A fire at your Florida home can be disastrous, even if the fire itself does not result in the complete destruction of your dwelling. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 369,500 home fires throughout the United States that resulted in a total of 2,755 civilian fatalities, 12,200 civilian injuries, and nearly $7 billion in reported property damage in 2013. In addition to the physical and financial injuries and losses, fires frequently cause significant emotional and mental trauma for a homeowner, the homeowner’s family, and/or any occupants present in the home at the time of the fire.
Following a home fire, many homeowners’ first inclination is to turn to their insurance company for assistance in repairing and restoring their home and replacing their possessions. While many national home and fire insurance companies spend considerable amounts of money on advertising campaigns designed to highlight how attentive and dedicated they are to their policyholders, the advertising (sadly) does not always correspond with reality. Policyholders who suffer a fire-related loss are in a vulnerable position and often eager for repairs to be completed and possessions to be replaced so that they can attempt to rebuild their lives. Some unscrupulous insurance companies and/or insurance claims adjustors attempt to take advantage of that fact.
Fortunately, if simple actions are undertaken by a policyholder in the early stages of a fire insurance claim, an insured can reduce the risk of being taken advantage of by the insurance company and expedite the claims process.
- Know the extent of your coverage. Your declarations page is your contract with the insurance company. It describes the types of losses that are covered, any limitations in coverage, and what you must do in order to properly file a claim. The aftermath of a fire is not the time to initially review this document. Take time before a fire occurs to review your coverage, purchase additional coverage if necessary, and know how and when you must initiate the claims process.
- Keep written records of your communications with your fire insurance company. At the very outset of your claim, policyholders should keep a written record any time they receive or initiate contact with their insurance company. The log should contain who initiated the contact, the form of the contact (letter, telephone call, etc.), the name of the person and/or department with which you have contact, the time of day of the contact, and the content or nature of the contact (i.e. what is the contact concerning?). This information can be important in determining if your insurance company is dealing with you in good faith as required by the law.
- Realize when it is time to hire an attorney. Florida law requires that your insurance company handle your claim in good faith and that the insurer not unreasonably deny or delay acting upon your claim. If your fire insurance company is not responding to your repeated contacts, denies your claim, offers you a settlement figure that appears to be inadequate to address your losses, or asks you to submit to an examination under oath, you should consider retaining legal counsel.
If your insurance carrier is refusing to comply with its contractual obligation, 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.