As a native Floridian, I have lived through so many storms I can’t even count them all. From Hurricane Charlie to Andrew, and Ivan to Hurricane Irma, the State of Florida has taken its fair share of beatings. While the most important thing to us all during a storm is the health and wellness of our families; the second most important, and the largest investment most Floridians will make in their lives, are their homes.
What do I do if my home is damaged by a storm?If your home is mortgaged, and let’s be honest, most people do not own their home free and clear, you are required by your lender to have home owner’s insurance. When your home is damaged, depending on circumstances to be discussed later, you should file an insurance claim with them to cover the damages from the storm.
What is homeowner’s insurance?Home owners insurance is an insurance policy, similar to your car insurance. Unlike your car insurance, which only protects against crashes and other obscure damage, your homeowner’s insurance policy can cover a lot of different things.
It can include your roof, your siding, fire, damage from fallen trees, damage to secondary structures, personal property damage, and the list goes on. Your individual insurance policy needs to be reviewed to see exactly what your policy actually covers. Because there is no mandate to make certain things covered, like with car insurance, homeowner’s insurances vary greatly from company to company and from house to house.
[Click here to read an article geared specifically towards people who suffer storm damage while renting].
Does the homeowner’s policy cover flood?In most cases, if your home is not in a flood zone and your lender did not require you to purchase flood insurance, you likely you don't possess flood insurance. However, a review of your policy by an attorney at Dolman Law Group can let you know if it does indeed cover flood damage. If you have flood damage, and did not have it on your policy beforehand, you cannot add it to cover the damages.
Likewise, it should be noted that you cannot add flood insurance right before a major impending catastrophe also. For example, if a hurricane is heading toward your area, you probably cannot add flood insurance in order to be covered for potential flooding. Insurance companies prevent this by placing a waiting period, usually 30 days, on any purchased policies. This is for a simple reason, carriers like you to pay them for a while before they pay you.
It is also worth mentioning that more hurricanes are coming and we, in Florida, are not out of the woods yet. For this reason, it may be smart to consider purchasing flood insurance, if this is something you're concerned about. With Hurricane Maria on her way, and more likely to follow, this is worth considering.
What is a deductible?A deductible is a specified amount of money that the insured (you) must pay before an insurance company will pay a claim.
There may be different deductibles for different portions of the homeowner’s policy as well. This means you could have a deductible for the roof and a separate deductible for hurricane damage. A review of your policy by an attorney at Dolman Law Group will let you know what your deductibles are. When choosing a policy, you most likely were given an option as to what your deductible will be. In essence, the lower your deductible was the higher your monthly payment would be for that particular coverage.
As an example, if you have a $1000 deductible on your roofing repair and the cost of fixing the roof would be $8000, you would have to first pay the $1000 then your insurance company would pay to repair the remaining $7000 (hopefully).
What is an assignment of benefits?
An assignment of benefits is a legal document that you, as the insured, are executing with a contractor to sign over your rights to a lawsuit in the event that your insurance company does not pay properly. What this means is that if your claim is not paid by the insurance company you do not have to pay the difference to the contractor. Instead, they must sue the insurance company to be paid.
What if my bill is not paid by the insurance company? Or, What if it's underpaid?
While you might think that if you pay your insurance premium every month your insurance company will be there for you when you needed them, this is not always the case. In fact, this is an all too common occurrence and something we deal with on a regular basis at Dolman Law Group. Insurance companies deny legitimate claims and underpay contractors all the time. So what do you do?
Florida Statute §627.428 is the mechanism used by lawyers to go after the insurance company when they choose not to pay properly. It states in 627.428 (1):
"Upon the rendition of a judgment or decree by any of the courts of this state against an insurer and in favor of any named or omnibus insured or the named beneficiary under a policy or contract executed by the insurer, the trial court or, in the event of an appeal in which the insured or beneficiary prevails, the appellate court shall adjudge or decree against the insurer and in favor of the insured or beneficiary a reasonable sum as fees or compensation for the insured’s or beneficiary’s attorney prosecuting the suit in which the recovery is had.”
So what does that all mean?
It means that if your attorney is successful in proving to the court that an insurance company denied a legitimate claim or underpaid a claim, the other party (insurance carrier) has to pay your legal fees, and of course for the damage.
What if I cannot afford to hire an attorney?Because Florida Statute §627.428 awards attorney fees to prevailing parties, most attorneys, including Dolman Law Group, do not require any legal fees up front. Your attorney gets paid legal fees by the insurance company, only when they are successful in your claim. This is known as a contingency fee. So don't worry about the cost of hiring an attorney.
Think about it this way: if your insurance company has underpaid your contractor bill by any amount, an attorney would have interest in getting that amount for you because the insurance company will have to pay the fees. This keeps the insurance companies honest and more likely to fairly pay on legitimate claims.
So, even if the bill was underpaid by $100, the issue is worth pursuing. The fact is, the insurance company should have paid the correct and fair amount. At Dolman Law Group, we will do everything to make sure you are justly compensated. After all, you pay your bill on-time every month, so when you need the insurance company, they better be there to help you out.
Call today and speak with an experienced attorney who deals with loss mitigation by calling 727-222-6922 or by emailing Derek Bernstein Esq at Derek@dolmanlaw.com
By: Derek Bernstein Esq.