge the conduct of their insurer on their own, sometimes the best option is to retain an experienced insurance claims attorney.
My insurance company is refusing to pay my claim, so do I need to hire an insurance claims attorney?
While obtaining some legal advice and guidance from an experienced attorney can always be helpful, you may not need full scale representation. If the insurance company seems to be responsive to your inquiries and to be legitimately working on your claim, you might not need an attorney to take an adversarial stance with your insurance company. However, there are important deadlines that can impact your claim, so you should make sure that you avoid being late on submitting a sworn proof of loss or complying with other post-loss obligations under your policy. If you feel like the claims process does not seem to be going anywhere, then it may be time to consider hiring a Miami insurance claims attorney.
Should I let the attorney handle all communications with my insurance company?
If you are just getting some advice and guidance from an attorney, you probably need to continue communicating with your insurance company. However, once you have determined that the insurance company is refusing to pay your claim in a timely manner or to pay the full amount you are due, it may be time to retain an attorney. If you retain legal counsel, the attorney will want all communications to be handled by the law firm. This approach is for your benefit and protection.
Does hiring an attorney mean that I need to file a lawsuit to get my claim resolved?
While there are situations where a lawsuit provides the best option for obtaining relief, sometimes an insurance company will be motivated to take claims mores seriously when an insured has an attorney. Your insurance claims attorney can negotiate with the insurance company lawyers and respond to the arguments that the insurer makes regarding exclusions, coverage, compliance with post-loss duties and other issues.
There are a number of pre-lawsuit alternate dispute resolution (ADR) options that your attorney might also consider, such as appraisal, mediation or arbitration. Each of these approaches has advantages and disadvantages, and your attorney can guide you through any of these options if they make sense for your situation. The appraisal process is used to resolve disputes over the value of a policyholder’s loss. While the process can be fast and efficient, this depends on the umpire selected by the parties. Mediation can be used to resolve both issues of coverage and the value of a loss, but the process is informal and voluntary. Arbitration is a more formal approach than mediation in which the arbitrator can dictate the result.
The bottom line is that a lawsuit for breach of contract and/or a lawsuit for insurance bad faith might be potential options, but they are not the right choice in every situation. Even if a lawsuit is filed, these disputes are frequently settled prior to trial.
Can I let my divorce or DUI attorney handle my homeowners insurance coverage dispute?
While you can hire any attorney licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction, hiring an attorney who does not have a law practiced focused on insurance coverage disputes is not a good idea. Insurance companies use attorneys that specialize in these types of cases, so it is poor idea to work with an attorney who lacks experience in insurance issues. During settlement negotiations, the lawyers for the insurance company will consider the expertise, skill and experience of your attorney when weighing potential settlement options.
If you have concerns about retaining an insurance claims attorney, 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.