Irma Insurance Claim Denials

Category: Miami Lawyer Blog
Published on 04 October 2017
Written by Patrick Russell Hits: 1510

Irma Insurance Claim Denial

 

History has a funny way of repeating itself. We have seen this story before twenty-five years ago during Hurricane Andrew. An overwhelmed insurance industry sending raw and poorly trained recruits to Florida to adjust insurance claims for the first time. As a result, many claims were poorly adjusted by the insurance company if not wrongly denied outright. I know, I spent nearly ten years trying to fix that mess on behalf of homeowners.

Wrongful Insurance Claim Denials

Let's face it, adjusters from Texas, Louisiana, or other neighboring states have limited knowledge as to the terms of your insurance policy or its coverage. They are also beholden to their master, the insurance company that pays them. Built into this system is an incentive to naturally minimize payments to you as the homeowner. Safe to say, the "independent" insurance adjuster, that is the guy that ONLY works for insurance companies, is not always looking out for your interests. Already in the early stages of Hurricane Irma, I have seen several instances of "independent" insurance adjusters telling homeowners that their claim is not covered when it is. This is amazing but true. As a result, you need to immediately consult with a Florida insurance lawyer for a review of any insurance claim denial.

Underpayment of Insurance Claim Damages

A second travesty from the "independent" insurance adjusters working on behalf of the insurance company is they are not familiar with local costs for materials or labor. Plugging in data to a computer to spit out a generic repair estimate that may work in St. Louis is not necessarily going to work in Florida. Likewise, due to the incentive to minimize payments, "independent" insurance adjusters are prone to get the scope of damages wrong by missing, intentionally or not, entire areas of damages. I cannot stress enough how important it is to secure a public adjuster to act as your advocate against the insurance company. The insurance company has their "independent" insurance adjuster, why would you not secure your own?

The Keys Are Just Different

As all Floridians know, the Florida Keys is just a different place and so are its people. The same can be said of the damages from Hurricane Irma. The Florida Keys, especially Marathon, Big Pine Key, and Little Torch Key took the brunt of Hurricane Irma. The devastation was catastrophic with homes suffering both flood and wind damages. A one-two punch with the storm surge taking out the ground level and the hurricane winds taking care of upstairs. If that was not bad enough, mold has and will complete the knockout as it runs rampant throughout these soggy homes unabated. Addressing these unique issues will take a special, creative, and resolute effort to absolutely maximize coverage. Do not accept "no" from your insurance company and accept nothing less than what you are owed. 


About the Author: Patrick Russell, Esq., has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1994 and is an experienced Florida insurance lawyer. Patrick started his insurance law practice more than twenty years ago when he represented homeowners and business owners for their Hurricane Andrew insurance claims. The purpose of this article is educational and not for the solicitation of legal services. The goal is to avoid the mistakes learned from the past, specifically those from previous windstorms. Knowledge is power. Information is free. Mistakes are costly. If you would like more tips on how to process your Florida insurance claim, Patrick can be reached at (305) 608-2977 or here.

 

Florida Keys Insurance Claims

Category: Miami Lawyer Blog
Published on 22 September 2017
Written by Patrick Russell Hits: 986

Florida Keys Insurance Claims

 
Hurricane Irma made a direct hit on our cherished Florida Keys. I own a home in Key Largo and have been going down to the Keys since September 14th to help out. We brought water, food, propane, contractor bags, gloves, and cleaning supplies. I have carried rain-soaked rugs, pushed stalled cars, and spoken to countless homeowners who were shocked by the damage to their homes and businesses. 

Hurricane Irma Damages

The worst-hit areas are those properties on the ocean side of the Florida Keys. The degree of damages worsens as you go south from Key Largo. The most devastated areas that I have seen thus far are Marathon, Big Pine Key, Little Torch Key, and Summerland Key. There is a lot of work to do. Beyond safety, protecting property, cleaning up, and recovering possessions is at the top of everyone's list. 

Hurricane Irma Insurance Claims

The next phase, processing your insurance claim is next. The key to protecting your rights is knowledge. Individuals that have expertise in processing insurance claims include public adjusters and insurance lawyers. All homeowners and business owners in the Florida Keys MUST seek the help of a licensed public adjuster and insurance lawyer

Public Adjusters

A public adjuster and insurance lawyer working in tandem will protect your rights and process your insurance claim correctly with the insurance company. The goal in all cases is to maximize your coverage and recovery. The public adjuster focuses on documenting ALL the damages. The insurance lawyer focuses on insurance coverage and enforcing your insurance contract.

Just remember this simple idea. The insurance company's adjuster is an employee or agent of the insurance company. The insurance company's adjuster is paid by the insurance company and his/her goal is to minimize all payments to you. On the other hand, a public adjuster works for you. The public adjuster is your advocate and his or her goal is to maximize payments to you. So unless you are qualified to assess and document damages, and write detailed repair estimates, you really need a public adjuster on your side.

Hurricane Irma Insurance Payments

Do not accept no from your insurance company in this time of need and natural disaster. Also, do not accept the initial payment from your insurance company as the only monies you are entitled to. Most likely they are giving you the absolute minimum and often are missing entire sections of recoverable damages and underpricing the repairs.

It is absolutely the best practice to hire a public adjuster right from the start to ensure that your claim is handled correctly from the beginning. If that is not done for some reason, you should always get a second opinion from a public adjuster once you receive an initial payment. How else are you going to know that you were properly paid everything you were owed? You paid your insurance premiums for this exact time of need. Do not accept less from your insurance company.


About the Author: Patrick Russell, Esq., has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1994 and is an experienced Florida insurance lawyer. Patrick started his insurance law practice more than twenty years ago when he represented homeowners and business owners for their Hurricane Andrew insurance claims. The purpose of this article is educational and not for the solicitation of legal services. The goal is to avoid the mistakes learned from the past, specifically those from previous windstorms. Knowledge is power. Information is free. Mistakes are costly. If you would like more tips on how to process your Florida insurance claim, Patrick can be reached at (305) 608-2977 or here.


 

 

8 Tips for Florida Insurance Claims

Category: Miami Lawyer Blog
Published on 01 September 2017
Written by Patrick Russell Hits: 2103

Florida Insurance Claim Tips

 

Having been in the trenches for quite some time as a Miami Insurance Lawyer, here are some useful and simple tips for maximizing the chances of recovery in your Florida insurance claim:

  1. Report Your Claim As Soon As Possible.  Florida law and your insurance policy require that you timely report your claim to the insurance company. Make that call as soon as you discover damages.  This allows the insurance company to document that you are making a claim right away.  That early claim call also gives the insurance company the opportunity to investigate the damages and their cause.  You should not wait to call the claim in while you do your own investigation.  You will have plenty of time after you make the initial claim call to hire contractors, adjusters, lawyers, and secure estimates, photos, and expert opinions.          
  2. Take Pictures and Video.  Document your claim by taking pictures and video of the damages.  When documenting the damages, be sure to get different perspectives of the damages, both close-up and an overview of the room/location where the damages are located.  If you can, be sure to put a time and date stamp on your pictures and video.  Remember, the star of your photos and video should be all of the damages, make sure you can actually see them by using proper lighting and distance.  Finally but just as important, take pictures and video of the cause of damages while it is happening if possible.  That means, if a storm or leaky pipe has caused damages, try to get pictures and video of the storm or of the leaky pipe.  If your home was flooded out, get pictures and video of the actual water on the floor.
  3. Make Temporary Repairs to Stop Additional Damage.  You will need to mitigate your damages which simply means you need to stop additional damages from taking place.  You cannot stand by and let your property become further damaged under you watch if you could have prevented the same.  For example, put a tarp on a leaky roof, turn off the water and repair that broken pipe, remove excess water from the home before it damages other areas or causes mold.  Taking pictures or video of your temporary repairs will help prove that you did all that you could to stop further damage.
  4. Create a Claim Diary.  Since memories fade and to assist you later in recalling the events, create a written diary of what took place during your claim.  Create the diary as soon as possible and begin each entry with a date, time, location and the people involved.  Your first entry should document when you first observed the damages, what you saw, what you believe caused the damages, and what you did in response to the discovery.  Every entry after that should note any further observations, meetings, or conversations regarding your claim.
  5. Obtain Repair Estimates.  You will need to know what it will cost for a real licensed contractor to repair your damages.  This is needed in order to evaluate whether the insurance company's estimate is fair and reasonable.  Do not assume that the insurance company has your best interests in mind during the claims settlement process.  More often than not an insurance company estimate either fails to address all the damages or undervalues the cost of materials or labor for the repairs.  
  6. Create a Receipt File.  To properly document your damages, you will need to hold on to and produce those receipts you have for the damaged property.  The needed receipts could include those you were given for temporary repairs (plumbers), supplies for making repairs, and the original receipts for damaged personal property (furniture, electronics, etc.).  In the end it is your burden to prove that you either incurred expenses for repairs or owned property that was damaged so it is very important to have receipts or photos for it all.  This is incredibly important when there is a theft or fire claim and you can no longer show the property to the insurance company.  A good practice is to make an inventory of your possessions that would include receipts and photos before you even have an insurance claim.  Scanning all of this and keeping it digitally in a safe place or online is a good practice.
  7. Respond to Your Insurance Company.  You have a duty to assist your insurance company during its investigation of your claim.  As such, be sure to return all telephone calls to the insurance company and to open/respond to all of its letters to you.  Assist the insurance company with all of their reasonable demands for inspections, interviews, and document requests.  If you feel uncomfortable with the requests being made upon you by the insurance company, consult immediately with a Florida insurance lawyer for advice and help.  You have the right to have legal counsel and you also have the right to have your lawyer present during any interview,  recorded statement, or examination under oath.  Further, you have a right to not disclose irrelevant confidential or financial information.  Insurance companies can tend to be invasive when it comes to their demands and they sometimes seek tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements and telephone records.  These requests must be evaluated by your legal counsel to protect your rights, simply do not refuse to produce and give the insurance company another reason to deny your claim.  Ignoring these request will be at your own peril and you really should obtain a Florida insurance lawyer to help you if you feel your privacy rights are being threatened.
  8. Hire a Florida Public Adjuster.  From the beginning, a licensed Florida Public Adjuster can give you the confidence and advice for how to proceed with your claim in order to maximize the chances of a proper recovery.  A proper recovery means getting paid everything that you are owed in terms of scope (what is covered) and cost (damages). Unless you are a seasoned insurance adjuster or have handled many claims on your own, seek the proper help you need from the start.  You would not perform surgery on yourself, so don't handle an insurance claim for your most prized possession on your own. Only a Florida Public Adjuster can tell you what the proper damages are for your claim. Do not rely upon the insurance company to tell you what you are owed. Figure it out on your own and fight for it. 

About the Author: Patrick Russell, Esq., has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1994 and is an experienced Florida insurance lawyer. Patrick started his insurance law practice more than twenty years ago when he represented homeowners and business owners for their Hurricane Andrew insurance claims. The purpose of this article is educational and not for the solicitation of legal services. The goal is to avoid the mistakes learned from the past, specifically those from previous windstorms. Knowledge is power. Information is free. Mistakes are costly. If you would like more tips on how to process your Florida insurance claim, Patrick can be reached at (305) 608-2977 or here.

 

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