By Marcus Fernandez
Tropical storms and hurricanes are hot topics of conversation throughout Florida and for good reason. Damage caused by the wind, rain, and high tide of storms during hurricane season may get the attention of the media and the public, but they are not the only types of property claims that confront homeowners in Florida throughout the year.
The typical homeowners insurance policy usually covers you against damage to your home and any attached or unattached structures. It also provides coverage for personal property that may be lost or damaged. Understanding the different types of claims and the perils that may cause them will help should you have to file a claim with your insurer.
Wind and hail damage
Hurricanes, tropical storms, thunderstorms, tornados, and hailstorms can generate high winds that cause damage to homes and other structures. Be aware that the cause of the windstorm that damages your property may be a factor in determining the extent of your insurance coverage.
Insurance companies in Florida may issue policies that include a hurricane deductible, which would apply to claims arising for damages caused by winds associated with a hurricane. The deductible, which is the amount you must pay from your own funds toward the damage, is a percentage of the value of the insured property. A home that has a value of $400,000 and a policy with a 5% deductible, would be responsible for paying the first $20,000 of any loss you incur.
The law provides some protections for homeowners with regard to hurricane deductibles, including the following:
- The storm must be designated as a hurricane by the National Hurricane Center in order for your deductible to apply.
- The inclusion of a hurricane deductible must be clearly stated on the face of the policy to be binding.
- Hurricane deductibles are subject to an annual limit. You are only responsible for paying one hurricane deductible each year even though you may have damages caused by multiple storms.
- If you are unsure about the coverage in your policy, it may help to have it reviewed by a Tampa attorney.
Hail associated with thunderstorms and other weather patterns may cause extensive property damage even in Tampa, Fl. Depending upon the size of the hail, it could cause serious harm to the shingles and tiles of the roof of your home, break windows, and cause other forms of damage.
The response you get from your insurance company may be less than satisfactory and may include:
- A refusal to pay to replace a damaged roof by offering to repair only a portion of it.
- Underestimating the extent of the damage or the cost of the repairs.
- Offering less based upon the age of the existing roof or its condition before the damage from the storm.
If your insurance company refuses to honor your claim, you should speak with an attorney. You may have the right to submit the dispute to mediation or file a lawsuit against your insurance company to enforce the terms of its policy.
According to Hillsborough County, sinkhole activity in Florida exceeds that of any other state. The damage caused by a hole or depression suddenly appearing on your property may include:
- Compromised foundation
- Cracked walls and ceilings
- Sunken or sloping floors
- Cracked foundations and slabs
- Cracked pipes
Florida insurance companies must offer coverage for damage caused by sinkholes as an optional endorsement to your policy. Having coverage does not guarantee that your insurance company will agree that a sinkhole caused the damage. The technical nature of sinkhole claims may require the services of an attorney to work with engineers.
Water and mold claims
Homeowners insurance policies usually cover losses due to water damage. This includes broken pipes, leaking water heaters, and similar types of plumbing problems. Difficulties may arise when your claim is for damage resulting from a flood or tidal surge. Unless you have flood insurance, the damage may not be covered. Speak with a Tampa attorney for advice about how best to handle the claim if you don’t have flood insurance.
The attorney may be able to assist if mold develops in your home and you wish to file a claim. The challenge is that your insurance company may deny coverage for mold under the terms of your homeowners policy. An attorney may have success proving the mold was caused by an event covered in your policy. For example, mold that develops because of a broken pipe behind a wall in your bathroom caused by the water leaking from the pipe.
Claims for fire damage
A fire can cause extensive damage to your home and force you into temporary housing while it is under repair. Fires can also destroy or damage personal items, including clothing and furniture.
Disputes frequently arise with the insurance company over the value of property lost or damaged. Documenting the contents of your home will help if things are lost during a catastrophic event. Using photographs, videos, and a list of all personal property and information are a few things you can do.
Getting help with your property claims
It is the law in Florida that insurance companies must make a good faith effort to settle property claims in a timely manner. If your insurance company fails to do so, you may have the right to sue to enforce your rights under your insurance policy. You should consult with a skilled Tampa property claims attorney or contact us today for a free consultation or learn more about your rights and options for enforcing them.