You have insurance and always pay your premium on time. You look over your policy. You make sure that your smoke detectors have new batteries, that you have an updated alarm system and take care of wear and tear issues in your home as they arise. For years, things have been normal, but when significant and unexpected damage happens and you need to submit a claim, your insurance company may have a few surprises for you.
They tell you that you’re in good hands, so you feel that your insurance provider will be there for you when you need them. You likely assumed that insurance companies are legally obligated to operate in good faith and you never worried that as a policyholder you wouldn’t be treated fairly or compensated properly.
When the claims process ensues, the insurance provider’s goal is to reduce the liability for themselves and pay out as little as possible, if at all. Most homeowners submit their claim themselves only to realize later that the insurance company is offering significantly less than what it will take to repair the damage or nothing at all. There are many layers to the negotiation process and if you’re not working with a public adjuster or an attorney that focuses on homeowner’s insurance law, you could end up paying more out of pocket to repair damages than you should have.
Here are a few things that insurance companies don’t want you to know:
The insurance company hopes that you will represent yourself: An adjuster who works for the insurance company is not the same as a public adjuster. The former has the upper hand over the average policyholder, who doesn’t deal with claims on a daily basis and isn’t well-suited to fight against someone with such extensive knowledge. The adjuster may even try to persuade the policyholder to record a statement without speaking to an attorney because they have bargaining power in the process.
The insurance adjuster doesn’t work for you – a public adjuster does: It may feel like the insurance adjuster is there to help you receive the compensation that you deserve. But the insurance adjuster is a trained negotiator who doesn’t always fight fair, resorting to appealing to a policyholder on an emotional level to get them to accept a lower settlement. Consider hiring a public adjuster on your own that doesn’t represent the insurance company. Since most get paid on a contingency basis (they get paid when you get paid), they will fight hard to get you the biggest payout possible. Know that part of negotiation is manipulation and without an experienced lawyer on your side, you could be duped into saying something that could be used against you to deny your claim.
Settling is beneficial to the insurance company: Each claim is different but oftentimes, the insurance company is motivated to settle. Having an attorney to work on your behalf, to bring an action for breach of contract and/or bad faith against the company if things head that way is always a good option if required.
Undervaluing your claim is standard operating procedure: Insurance is a business, plain and simple. Driven to make a profit for the company, an adjuster has good reason to undervalue your valid claim. If you’re not aware, you could easily settle for less money than you’re entitled to if the adjuster convinces you it’s a good deal.
If your homeowners insurance claim has been denied, underpaid or has hit a legal snag, hiring a homeowners insurance attorney can get you the payment you deserve to repair your property. Call 844-96-CLAIM to get a free case review.
Facing the devastating after-effects of hurricane-related damage is emotionally taxing. Having to deal with trying to figure out the in’s and outs of filing a property damage claim can be confusing, if not daunting. In having to deal with severe emotion and frustration, judgement can get clouded. However, in order to prevent your situation from getting worse, there are several things that should never be done. Here are the top 5.
- Don’t return to your home until it is deemed safe to do so.
In addition to protecting your own safety, first responders first priority is to find any survivors and casualties. Returning before they allow it will prolong their job, but other lives at risk and put you in danger. Remain patient and wait for the go-ahead.
- Don’t immediately discard of potentially damaged items.
In addition to not being in the best mindset to make sound decisions after a devastating event, you may be able to salvage some property that would otherwise have to be completely replaced. Although at first sight your property may appear to be totally destroyed, upon further examination, you may find that there’s a lot that is salvageable
Also, if you salvage partially damaged property, your insurance company will try to make sure that your property doesn’t suffer further damage.
- Don’t wait to contact your insurance company after the damage is done.
Once you file your claim, they will send out a person to assess your property for compensation. Remember, you’re not the only one who will be contacting them. Therefore, the longer you wait, the more time you will have to wait in line and your compensation will be delayed.
Also, your insurance may have a ‘prompt notice’ requirement which mandates that you contact the company as soon as damage is caused.
- Don’t assess the cause of the property damage to the adjuster.
Although we all have the best intentions of trying to help the situation, this may cause more damage than help to the owner of the property. Sometimes this ‘self-diagnosis’ may lead to the damage not being covered. Leave the job to the professionals and save yourself some potential heartache.
- Don’t feel that you have to accept the initial estimate for compensation that you receive.
Following the mass destruction that is caused by a severe hurricane, an insurance’s goal is to close as many properties as possible in the shortest amount of time. The majority of the time, they will also undervalue the property damage- it’s a business, after all! With these two elements at play, it leaves the owners of the damaged property without enough money to cover their damages.
Mold is one of those things you often can’t see and hope you don’t have, but which you cannot afford to ignore. Every homeowner should take the steps needed to prevent mold and to remediate or eliminate mold if those nasty little spores start showing up on your property. Even though the government hasn’t set legal limits for exposure, the presence of “toxic mold” has wreaked havoc for thousands of property owners, especially landlords.
There is little question that it’s worth both time and money to examine your property for signs of mold and to take strong measures to eliminate it and prevent its growth.
How and where does mold grow?
It is a combination of moisture and nutrients that provides the perfect environment for mold growth. For the most part, mold grows in areas with poor ventilation and/or a structural weakness that allows water to seep into the building from outside. There are different types of mold that grow on different materials. Different types of mold grow on different materials, such as carpet, water pipes, cardboard boxes or ceiling tiles. Both heat and humidity create an ideal environment for the growth of mold organisms. Not all mold is harmful. For example, the mold on your bathroom tile doesn’t create a health concern. That said, signs of discoloration and musty odors are usually red flags that it’s time to check for mold in your property.
If mold is able to grow undetected, it can create stains on carpets and wood floors, walls, fabric or whichever surface it’s growing on. If you ignore it, mold can ruin these materials. It also can lead to wood rot and disintegration. However, the biggest problem is toxic molds, which can trigger allergic reactions and other possibly significant health problems for those living on the property.
What to Do If You Find Mold
The best thing to do is to prevent mold by keeping an eye on it and getting rid of it when the problem is small by using a mild detergent and water to scrub the area clean. Wear rubber gloves and protective goggles to protect yourself and then make sure the area is well-ventilated after the cleanup, to prevent the mold from returning. If you have a larger, more intense mold problem, remediation is best tackled by professionals.
Will Your Homeowners Insurance Cover Mold?
In most cases, the answer is “no.” Many homeowners insurance policies will only cover mold damage that was caused by what they refer to as a “covered peril.” Here is a list of covered perils, according to the insurance companies:
- Vandalism or malicious mischief
- Damage caused by vehicles
- Frozen pipes
- Falling objects
- Weight of ice, snow, or sleet
- Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from plumbing, heating, air conditioners, sprinkler systems, or household appliances
In most cases, these covered perils will tend not to lead to mold growing on your property, although there are certainly exceptions, like when an ice dam forms in your gutters during a rough winter and water backs up under your roof shingles, soaking your roof and your attic. However, it is unlikely your homeowners’ insurance will cover mold growth in most circumstances, especially if the cause was a preventable water leak, high humidity, or flooding.
Insurance companies tend not to pay for anything they consider to be a maintenance issue that could have been prevented by the homeowner, and failure to do that is the main cause for mold growth. Insurance companies expect homeowners to be proactive in taking care of such problems before they get to the level of making an insurance claim. In other words, you owe it to yourself to keep up with the mold and get rid of it before it becomes a problem.
Law Firm of David Low and Associates, P. A. | 844-96-CLAIM
DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is purely for educational purposes, reflective of the time it was published. It is not to be understood as legal advice.
Getting your homeowners insurance claim approved by an insurance company is an arduous and often long process. When you finally hear that your claim has been approved and the final step is to sign a few pieces of paper to receive your check, you are likely elated to do so. Unfortunately, this is where many homeowners make a significant mistake.
By signing a release of claim, you give up the important right to seek further benefits under the policy relating to that loss. A release takes away your right to reopen or supplement a claim. In some cases, you may find additional damage while repairing the original damage; such as mold in walls which you cannot see until the wall is being opened. In the event you find hidden damage, you will want to submit a supplemental claim, but if you sign a release of claim, you will not be able to do so.
It is most important to know that your homeowner’s insurance policy does not require that you sign a release in order to receive benefits. A release of claim must be supported by consideration, or in laymen’s terms, when there is an exchange of something of value for something else of value between two parties outside of an existing contract. For example, if there is a dispute as to whether an insurance premium was paid on time when a homeowner submits their claim, it can take the claim outside the limits of the contract and therefore, payment for the claim would be a consideration on the part of the insurance company and may warrant a release of benefits.
Insurance companies prey on homeowners who may not understand this legal concept. Even if a public adjuster is working on the claim for you, they cannot legally advise you on whether the release should be signed or not since they are not attorneys and this would constitute the practice of law, which is outside their scope of qualifications.
In a case like this, the best a public adjuster can do is advise their client to confer with an attorney who specializes in suing homeowner’s insurance companies such as David Low & Associates. Depending on the facts of the case, an attorney is able to help determine whether the release of claim is justified or not.
It is important to note that the Florida Department of Insurance has found insurers to abuse releases, especially in claims submitted for hurricane damage. So much so that after Hurricane Andrew, the Commissioner at the time, Tom Gallagher, issued Informational Bulletin 93-005:
“It has been brought to the attention of the Florida Department of Insurance that some insureds are being required to sign full releases in order to receive claims disbursement in settlement of claims relating to Hurricane Andrew.
The Department interprets Florida Statutes 626.9541(1)(i), 626.9641(1)(b), 626.9702, 627.4265, 627.702 and Emergency Rule Subsections 4ER92-26(4)(g), 4ER92-27(4) and other emergency rule subsections on similar topics, to mean:
- No check or draft issued in settlement of an insurance claim shall contain a provision which makes negotiation of the instrument an acceptance of the amount payable thereon as full and final settlement of the underlying insurance claim, except those that are for full policy limits.
- To eliminate misunderstanding or confusion and possible violation of Florida Statute 626.9541 and Rule 4-166.023, Florida Administrative Code, the Department is requesting that insurers limit the use of general releases to those settlements for which they are appropriate, and insert in said releases language to the effect that the release shall not constitute a final waiver of claims which are reasonably unforeseen on the date of the release.”
When you hit any legal obstacles with your homeowner’s insurance claim, call David Low & Associates at 844-96-CLAIM for a free case evaluation. Our primary office is in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
This article is for purpose of providing information and does not constitute as legal advice.
When you’re dealing with catastrophic damages to your home, you likely just want the claim process to be over with and to start rebuilding. Repairing your property, replacing furnishings and paying extra expenses that you incurred weighs heavily on your mind and hearing that your claim has been approved and a check is on the way feels like a step closer to “normal”. But there are several reasons why you may not want to accept their offer right away.
The adjuster’s appraisal might not cover all the costs to get the job done right. First, it is important to understand the difference between an insurance adjuster and a public adjuster. The big difference is that the insurance adjuster is paid by the insurance company and a public adjuster is one you hire to work for you. The latter is usually done on a contingency basis, so the bigger the payout you receive, the more they make.
Both adjusters will examine the damage, taking into account a number of factors including material costs, prevailing labor rates, labor hours, profit and overhead and the damage description. However, a public adjuster has a bigger interest in getting you the compensation you deserve and will likely go further to justify the claim amount, including getting quotes from various contractors who would properly repair your property. An insurance company may offer what they think is fair based on their adjuster’s findings and offer contractors who will repair it for their price. That doesn’t guarantee it would be repaired to your satisfaction. Remember that you can choose who will repair your property.
The low offer might be due to coverage issues. Your insurance policy is a contract that is built on multiple provisions, conditions and exclusions, resulting in a complicated plan. Because of all of these layers, it is easy for an insurance company to find a coverage issue. Instead of a settlement offer, the company may send you a Reservation of Rights letter outlining potential policy violations, increased hazards, fraud indicators or other coverage problems. Rather than declining coverage for your claim, the coverage issues become a reason for lowering your payment expectation, hoping that you’ll settle for a percentage of your claim rather than the full amount. If your claim is underpaid, we can review your case for free and make a plan to fight for the compensation you deserve.
Not all damage is evident immediately. The insurance adjuster offers a property settlement based on the facts that are known such as damaged roof. When the damage is extensive, there are likely to be a lot of unknowns not included in the assessment including damage in the interior walls that is undetectable until the work begins, mold or mildew that forms from water used to put out a fire and other scenarios.
Finally, depreciation is negotiable. When an insurance company owes actual cash value for your destroyed contents, the amounts they offer are not set in stone. Adjusters rely on programs and charts to calculate depreciation based on average life-expectancy of your property and their age at the time of damage, not taking into account adjustments for barely used or well cared for items which will give you leverage in disputing their settlement values.
Evaluate the offer thoroughly and call us at 844-96-CLAIM to review your underpaid claim today.