Skip to content

It seems like every April 1st, the National Flood Insurance Program informs us that it is raising the premium rates for flood insurance.  (Feel free to insert any April Fools jokes here.)

As of April 1, 2018, the average flood insurance premium rose 8 percent, with some property owners seeing increases of up to 25 percent.  Despite what you might initially think, these increases are not the result of Hurricane Irma, but are part of an ongoing effort by Congress to get the National Flood Insurance Program out of debt.  As of last count, the NFIP was approximately $25 Billion in debt.

The largest premium increases will be levied upon high risk properties.  This high risk designation usually applies to buildings that were constructed prior to 1970 when the first flood insurance rate maps were produced, or to newer properties that are either non-primary residential properties, business properties, or properties that sustained substantial damage in the past.  The properties deemed “low risk” will most likely see the smallest premium increases – perhaps less than 1 percent.

As a result of these higher premiums, there is a growing number of private insurance companies that are now offering flood insurance policies.  Since these policies are not related to the National Flood Insurance Program, these private insurance companies can provide different coverages and higher policy limits than the standard flood policies.  Although these private company flood policies may be a good choice for many consumers, you need to be wary as to exactly what you are purchasing, as the terms, conditions, and coverages of such policies vary wildly.

As they say, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.  As high as flood insurance premiums may seem, the protection such policies provide after a catastrophic flood event far outweighs the pain of the monthly premium.  If you have any questions regarding what coverages you have under your flood insurance policy, please feel free to contact our office for a free review of your policy.

Roof damage is the most common type of hurricane insurance claim we see after a hurricane, wind storm or hail event.  Wind from hurricanes and tropical storms can cause substantial roof damage – whether just a few loose shingles or the total destruction of the entire roof structure.  Even worse, any opening in your roof can cause water to enter your home and devastate your belongings.  Hail can also cause severe damage and greatly reduce the functional life of your roof.

If You Have Questions Regarding Your Storm Damage Claim – Call (800) 451-6786 for Immediate Help.

After a roof damage loss, it is crucial to get your roof repaired or replaced as soon as possible.  The longer you wait, the more time there is for additional damage to be caused by water loss.  On the other hand, if full repairs are not completed and only a quick patch job is performed, you may be asking for an even greater problem down the road.

The question whether to repair or replace a damaged roof is hotly debated by insurance companies and their policy holders.  During this epic struggle, you will most likely hear terms and phrases such as the “25% Rule”, the brittle shingle test, asphalt granular shingle loss and shingle bruising.  In order to help better understand your insurance claim, we’ve provided a quick summary of these terms below.

The 25% Roof Replacement Rule of the Florida Building Code

The most commonly referenced roof damage term is the 25% Rule.  The 25% Rule arises out of Section 708.1.1 of the Florida Building Code.  The pertinent portion of this Code Section states as follows:

Not more than 25 percent of the total roof area or roof section of any existing building or structure shall be repaired, replaced or recovered in any 12 month period unless the entire roofing system or roof section conforms to requirements of this code.

There are a couple of important points to keep in mind with this Code Section.  First, if a more than 25% of your roof is damaged – either from a fallen tree, high winds, or otherwise – then the entire roof must be replaced.  If less than 25% of any portion of your roof is damaged, then (at least pursuant to this Code Section) the roof can just be repaired or patched.  Secondly, the 25% can be measured by any given section of the roof.  If more than 25% of any given section of the roof is damaged, then that section must be replaced and not merely repaired.  Thirdly, there is a 12 month time frame over which this 25% is calculated.  For example, if the initial damage does not reach the 25% threshold for replacement, but then over the next 12 months, additional repairs are required that cause the damage to go beyond the 25% threshold, then the entire roof section must then be replaced.

The Brittle Shingle Test

The brittle shingle test is a super scientific testing method whereby an inquisitive person picks up a shingle, tries to fold or bend the shingle up to a 90 degree angle, and then checks to see if the shingle breaks or bends.  If the shingle breaks, then the shingle is brittle and the roof probably needs to be replaced.  If, on the other hand, the shingle is still pliable and bends, then the roof is not a candidate for replacement (or so the insurance representative would say).  This testing method is clearly subject to many variables (temperature of shingle being tested, etc.), but is often used by insurance companies as “proof” that the roof shingles are still functional.

Shingle Granular Loss

Asphalt granular shingle loss is generally calculated to occur at about a 3% rate per year.  Unfortunately, damage from wind or bruising by hail can accelerate this loss by anywhere from 15% to 40%.  Even if the damage doesn’t totally destroy the shingle or make an opening all the way to the matting, the artificially accelerated “aging” of your roof may be a covered loss under your insurance policy.  The theory is that prior to the storm you had a roof with (hypothetically) 15 years of remaining life, but now after the storm damage, you left with a roof with only 5 years of useful life left.

Shingle Bruising

Shingle bruising is usually caused by hail damage.  When hail strikes an asphalt shingle, it can cause a localized loss of granules, usually circular in shape, to the shingle and a fracture in the mat beneath the shingle.  The damage to the mat is usually referred to as a bruise and can be indicative of damage to the functional ability of the roof.  Bruising and hail damage to a roof can cause a diminution of the water shedding ability of the shingle and a reduction in the functional life of the roof.  Bruised shingles need to be replaced as such damaged shingles are no longer able to keep water and other elements from entering the structure.

Get Experienced Help for your Hurricane Insurance Claim

Please know that many of these determinations are very subjective and, unless you have a working knowledge of building construction and a mastery of the coverages available under your insurance policy, you may not be best equipped to handle your property damage claim by yourself, and may want to discuss your claim with an experienced property insurance claim attorney.  Should you have any questions whatsoever, please contact our office and we will help guide you through whatever issues you may have with your insurance damage claim.

 

After a hurricane, storm or other disaster, you hoped that your property insurance company would honor your claim and pay for your damages.  After all, you purchased homeowners insurance with the expectation that, if a catastrophic loss ever occurred, your insurance company would provide for the repair of your property back to its pre-loss condition.  Unfortunately, as many homeowners are now experiencing after Hurricane Irma, property insurance companies do not always live up to policyholders’ expectations.

If You Have Questions Regarding Your Storm Damage Claim – Call (800) 451-6786 for Immediate Help.

During the initial inspection, the insurance company’s adjuster may have even indicated to you that your damages would be covered and that the insurance company would “take care of everything”.  Then, after not hearing from the adjuster for a few weeks, you received a check in the mail for not only substantially less than you hoped for, but nowhere near enough to repair all of your damages.  What happened?

Denying Claims Based On Pre-Existing Damage Defense Or Other Exclusions

The insurance company’s first weapon to underpay your claim is the denial of all or a large portion of your damages.  This denial could be a claim that your damage pre-existed the insurance policy period, that your damage was not the result of the subject weather event, that your damage is specifically excluded under the policy, or any other reason manufactured by the insurance company.

Limiting Scope of Repairs and Undervaluing Value of Damages

If the insurance company cannot find a way to deny your claim, they will then try to underpay or undervalue the cost of repairing your damage.  The insurance company will attempt to limit the scope of your repairs (the actual items to be repaired) and/or limit the actual cost allowed for such repairs.  Insurance companies have created quite a cottage industry for contractors, adjusters, and other “experts” who are retained specifically for the purpose of minimizing the valuation of your damage claim.

Aggressively Depreciating the Value of Your Property

The insurance company’s next weapon is the application of depreciation.  Pursuant to Florida law, the insurance company only has to pay the Actual Cash Value of your damages after a loss.  In short, Actual Cash Value (ACV) is the “garage sale value” of your items, and not the current cost to repair or replace same.  It is only after you totally repair or replace the damaged items that the insurance company has the obligation to pay the Replacement Cost Value (RCV) of your damaged items.  The insurance company takes the Replacement Cost Value of your damaged property, and then subtracts an estimated “depreciation” amount in order to get the Actual Cash Value which it pays to you.  As you can imagine, this process is replete with subjective calculations (who says what the current value of my two year old TV is?  How is my roof depreciated by 40% in four years?) and the subject of many disputes.

Applying High Hurricane Deductibles

Perhaps the biggest – or at least, the most apparent – slap in the face by the insurance company is the application of a deductible to your loss payment.  If your loss is not the result of a hurricane or named storm, the deductible may only be $1,000.00 or so, but if your damage is the result of a hurricane or named storm, then your deductible may be substantially higher.  We have written about the application of hurricane deductibles in a previous post, so we will ease the pain by not repeating that narrative here.  Needless to say, these deductibles can come as quite a shock – especially when the insurance company’s calculation of your damages somehow “magically” comes in at just below the amount of your deductible.

The presentation of an insurance claim for property damage from a hurricane or other type of loss can be a minefield.  Without the help of an experienced lawyer or other professional, you run the risk of having your property claim severely underpaid or even outright denied.  If you believe you are not being treated fairly by your insurance company, or if you just have questions regarding the process, please feel free to contact our office and we will do our best to assist you.

 

Now that Hurricane Irma has marched through the entire length of Florida, those affected by the storm must now face perhaps an even more stressful event – the pursuit of a property damage claim against their homeowners insurance company.  Although it may take several weeks for property owners to fully realize the damage caused to their property, they need to move quickly with a claim against their property insurance company.                          
 
Since the focus has long been on preparing for Irma’s high winds and water, it is understandably difficult to now turn your focus to the language of your insurance policy and the numerous exclusions contained therein.  It is also eye-opening to realize that the insurance company’s representatives do not always fully investigate the scope of your damage and will often leave a lot of damage uncompensated.                                                                                                                                                     
If You Have Questions Regarding Your Storm Damage Claim – Call (800) 451-6786 for Immediate Help.                                                                                                                                                            
As important as your pre-storm preparation was, you must now focus on obtaining the most compensation possible from your insurance company to help put your property (and life!) back together again.  The steps you take immediately after the storm are crucial with regard to your ability to adequately present a claim with your insurance company for the damage to your property.  As you begin your insurance claim presentation process, you may want to keep the following in mind:                                                                                                                                  
 
The Safety of Your Family.  This may seem obvious, buy it needs to remain your overriding priority after the storm.  Do not get caught up in documenting your damages or any other claim activity until later the safety of your family is assured.                                                                      
 
Document Your Damage:  In order to best receive reimbursement for your lost or damaged items, you will need to prove to the insurance company what property you had and the pre-storm condition of same.  Hopefully, you took pictures and video of the pre-storm condition of your property.  With the advent of cell phone cameras and other video devices, it is easier than ever to memorialize the damage caused by the storm and to easily provide same to your insurance carrier.
 
Contact Your Insurance Company.  As soon as communications allow, you should immediately place your insurance company on notice of your loss.  The most obvious reason for this is so that the sooner your place your claim, the sooner you can start the process.  If you wait to place your claim, you may be forced to wait behind others that placed their claims before you.  
A not so obvious reason to place your claim quickly is that many insurance policies now mandate that you provide them with “immediate” notice of a loss.  If you wait to place your claim and do not give the insurance company “immediate” notice of your loss, the insurance company may claim to have been “prejudiced” by your delayed reporting and deny your claim.  Insurance company lawyers have created quite a cottage industry for themselves by defending against the payment of your claim based upon an alleged “late notice” defense.                                          
 
Point Out All Damage to the Insurance Representative.  After the receipt of your claim, an insurance company representative will come and inspect the damage to your home.  It is crucially important that you point out any and all damage to your property so that the damage can be documented.  Don’t worry if you miss something, as your claim is not limited to only the damage you point out on this initial visit, but the more damage you can document to the insurance company, the higher the insurer’s initial settlement offer may be.
Remember, the insurance company representative  does not work for you, but instead works for the insurance company.  Even though the insurance adjuster may be friendly and professional, he is not an advocate for the full payment of your loss.  The adjuster is employed solely by the insurance company and, whether consciously or unconsciously, his goal will be to provide the least amount of coverage for your damage.
 
Flood vs. Wind Damage.  Since Hurricane Irma caused damage both by high winds and rising water, your homeowners insurance company may try to deny coverage for some of your damage by claiming the damage was caused by water and not wind.  In general, your homeowners insurance policy covers damage caused by wind, and your flood insurance policy covers damage caused by rising water.  The dispute over whether damage is covered by flood or homeowners insurance has generated mountains of litigation and is discussed in detail in a previous post
Examine your Insurance Policy for Additional Coverages.  The insurance company representatives may not point out all the benefits provided by your homeowners insurance policy.  For instance, there may be additional insurance coverage for items such as any alternative living arrangements while repairs are being done, food that may have spoiled in your refrigerator, the cost of bringing your home up to current building codes, and other such non-obvious coverages.
Remember, if you are not satisfied with the treatment, coverage, or payment provided to you by your insurance company, it is advisable to contact an attorney or other professional who has experience with handling property insurance claims.  Most of these professionals work on a contingency fee basis and offer a free initial consultation, so there are no out of pocket costs to obtain help with your storm damage insurance claim.
 

When dealing with a hurricane or tropical storm, surviving the weather event is often only the beginning of the battle.  The insurance company’s constant nit-picking of your claimed losses can drive you bonkers – especially while you are trying to put the rest of your life back together.  Then, just when you think you may have worked out a reasonable resolution of your claim, the insurance representative says, “Oh, and by the way, we are going to apply a hurricane deductible to your loss amount.”

If you have any questions about hurricane deductibles or any other part of your insurance claim – call (800) 451-6786 to speak with a lawyer today.

The Named Storm Deductible or Hurricane Deductible can take a huge bite out of your ultimate insurance claim recovery.  Although some policies may vary, most homeowner insurance policies in Florida provide for a 10% deductible for hurricane or named storm claims.  The real kicker though, is that this deductible is calculated as 10% of your POLICY amount, not of your claim amount.  For example, let’s say you have a $500,000 policy of homeowner’s insurance, and then have the misfortune of incurring a $75,000 hurricane damage loss.  After the application of the $50,000 deductible (10% of $500,000), the insurance company would only be obligated to pay you $25,000 for your loss.  Good thing everybody always keeps a spare $50k around for just this type of emergency – right?

Dealing with the application of a hurricane deductible is another reason why you should never try to handle a catastrophic insurance loss without professional assistance.  Whether you choose an insurance claim attorney or a public adjuster, either professional would handle the property insurance claim on a contingency fee basis and would only get paid if they bettered your recovery.  Should you have any sort of questions whatsoever about either your insurance policy or the claims process, please feel free to contact our office anytime.

Even as the internet is full of Hurricane Harvey damage pictures, another storm is quickly approaching Florida from the eastern Atlantic.  Tropical Storm Irma – soon to be Hurricane Irma – is projected to be a major storm and may make landfall along Florida’s coastline.  The time is now to stop looking at flood pictures in Texas and realize that we could be in the same situation – or worse – if a major storm hit our shores.

Please take a moment to review my previous post on the crucial steps you need to take in order to protect your family during the storm.  Also, you can click here to download a detailed Hurricane Supply Checklist.  Make sure you obtain all or as many of these items as possible, because you may have to fend for yourself and your family for an extended period after the storm.

If you don’t already have adequate property insurance coverage, then it is mostly likely too late for you.  Sorry, but it is not like we didn’t warn you.  If you do have a solid policy of homeowners insurance, then at least you know that you will be able to seek recovery from your insurance carrier for any property loss you may incur.

If you have any questions regarding your property insurance coverage or need help with your claim, please either contact us online or call our office at (888) 898-5297.

Flooded.HouseAfter a flood or other substantial water event, flood insurance policy holders are often surprised to learn what is covered by their flood policy – and more surprisingly, what is NOT covered under their flood insurance policy.  As I have written about before, flood insurance is totally separate from homeowners insurance, and both provide separate coverage for different types of loss.  Specifically, homeowners insurance does not cover water damage from flood.

Call (800) 451-6786 for an immediate and free consultation regarding any questions you may have about Flood Insurance Claims.

In order to qualify for coverage under your flood insurance policy, there must have been a “flood” in your area.  A “flood” condition occurs when water covers at least two acres of land that is normally dry, or if the water condition has damaged two or more properties in your area.  Additionally, this water has to come from either (1) overflowing or inland tidal waters, (2) unusual, rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source, or (3) mud flow (defined as mud that is carried by a flow of water, thereby creating a river of mud).  Depending on the circumstances, there may also be coverage for waterfront land that collapses or sinks as the result of water that is above anticipated cyclical levels.  Importantly, damage caused by water that overflows out of sinks, toilets, sewers, or similar sources does not qualify for flood insurance coverage, but should instead be covered by your homeowners insurance policy.

The maximum available coverage limit for flood insurance is currently $250,000.00 for your principal dwelling and $100,000.00 for personal property.  Unlike the coverage available under your homeowner’s insurance policy, the building coverage provided under your flood insurance policy is very specific as to what it covers – and what it doesn’t cover.  In order to avoid a lot of heartache later, you may want to review your policy before a loss in order to better understand the limited coverage that flood insurance actually provides.  You can click HERE to see a listing by FEMA as to the specific items that are currently covered under the standard National Flood Insurance Program policy.

The coverage for personal property loss under flood insurance is even more limited – especially for personal items in a basement.  In general, the only personal property covered below the “lowest elevated floor” would be your laundry equipment, freezer (but not refrigerator!), and portable air conditioner.  There is no coverage for any flooring, drywall, window treatments, or any other type of personal property (furniture, electronics, etc.) stored in your basement or below the lowest elevated floor.  As an additional jab, your flood insurance policy only covers your personal property on an “actual cash value basis”, as opposed to what you actually paid for the items or what it would take to replace them.

There is no flood insurance coverage for any loss of use, additional living expenses, or temporary housing while your home is being repaired.  There is also no coverage for any loss of business income.

As you can imagine, the flood insurance policies issued by the National Flood Insurance Program are not overly consumer friendly and really only provide the most basic of coverage.  Should you ever have questions regarding the coverage available under your insurance policy or the manner by which to submit a claim, please feel free to contact our office and we will do our best to answer any questions you may have.

 

Policyholders are often shocked to learn that the loss settlement check they receive from the insurance company is payable not only to the policyholder, but to their mortgage company as well.   Homeowners insurance policies are broken down into several types of coverage – whether for the building, personal property, liability, alternative living expense, or other losses.  For certain types of coverage, the insurance policy will list the mortgage company as an “additional payee” on the policy – which means that the mortgage company’s name must be listed on any loss settlement check.  

If you have any questions regarding your insurance claim, call (800) 451-6786 to speak with an insurance claim lawyer regarding your rights.

The reason the mortgage company is listed as an “additional payee” on the insurance policy is that the mortgage company has a vested interest in insurance coverage payments issued for any loss to the insured property.  The mortgage company presumably loaned money to the policyholder and, in order to provide a guarantee of repayment, the policyholder agreed to grant the bank a mortgage on the property as collateral for the loan.  

Should the subject property be damaged or destroyed, the unrepaired property would then be worth less than before the loss and therefore, the mortgage company would not have the same amount of security for the loan as prior to the loss.  In order to protect the mortgage company’s security for the loan, the mortgage company’s name will appear on all insurance loss payments related to the property given as collateral for the loan.  Because the property protects the mortgage company in case of non-payment of the loan by the policyholder, the mortgage holder has a strong interest in making sure the property is either repaired or the outstanding loan is paid down to a point at which the loan is again fully secured by the value of the property.

The inclusion of the mortgage company’s name on the insurance check usually just affects coverage relating to the actual building on the property, since the home is usually given as collateral for the mortgage loan.  On the other hand, claims for damage to personal property, liability, or loss of use do not relate to property subject to a mortgage and therefore settlement checks on these losses would not have to include mortgage company’s name as an additional payee.

do-i-really-need-flood-insuranceMost people believe that when they buy homeowner’s or commercial property insurance that they will be covered for any damage that may occur to their property.  Unfortunately, as many people have painfully learned during recent flooding events, the normal policy of homeowner’s property insurance does NOT provide coverage for damage caused by “rising water” or flood.  This realization often comes too late for property owners and only after catastrophic damage has occurred to their property due to a flooding event.

For an immediate consultation regarding your rights, call (800) 451-6786 today.

The usual policy of homeowner’s insurance will only cover storm related water damage if it is caused by “wind blown” water, as opposed to “rising” water.  A good example of “wind blown” water would be water that comes through a broken window or a roof opening caused by the storm.  On the other hand, damage caused by the buildup of rain water which eventually enters the structure and causes flooding-type damage would not be covered under the standard policy of homeowner’s insurance.

As can be easily imagined, disputes often arise between property owners and their insurance companies over whether damage was caused by “rising” water as opposed to “wind blown” water.  The property insurance company, obviously, would like to prove that the damage is from a flood event – and thereby not covered under its insurance policy – whereas the property owner would advocate that the damage was the result of water entering through an opening in the structure and thereby covered under the policy.

The best and safest course of action is for all property owners to obtain both property insurance and flood insurance – regardless of whether or not their structure is located in a flood zone.  If you ever find yourself in a dispute with your property insurance company as to whether your damage is covered under your insurance policy, it is best to seek the advice of an attorney who specializes in property insurance claim matters.

VibrationPropertyDamageDevelopers and construction firms often elect to use heavy equipment, blasting or pile driving in the performance of their construction projects.   If your property is in close proximity to a construction project where heavy equipment, pile driving or blasting is being used, your property may incur damage related to the vibration caused by these activities.

If you believe your property has sustained damage due to vibration-related sources, you can assess whether your damage was the result of vibration by using any of the following methods:

Pre-Construction Condition Surveys – Prior to beginning the construction project, the contractor most likely prepared a pre-construction condition survey of the properties adjacent to the construction project in order to document any existing damage to the properties.  This document may include photos and/or video of the properties, along with notations of any existing damage.  This document or report is usually available from the building contractor or developer.

Seismograph Reports – A seismograph can be used to monitor the vibrations being caused by the construction activities and to document the intensity of the vibration.  An analysis of this data would help determine whether the vibration intensities reached a level that could have caused damage to your property.

Historical Data – In some instances, there may be historical data as to the intensity of vibration caused by the use of certain equipment.  If such information is available, it may not be necessary to use a seismograph to assess the intensity of the vibration caused by specific construction activities.  This historical data may then be further analyzed in relation to the distance between your property and the equipment being used.

Property Inspection – The inspection of your property is the easiest and most obvious manner by which to assess whether your property has incurred damage from construction-related vibration.  Most importantly, you must determine whether the current visible damage pre-existed the use of the vibration-causing equipment by the construction company.  Clearly, if the damage to your property existed prior to the beginning of the vibration causing activities, the damage is not the result of such activities.

If you believe your property has been damaged by the use of heavy equipment, pile driving, blasting, or any other vibration inducing activities, you should contact an attorney with experience handling vibration damage claims.  Our firm has handled vibration damage claims on behalf of both residential and commercial property owners.