Homeowners Insurance Claims
Your homeowners’ insurance policy is designed to help you protect your home from the worst that can happen to it. You pay into it with the expectation that should your home be damaged, the insurance company will pay the money needed to repair your home and make it livable again. However, that doesn’t always happen. Insurance claims can be denied even if the claim is valid.
Insurance companies are businesses first and are looking to make a profit. They don’t want to pay out any more money than they absolutely have to. This means that many insurance companies may be looking for reasons to deny your claim or to pay less than the damage will actually cost to repair. Sometimes claims are denied because the peril that caused the damage isn’t covered by the insurance policy. But sometimes, claims are denied in bad faith to save the insurance company money.
If your home has been damaged and your insurance company has denied your claim or you received less than the cost of the damage within what your policy covers, we can help. Contact Farah & Farah to receive a free consultation about your case. You won’t pay anything unless your case is successful.
What Kind of Damage Can Happen to My Home?
There are a lot of different perils that can cause damage to your home. The most common types of damage with the largest percentage of claims against homeowners’ insurance policies are:
- Wind damage
- Water damage (internal)
- Water damage (weather-related)
Fire is also a major concern for homeowners. Fires can be started by lightning strikes, by faulty or old appliances and wiring, or even by accidents. Fires are often more of a concern for homeowners because of the risk to their health and lives. Severe weather events such as tornados and hurricanes can also cause major damage to homes, sometimes even resulting in a total loss of the property.
There are several ways wind can cause damage to your home. Some of the most common ways wind can cause damage are:
- Falling tree branches
- Lifting roof shingles
- Broken windows
Wind can lift unsecured items that are located outside, including items as large as patio furniture, and send them through a window or a glass door, breaking it. Wind can also detach tree branches from trees, causing them to drop onto roofs or through windows.
The severity of the damage depends on how strong the winds are. In a tornado or a hurricane, winds can be so strong that they can cause extensive damage and potentially even destroy buildings. If you know that a storm is coming, you can try to protect your home as much as possible by moving loose outdoor items indoors or by boarding up windows to protect them from debris.
Even weak tornadoes can have very strong winds that can do a lot of wind damage to your home. Strong tornadoes can completely demolish a home, resulting in a total loss. They’re also a major danger to the people living there.
Internal Water Damage
Internal water damage is water damage that comes from within the house. This water damage is typically caused by issues with appliances or plumbing. If a pipe bursts inside the house or a freezer leaks, that can cause water to leak out into the house. Leaks can cause:
- Warping wood
- Ceiling collapse
- Weakened drywall
- Chipping paint
- Peeling wallpaper
Some of the possible damage caused by internal leaks is cosmetic only. But water can cause mold and mildew to form. It’s not only unsightly but it’s also hazardous to your health.
Hailstorms can cause thousands of dollars in damage to a home. Hail can:
- Break windows
- Damage siding
- Dent metal roofs
- Damage shingles
- Cause leaks
- Peel paint
- Damage air conditioners
- Damage chimneys
- Damage cars
Depending on the size of the hailstones and the strength of the winds during the storm, the damage can be quite extensive.
Water Damage from Weather
Water damage can also result from severe weather. Rainstorms can cause flooding under the right conditions. In areas where snow is common, snow can leak into a house. Storms that also have strong winds, such as a hurricane, can cause wind damage that allows water to get inside your home.
Water coming into your house can warp wood and damage ceilings and walls. It can also cause the growth of mold and mildew, which can be a health hazard.
Hurricanes are a seasonal bane of Florida. They travel up the coast, leaving devastation in their wake. They’re strong storms with a lot of rain and also high-speed winds that can reach speeds strong enough to knock down trees. For those living on the coast, storm surges from the ocean are an additional danger.
Theft is also a common homeowners’ insurance claim. While it may not cause as much damage as water, wind, or hail, theft is still a loss of property with a dollar value that should be covered by homeowners’ insurance. Plus, the burglar may have damaged the house upon entry, for example, by breaking a window.
Fire is also a risk for homeowners’ property. Fire can cause a lot of damage and even result in a total loss to the house. The fire itself can burn property, from possessions inside the home to the structure of the building. It may be impossible to repair or restore something that has been burned. On top of that, smoke and heat from the fire can cause damage even far away from the fire itself.
What Does My Homeowners Insurance Policy Cover?
Exactly what a homeowners’ insurance policy covers depends on the policy and the insurance company. However, homeowners’ insurance policies tend to be very similar. The important thing is to make sure that you have enough homeowners’ insurance for your house. In claims that are accepted, the amount that you can get from the claim depends both on the total cost to repair the damage, but also on how much your policy allows.
The more your homeowners’ insurance covers, the higher your premiums will be, so you don’t want to have too much homeowners’ insurance. However, you don’t want to have too little, either, as you could find yourself having to pay out of pocket for repairs because your policy allowed the insurance company to pay too little towards the repairs. Typically, the right amount of insurance is an amount that will cover rebuilding the home, replacing the property inside, medical costs for any injuries sustained on the property, and living expenses if you’re unable to live on the property.
Most homeowners’ insurance policies will cover:
- Damage from vehicles (including cars and aircraft)
- Civil commotion (such as a riot)
- Volcanic eruption
- Objects falling on the house
- Lightning strikes
- Fire and smoke
- Water damage (internal)
- Weight of snow, sleet, and ice
Most standard homeowners’ insurance policies exclude earthquakes, floods, maintenance (which includes mold and mildew), sewer backups, or hurricanes. If you want coverage for any of these perils, you may need to purchase separate insurance policies specifically for that peril. Floridians, for example, may want to purchase hurricane and flood insurance.
Dwelling Coverage is the part of a standard homeowners’ insurance policy that covers the home itself. This part of the policy should be enough to rebuild your home should it be damaged by any of the perils covered by your insurance.
Personal Property Coverage
The Personal Property Coverage part of a policy covers the personal property inside the home. This can include appliances, furniture, clothing, and other personal possessions. If they’re damaged or stolen, this is the part of the policy that will cover replacing or repairing them. You should have enough coverage to replace all of your belongings.
Liability insurance covers injury to others on your property that you could be held liable for. For example, if your dog bites a visitor to your property and they require medical attention, that would be covered under your liability coverage. Or, if a tree on your property falls onto a neighbor’s property and causes damage, that would fall under this category. You should have as much coverage as you can possibly afford.
Additional Living Expenses (ALE)
The ALE section of your policy covers living expenses for if you have to vacate your home. It’s a sort of emergency fund for use if your home is damaged and it isn’t safe to live there. It covers things like hotel bills and restaurants if you’re unable to cook. It may also include the costs of laundry at a laundromat, storage for furniture and other belongings, furniture rentals, and board for your pet if you have one. Ideally, this part of the policy should be up to a third of the amount of Dwelling Coverage.
Floods are almost never included in standard homeowners’ insurance policies. If you live in a flood-prone area, you’ll need to purchase the extra insurance to make sure that your property is fully covered in the event of a flood.
Hurricanes can cause both wind and water damage. Water damage from the weather is already typically not covered by standard policies, but in hurricane-prone areas, wind damage is often not covered as well. In hurricane-prone areas like Florida, there may be special hurricane insurance or other special policies that residents can purchase that would cover both water damage from floods and storm surges and damage from high-speed winds.
Fire damage is typically covered by standard homeowners’ insurance policies, but you can purchase extra fire insurance if you are concerned that your normal insurance policy won’t cover enough.
How Do I Make a Homeowners Insurance Claim?
If you’re going to make an insurance claim, it’s important to do it properly. You don’t want to provide your insurance company with any excuse to deny your claim. You’ll also want to make sure that you have proof of the damage that occurred and, if possible, what caused that damage.
Assess the Damage
The first step is to assess the damage. Take pictures of everything. You’ll want to be able to prove later what damage occurred and even what caused it. The insurance company may try to claim that the damage was caused by a peril that isn’t covered under your insurance when it actually should be covered.
It’s a good idea to have the damage professionally assessed as well. Depending on the type of damage, you may want to have a professional inspect it before notifying your insurance company. A professional could help you determine whether the damage is cosmetic only, saving you from having to make a claim that the insurance company would deny since cosmetic damage often isn’t covered.
In other cases, where there is clear damage to the property, it may be a good idea to have your own independent inspector come out at the same time the insurance company sends their adjuster so that they can point out damage that the adjuster may have missed.
Review Your Insurance Policy
It’s important to know exactly what your insurance policy covers and about any deductibles your policy may have. You may have to pay for a certain amount of the repair work before the insurance company can begin covering anything. You’ll also want to make sure that you follow your insurance company’s claim procedures exactly so there’s no fault on your end that could result in a denial of your claim.
Notify Your Insurance Company
You should notify your insurance company as soon as possible of the damage that occurred to your home. The only time it’s advisable to wait is if the damage is cosmetic only and a professional has advised you that it’s a better idea to wait to repair until other repairs are also needed. You’ll want to repair the actual damage as soon as possible.
Insurance companies only cover the initial damage caused by a covered peril. If you delay, additional damage could occur because of the lack of repair that the insurance company would then not cover at all.
Keep Maintenance Records
It’s important to keep records of all maintenance work done on your property. This is especially so if your insurance company is reimbursing you or if you have a deductible. You’ll want to be able to prove exactly what you’ve already paid and what you have had done.
What Is Florida’s Valued Policy Law?
Under Florida’s Valued Policy Law, insurance companies may have to cover the full amount of a policy in the event of a total loss, even if the damage was only partly caused by a covered peril. For example, if your home was a total loss from a storm and your policy covers hail damage but not wind damage and the damage was caused partly by hail but partly by wind, the insurance company may owe as much as your policy allows, even if only a percentage of the damage was caused by the covered peril. The Valued Policy Law only applies to partial loss if the damage is fire-related.
Why Was My Insurance Claim Denied?
Insurance companies are businesses. They’re looking to make a profit and therefore may be looking to save as much money as possible by denying claims. Some claims are denied for legitimate reasons, such as if the peril in question isn’t covered. However, many claims are denied in bad faith because the insurance company doesn’t want to pay.
Disagreement About Cause of Damage
The insurance company may deny a claim because they say the damage was caused by a peril that isn’t covered under your insurance policy. This may be a genuine belief based on the adjuster’s inspection of the damage, but it also may be an attempt to get out of paying money owed.
Difference in Valuation
The insurance company could also claim that the cost to repair the damage is less than it actually is. This is why having an independent professional inspect the damage is so important. The adjuster from the insurance company who comes out to assess the damage for the insurance company may be biased on the company’s behalf.
Failure to Meet Conditions
An insurance company may also claim that you have failed to meet the terms and conditions of your policy. This is why it’s important to read your insurance policy thoroughly to make sure that you’re in compliance with any conditions that need to be met.
In addition, depending on the type of damage, the insurance company may claim that it was done deliberately to defraud the insurance company. For example, in the event of a fire, they may suggest that it was set deliberately by the homeowner. Deliberate damage isn’t covered, so an insurance company trying to get out of paying in bad faith may try to claim this.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me?
An experienced lawyer can help you understand exactly what your homeowners’ insurance policy was supposed to cover and whether your insurance company denied your claim in bad faith. If your homeowners’ insurance claim was denied in bad faith, an attorney can help you fight the insurance company to get the money you deserve.
Farah & Farah’s team of highly skilled lawyers has a lot of experience with insurance companies and can help you with your claim. Don’t wait to contact us for a free consultation. You won’t have to pay a dime unless your case is successful.