Homeowners and businesses in Miami count on insurance policies to protect them from natural and man-made disasters alike. Considering the high frequency of storms Florida experiences, this coverage is even more important. However, unscrupulous insurance companies often deny valid claims and leave their policyholders holding the bag. If your insurance company has refused to honor your claim, it takes a skilled property damage attorney to protect your rights.
VCM Law Group serves clients in Miami and throughout South Florida whose insurance claims have been unfairly denied. We understand the tactics and tricks used by insurance companies to deny and pay as little as possible on claims. We also know how to fight for the payouts our clients deserve.
What does your property insurance cover?
Residential and commercial insurance policies are designed to compensate policyholders for property damage. Losses affecting property include structural issues like damage to the building, as well as the destruction of items within the business or dwelling. That may include things like furniture, electronics, clothing, appliances, and personal property.
Depending on your specific policy, it may cover property damage resulting from:
- Water damage (e.g. busted pipes)
- Fallen trees
Every insurance loss is different. Some policyholders only need coverage for partial damage to property, while others experience a total loss. Either way, you expect insurance to cover what it says it will. Otherwise, you’re left to clean up the mess on your own – and at your expense.
Why are property damage claims denied?
Not all claim denials are in bad faith. However, insurance companies aren’t going to go out of their way to make sure your rights are protected. And if a justification, no matter how weak, arises that allows your insurance company to deny or pay minimally on your claim, there’s a good chance it will.
Here are some common reasons insurance companies deny property damage claims:
- Failure to pay insurance premiums. You’re required under your insurance contract to pay all premiums on time. Even a short lapse can leave you uncovered and give your insurer an excuse to deny your claim. Be wary of auto-drafts and other automatic payments, which could fail to process and thereby cause a lapse.
- Policy exclusions. A typical insurance contract will contain numerous exclusions, many of which you won’t even understand. These are deliberately written into contracts to give insurers an excuse to deny or pay only the minimal amount on property damage claims. A common exclusion is for ordinary wear and tear. If your insurance company can make a plausible argument that an exclusion applies, expect them to use it.
- Late claims. After suffering property damage, you have a limited amount of time to file your claim with your insurance company. This is required to minimize the insurance company’s exposure and payout on claims. Some owners wait too long and find that an otherwise covered loss has been denied.
- Insufficient proof of losses. The homeowner is required to provide proof as to the losses claimed against their policy. Failure to document what you’ve lost could result in a much lower payout than you deserve.
What is required of the policyholder?
Although many of us see insurance claims as the responsibility of the insurance company, there are actually a number of things you, the policyholder and homeowner has to do to ensure their claim is approved. First, be sure you understand the policy, ideally before you ever have to use it (but especially if the claim has already been denied). Few residential and commercial policyholders ever read their policies. After all, they’re lengthy, complicated, and filled with small type and legalese. However, the more you understand about what’s covered, what’s not, and what your obligations are as the policyholder, the better.
Next, you should take an inventory of all property you might wish to cover in the event of a loss. Take photos of the outside of the property as well as inside. Include furniture, appliances, and other personal property. Maintain all records regarding your property and keep them updated. When it comes time to file a claim, you’re required to provide a proof of loss statement detailing what you want to be covered.
After you experience property damage, you’re also required to provide notice of the loss to your insurer. This has to be done relatively soon after the damage in accordance with the terms of your policy, so don’t wait.
Finally, property owners must take reasonable steps to mitigate further damage to the property. What exactly constitutes reasonable steps is up for interpretation and will vary from one policy to another. If your roof has a hole in it, for example, you may need to place a tarp/temporary covering over it to prevent additional interior damage.
How can a property damage attorney help me?
If you’ve had a claim denied, or you’re concerned about whether your insurance company will cover it, consult a knowledgeable property damage lawyer. Your attorney can assist with the following:
- Reviewing the insurance contract. That includes any vague, technical, or industry language it may contain. Your attorney will help determine whether the loss is covered by your policy and how exclusions could affect your claim
- Communicating with the insurer. Insurance adjusters handle property damage claims, but have been known to employ tactics that trick the policyholder into “admitting” certain things that will damage or devalue the claim. Let an experienced attorney handle these communications.
- Negotiating with the insurance company. It may be possible to negotiate a policy payout that is mutually satisfactory to everyone involved. However, you need a lawyer who understands what sort of damages you’ve incurred and whether the insurer’s offer is reasonable.
- Litigating the claim. If the insurance company is acting in bad faith by attempting to deny or pay less than the claim is worth, you may want to consider taking them or another party (e.g. someone who vandalized the property) to court. We understand Florida insurance law and know how to build a legal case.
Contact Our Miami Property Damage Attorney Today
Claim denials can unfairly leave homeowners and business owners responsible for property damage the insurer should pay for. Don’t let your insurance company cheat you out of your coverage. Give VCM Law Group a call today to discuss your property damage and learn how we can help.