If your home has been damaged due to an unexpected storm, due to wind damage, due to a fire, or due to another unexpected event, you may have many questions about how to file a homeowner’s insurance claim, how to get the best settlement possible, and questions about what to do if you encounter difficulty with a claim. Leader, Leader, & Zucker, PLLC are homeowner’s insurance claims attorneys in Fort Lauderdale, Florida who assist individuals who have suffered losses and who have questions about their homeowner’s insurance claims. We fight to help individuals get the settlements they may deserve when homeowner’s insurance companies offer lower settlements or when they act in bad faith. The answers to the questions below are designed to be merely informative and don’t replace the counsel of the homeowner’s insurance claims lawyers at Leader, Leader, & Zucker, PLLC. Here are some common questions we see from individuals who have suffered property damage who are making a claim, or who may be struggling with the homeowner’s insurance claims process.
- What is covered in my homeowner’s insurance coverage? Many Americans haven’t read their homeowner’s insurance coverage policy. If you have suffered damage to your home, now might be the time to look over the policy to better understand what is and isn’t covered. Most homeowner’s insurance policies will cover you for wind and hail damage, fire or lightning damage, explosions, aircraft damage, vehicle damage, smoke, theft or vandalism, falling objects, ice, snow, or sleet damage, and damage due to freezing weather. However, more and more policies in Florida have wind, water and/or mold exclusions which many people do not realize until it is too late! Homeowner’s insurance policies will frequently not cover you for flood or earthquake damage and this coverage must be purchased separately if you live in an area prone to these types of disasters. You may be entitled to money to replace items damaged due to these events and even be able to receive money for your lodging, food, gas, and other items if you need to live in another place while your home is being rebuilt or repaired. If you are having trouble understanding what is covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy, consider speaking to Leader, Leader, & Zucker, PLLC, homeowner’s claims lawyers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida who may be able to answer your questions.
- What should I do after my home suffers damage? You should report the damage to your homeowner’s insurance company as soon as possible. Take photos of the damage and don’t throw away any damaged items until an adjuster has had a chance to see the damage. You may be required to make small repairs, such as putting a tarp over a damaged roof to prevent further damage, but in general, you should wait until your adjuster comes before you make any repairs or toss any damaged personal items. You may also be required to fill out claim forms. If you are requested to do or provide anything to your insurance carrier, you should do so timely. If you are not sure if it is something they are entitled to or you are required to give them, consult an appropriate professional. The bottom line, is it is not privileged, confidential or going to prejudice you in some way, it is generally advisable to err on the side of caution and cooperate so they cannot try to use it as a basis to deny coverage (for failing to cooperate with your post lost obligations under the policy).
- How should I prepare for the adjuster’s visit to my home? Assess the damage to your home and have photos ready so that the adjuster knows where to go. Prepare a list of all damaged items, their value, and prepare to present this to the adjuster. Have receipts for damaged items ready to show to the adjuster as well. Do not make guesses or assumptions about the source or cause of the problem if you have no consulted an expert or are otherwise uncertain.
- What are my responsibilities after I’ve suffered damage to my home? Your insurance company has the responsibility to pay your claim in accordance with your policy, but you as a homeowner also have a responsibility to report damage to the insurance company in a timely manner, to cooperate with any requests the insurance company makes, and to provide any documentation to support your losses (such as receipts or photos). You also have a responsibility to take steps to prevent further damage, such as putting a tarp over a damaged roof to prevent fire damage, or moving undamaged items to a safe place if your home is structurally unsound. Leader, Leader, & Zucker, PLLC are homeowner’s insurance claims lawyers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida who can help you meet your obligations when insurance adjusters make requests and ensure that insurance companies meet their responsibilities to you.
- My insurance company offered me a settlement but it doesn’t cover the cost of lost items or repairs, what should I do? Don’t assume that your insurance company’s first settlement is final. You can always dispute a claim if you believe your claim is not fair or adequate to cover damages. Sometimes adjusters may base their estimates on computer programs and other loss assessment tools that may be inaccurate or not up to date. Sometimes contractors’ costs increase and these increases are not reflected in a settlement. Other times insurance adjusters may underestimate the cost to replace some items or leave connected or related items to a repair allowed for off of the estimate. Leader, Leader, & Zucker, PLLC are first party insurance claims lawyers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida who can review your damages, review your adjuster’s assessments, and help you gather documentation to show your damages so you can fight for the settlement you may deserve under the law.
- What happens if my insurance adjuster disagrees with the estimates my contractor gives me? Insurance companies may use special computer programs that estimate the cost of materials and labor for repairs. However, these estimates may not reflect the actual market value of the repair labor and materials. Get a few estimates from reputable, local, and licensed contractors. Your insurance generally has a responsibility to pay you for the actual cost of actually repairing your home (minus your deductible), not for an estimate the company’s program comes up with. If after presenting several estimates to your insurance adjuster, he or she still refuses to offer you the settlement you believe you deserve, consider speaking to Leader, Leader, & Zucker, PLLC today. Our firm can speak to adjusters, present evidence to support your claim, and fight to help you get the settlement you may deserve.
- How can I show my adjuster that their estimate of damages is too low? Homeowners have several options if they disagree with the estimated cost of repairs. They can get contractor’s estimates, hire a public adjuster to estimate damages or, an advisable first step is to speak to a homeowner’s insurance claims lawyer at Leader, Leader, & Zucker, PLLC in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, or get more quotes from reputable vendors, contractors, and experts.
- What happens if additional damage is found during the repair process? If additional damage is found, contact your insurance company immediately and have an adjuster come to inspect the additional damages. This is often referred to as a supplemental claim. As a general rule, if your insurance company wants a release before you complete your repairs, speak to an attorney as once you sign a release, you may waive coverage for any further damage found during repairs unknown to you before that the insurance company would otherwise have been obligated to repair.
- What should I do if I believe my insurance company is acting in bad faith? Bad faith occurs when an insurance company fails to pay you the settlement you deserve based on the terms of your policy. Bad faith can also occur if your insurance company delays a claim. If you believe your insurance company is acting in bad faith, you may have the right to make a claim or pursue a lawsuit. Speak to Leader, Leader, & Zucker, PLLC, homeowner’s insurance claims lawyers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida today.
- Do I need a homeowner’s insurance claims lawyer? Leader, Leader, & Zucker, PLLC may be able to assist you if you believe your insurance company is acting in bad faith, is delaying your claim unfairly, or isn’t offering you the settlement you may deserve. Most claims go smoothly and many individuals are able to reach a settlement without a lawyer. However, a lawyer may be able to help you interpret your policy, and may be able to assist you with fighting for a better or higher settlement. Your home is probably your biggest investment. When it is damaged, it is important to repair it properly and to get the settlement from your insurer that you deserve.
If you have suffered damage to your home, you might be surprised to learn about what is covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. Contact Leader, Leader, & Zucker, PLLC today to learn more about your rights. Protect your home and your investment.