Property Damage Lawyers in Tampa
Helping clients with homeowners property damage claims and insurance policy issues in Tampa
Life is full of unpredictable surprises. From hurricanes and storms to pipe bursts and leaky appliances, sudden and unexpected events can cause significant damage to your home. Fortunately, insurance is available to cover most of your losses.
However, receiving compensation for a property damage claim in Tampa is not always that easy. Sometimes your claim is unfairly denied or your insurance company stops communicating with you. Other times, you may be pressured into accepting an unreasonable settlement, or
if you suspect your insurance company is not holding up its end of the bargain under your homeowner’s insurance policy, you may need a property damage lawyer to help protect your rights. Read on to learn more about property damage claims in Florida and the bad faith insurance tactics used to take advantage of Tampa residents.
What is a Homeowner Property Damage Claim?
If your home is damaged or destroyed, and you have homeowners insurance, you have the right to file a property damage claim. A property damage claim is a report or evidence that you submit to your insurance company that aids in the repair, replacement or recovery of your property.
What does your Homeowner Property Damage Claim cover?
Standard Tampa homeowner’s insurance policies contain four essential types of coverage. They include:
1. Real property damage
Under Florida homeowner’s insurance policies, real property refers to land, and any structures attached to it, such as your home, garage, carport, swimming pool patio, gazebo, or fence. Therefore, real property damage refers to losses incurred to fixed (immovable) structures or “real estate property.” However, damage to real property can also include damages to underground septic tanks, pipes, and even trees and vegetation.
2. Personal property damage
Unlike real property, personal property refers to items that are moveable, such as appliances, electronics, clothing, and furniture. Therefore, personal property damage is the loss of your home’s contents that are moveable. Personal property insurance helps you repair or replace your personal belongings after a covered loss.
3. Liability protection
Most Florida homeowner’s insurance policies contain liability protection against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that policyholders, family members, or pets cause to other people. The liability portion of your policy pays for both the cost of defending the policyholder in court and any court awards—up to the limit of the policy.
4. Additional living expenses
If your home is damaged or destroyed to the extent where you must live elsewhere, your homeowner’s insurance policy can cover rent and hotel bills, restaurant meals, and other living expenses incurred while your home is being repaired or rebuilt. Coverage for additional living expenses varies among insurance companies and policies.
Types of Property Damage Claims
One of the most common types of property damage claims in Florida is residential roof damage. Living in the Sunshine State exposes homeowners to severe weather, such as hurricanes, tropical storms, and torrent rainfall. Generally speaking, roof damage is covered under the real property portion of your homeowner’s insurance policy. Hail damage and wind damage to your roof are also covered.
However, you may be denied full coverage of your roof damage claim if you don’t take the necessary steps to mitigate further damages from occurring. Check out our blog, “Why Your Property Damage May Not be Covered by Your Insurance,” to learn more.
Water damage is generally covered by your insurance company if the damage is deemed “sudden and internal.” A pipe burst, wind-driven rain, or faulty appliance are usually all covered. However, home water damage as a result of neglect, normal wear, and tear, or gradual deterioration will most likely not be covered, even if it originated inside the house.
If you have a water-damaged ceiling, it’s important to know that residual mold that forms after that initial event will not be covered. Read our blog, “5 Costly Mistakes Florida Homeowners Make with Insurance Claims,” to learn why.
Wind damage is usually covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy. Whether you incur wind damage to your roof, including wind damage to shingles, or wind damage to windows, siding, or fencing, you can file a property damage claim with your insurance company to aid in the repair or replacement of your losses.
The primary cause of roof damage, water damage and wind damage in Florida, hurricanes and tropical storms are massive weather systems that frequent Florida’s coastlines. These storms can cause major destruction, resulting in tens of thousands of Florida hurricane damage claims submitted to insurance companies each year. Although roof damage, water damage, and wind damage are most common, hurricane damage also includes fire damage, lightning damage, real property damage, and personal property damage.
Unfortunately, insurance companies do not always make good on their commitment to providing full coverage for Florida hurricane damage. They may offer you less, delay payment, or completely deny your claim. Contacting an experienced hurricane property damage attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Fire damage and smoke
Fire damage and smoke can be incredibly devastating, causing serious injury or death and complete destruction of homes and property. Homeowners insurance covers damage from fires, but the amount you’re paid depends on the kind of coverage you have. Filing a fire property damage claim usually involves real property damage and personal property damage.
What is considered smoke damage?
If items in your home are exposed to smoke, they’ll likely need to be replaced. Often, smoke damage leaves black soot stains and lingering smells that ruin furniture, curtains, carpets, walls, and other household items with a porous material. Exposure to smoke damage can be harmful to your health and should be included in your property damage claim.
Homeowners insurance usually does not cover mold damage, unless it is directly related to a covered event. Why? Your insurance company expects you to take care of your house. This means properly ventilating damaged spaces, covering an exposed roof, and checking your home regularly for building water damage. Yet, there are exceptions to this rule, and if you have water damage mold, speak with a property damage lawyer to learn more about potential options for compensation.
What to do if you have property damage
As a policyholder, if your property is damaged, you have the right to file a claim with your insurance company and receive payment for your loss. However, there are certain steps you must take to ensure you receive full and fair compensation.
Mitigate further damages
One of the most important things to do after you experience property loss is to prevent further damages from occurring. This involves covering or tarping your roof, walls, windows, and doors, removing fallen debris from your home, draining a flooded area, and disposing of wet items that may cause mold growth.
Your insurance company will reimburse you for all reasonable costs needed to mitigate further damages, as long as you save receipts. Also, beware of “storm chasers” or out-of-town building contractors who encourage you to spend lots of money on quick and temporary repairs—these are often done in bad faith.
Failure to mitigate damages to your home may lower the amount of your offer. Insurance companies will only cover the number of damages actually caused by the covered event and will not cover damages that could have been avoided with “reasonable” care.
Check out our blog on damage mitigation.
Contact your insurance company
After a loss, you must report the property damage to your insurance company or representative to start the claim process. This can be an extensive, in-depth process that will require great attention to detail and a sufficient amount of time and preparation on your behalf.
One of the best ways to ensure you receive full compensation for your claim is to take thorough videos and photos of the property damage. If the insurance company tries to low-ball or deny your claim, you can provide evidence of the initial damage and better support your defense. If you lost belongings in the damaging event, make a detailed list of all items as soon as possible to reduce the likelihood of leaving them out of the claim.
What if your insurance company isn’t cooperating?
If you’ve filed a property damage claim, your insurance company has specific duties it must fulfill in order to avoid acting in bad faith. These included:
- Responding to your inquiries in a timely manner
- Conducting timely and thorough investigations into claims
- Approving, denying, and paying claims within a specific timeframe
- Providing an explanation for claim denials
If your insurance company seems to be failing in any of these duties and you’ve tried to come to a fair agreement, it’s probably time to contact a property damage lawyer who can handle all future correspondence with your insurance company.
Common reasons for denial of a property damage claim
Florida Homeowner’s Insurance is a $90-billion-dollar business, with less than half of that being paid out annually to cover losses.1 With so much money at stake, many insurance companies routinely deny or reduce claims that should otherwise be paid. Here are some common reasons:
- Not filing on time
- Not taking sufficient preventative measures to mitigate further damage
- Insufficient documentation of the damage
- Providing false statements or questionable claims
- Non-payment of premiums
- Exclusion clauses
A denial or underpayment is not final. You pay your premiums and have the right to full compensation for your loss. Contacting a qualified attorney can help you get the respect and claim results you deserve.
Do you have a denied, disputed or unpaid property damage claim?
Our experienced property damage lawyers can help you. At Darrigo & Diaz, we are passionate about protecting the rights of faithful policyholders whose insurance claims have been denied, disputed or delayed. Led by Board Certified Civil Trial Expert, Nadine Diaz, our firm is known for obtaining maximum settlement values for our clients.
Don’t get left having to pay for something that should be taken care of by your insurance company. Contact Darrigo & Diaz, Tampa’s Home Team, today for a free consultation. Call (813) 774-3341 to get started.