This is Part II of a two-part blog post that provides suggestions for policyholders who suffer property damage to their home caused by fire. Fire claims can result in a total loss to the most valuable asset owned by many middle class families, so policyholders need confidence they can obtain the full amount of their claim from their insurance carrier. This series of blog posts provides strategies for maximizing your recovery.
Consider Retaining an Insurance Claims Attorney
While it is advisable to retain your owner contractor or estimator so you have a starting point for evaluating the insurance company’s estimate of the loss, you might want to hire an experienced insurance claims attorney. The insurance claims attorney will have experts that he or she works with that can conduct an inspection and determine the value of your loss based on your best interest rather than the best interest of the insurance company. He or she can also negotiate with the insurance carrier.
Avoid Discontinuation of Your Premiums
A common mistake made by policyholders is to stop making premium payments after they suffer a loss. Subsequent losses which might be related to the fire can be denied if you discontinue premium payments because the insurer will cancel your policy. If you have a new address, you can also seek to have the new property added to your policy.
Obtain Appropriate Estimates for the Cost of Repair Supported by Documentation
When you are pursuing a fire damage claim, you need to review your policy to determine what type of coverage you have. If you have “replacement” coverage, you are entitled to have the home and property inside the home replaced regardless of the value of the property that is lost up to your policy limits. While you can elect not to actually rebuild and spend the money on something else entirely, the policy converts to an “actual cash value” policy in this situation, which will provide less recovery. “Actual cash value” is the other type of coverage your insurance company might provide. This type of coverage permits you to recover the replacement value of the property less depreciation.
Depending on the type of coverage, the insurer will require an estimate of the cost of repair or fair market value of the property damaged or lost. Because the adjuster sent by the insurance company will be loyal to the insurer, you will want to use your own contractor or other expert to prepare an estimate of the cost. A policyholder should never accept a settlement from an insurer without seeking a consulation with a insurance claims professional.
Take Time Reaching a Settlement
Insurers often try to close fire claims promptly particularly if a loss occurs during a mass disaster. Policyholders generally are less likely to leave items out of their claim if they do not rush to close the claim. When an insured is dealing with damage to his or her home, the policyholder typically will suffer extreme stress and anxiety. An insured is never well advised to hastily enter into a premature settlement under these circumstances. The insurer might even send you a check with a notation that acceptance of the payment constitutes settlement of the claim. Do not cash such a check without obtaining legal advice from a Miami insurance claim professional.
If you have questions about Florida fire insurance claims, you are welcome to contact my Miami 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.