5 Things to Know About Property Damage Claims

qhouseSerious damage to your home or business can stop life in its tracks. It can leave you displaced and without income for the foreseeable future, all while the insurance company balks and looks for as many ways to avoid paying out as possible. So what should you know about property damage claims?

 

To say it’s a frustrating experience is a vast understatement. If your home or business has been damaged and you’re struggling to recover damages from a negligent party or the insurance company, contact a property damage lawyer. Steinger, Greene & Feiner has been assisting victims of property damage for decades, and we can help you improve your chances of recovering the maximum possible for your losses.

Give us a call any time at (800) 560-5059 or by contacting us online, and we can schedule a no-risk consultation to discuss the details of your property damage case.

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Your First Steps

After taking stock of the damage, one of the first things you should do is report the claim to your insurance agency. Neglecting to inform your insurer about property damage can result in a lower chance you’re able to properly recover all your damages. Your policy likely has a clause requiring you to give them timely notice of a possible claim, even if the actual claim gets filed later.

To keep up with your policy, keep track of all damaged property, including structures, possessions, and anything else you can attribute a monetary value to. Any major changes to the value of the home or your possessions should be reflected in the most up-to-date policy possible.

When dealing with the insurance company, keep in mind that all insurance claims are essentially business negotiations. You will be dealing with an adjuster that has the insurance company’s financial interests in mind. Be careful with what you tell them, as any indication of negligence, failure to proactively guard against property damage or other hints that could lead to you being partially responsible for the damage could come back to haunt you.

When you consider the insurance company, their adjusters, their policy language, and their legal teams, it’s unlikely that you alone will be able to fight on their level. If you’re like most people, your insurance policy is more or less a mystery to you – if you read it cover-to-cover at all.

Despite this, your rights as a property owner and policyholder give you some benefits. Seeking the assistance of an experienced property damage lawyer can give you every legal advantage, so there’s a better chance of covering your damages. And that is the first, vital piece of information you need to know about property damage claims.

Major Disasters May Result in a Different Claims Experience

If you live in an area hit by a major hurricane, tornado, mass flooding, fire, or other disasters, you may start receiving solicitations from public insurance adjusters. These are usually independent from insurance companies, which is a plus as they are going to have similar interests as you.

However, keep in mind that these public adjusters usually charge a fee based on the final settlement you receive from the insurance company. They may also have relationships with certain contractors or estimators, which can lead to bias in who gets recommended and how much they value the cost of repairs.

In a scenario where you’re the only unfortunate individual dealing with damage, such as a fallen tree or a household fire, you’ll likely deal with a staff adjuster unless you specifically seek out an independent adjuster.

The insurance adjusters who work for an insurance company are going to have the same interests as the insurance company. Though they won’t charge you for their services, you may have to dispute their estimated coverage to seek the maximum amount possible for your damages. Seeking assistance from a skilled legal team can help you with this process.

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Your Policy Will Detail Stipulations and What You’re Able to Claim

The language in your insurance policy will provide details on what kind of damage is and is not covered. Try to get familiar with your policy, or have your legal representation explain it to you.

Commonly, the following types of damages are covered:

  • Fallen tree damage
  • Storm damage
  • Water damage
  • Fire and smoke damage
  • Hurricane damage
  • Tornado damage
  • Wind damage
  • Hail Damage
  • Mold damage
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Damage to a property due to an auto accident

Though these are all commonly covered in a general sense, there are often details in your policy that may keep your insurance company from paying out. Once you read your policy, you will know about property damage claims

For instance, if a tree falls on your property but doesn’t damage any structures or possessions, you may have to deal with its removal all on your own. If it falls on your car, most of the time it’s your car insurance provider that you will need to deal with.

Another common example is water damage. Some types of water damage, like damaged pipes or damage from rain, is usually covered. Other types, including backed-up sewers and flooding, may not be.

It’s no coincidence that basic insurance policies in areas prone to flooding or earthquakes will often exclude those types of disasters from covered damages. For this reason, supplemental insurance is a good idea.

What NOT to Do When Dealing With Homeowners Insurance

  1. Don’t neglect to record and keep track of your possessions, your home’s value, and your losses. Having an inventory of valuable possessions is a great way to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
  2. Don’t start repairing anything that was damaged until you’ve contacted your insurer and verified it’s okay to do so. You will need to come to an agreement on necessary repairs and costs before you can hope to recover financial losses from such work.
  3. Don’t neglect to get all agreements with your insurance company in writing. Failing to do so can cause issues down the line. Having everything in writing is also a good way to keep everyone on the same page.
  4. Don’t throw anything away. Damaged possessions may sit unused, but having these items to prove their damage and value can help with the claims process. Make sure to keep all receipts related to home purchases, improvements, or repairs as well.
  5. Don’t accept the first offer unless you are 100% confident it covers all of your losses. Often, an insurance company’s first offer will be an attempt at getting you to settle for less than your damages are worth. Holding out for a better deal can get you closer to the maximum amount possible for your losses. Something that some insurance companies wish you didn’t know about property damage claims.

An Experienced Property Damage Lawyer Can Help You Recover the Maximum Amount Possible

When you try to fight the insurance company alone, you run the risk of making a mistake – one that could cost you the money you need to pick up the pieces after a disaster. Seeking the help of a trustworthy legal team with ample experience dealing with property damage can help.

Steinger, Greene &Feiner can help you get your life back on track after a disaster strikes your home or business. Whether you’re dealing with a fallen tree, fire damage, damage from a major hurricane, theft, or vandalism, we can help you push back against the insurance company when their stubborn tactics come into play.

Give us a call at (800) 560-5059 or contact us online, and we can go over the details of your case at your soonest convenience during a free, no-risk case review. When it comes to personal injury, car accidents and property damage, we can ensure you get the money you deserve.

About The Author

Michael Feiner

Michael Feiner

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Michael A. Feiner is a partner in the Fort Lauderdale office of Steinger, Greene & Feiner. Since being admitted to the Florida Bar in 2001, Michael has devoted his practice to representing plaintiffs throughout Florida in various tort and strict liability cases and has successfully litigated cases against national insurance companies, large public companies, and governmental agencies, resulting in tens of millions of dollars for his clients. He has handled all types of personal injury and wrongful death cases on behalf of plaintiffs, including automobile negligence, premises liability, medical malpractice, product liability, dog bites, and sexual harassment. Michael’s product liability case against Microsoft, as well as his representation of victims of sexual harassment and abuse by physicians, has garnered him important media attention at both the local and national levels. Michael is an experienced trial lawyer and successfully argued an appeal to the Fourth District Court of Appeal. In the reported decision Ortlieb v. Butts, 849 So.2d 1165 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003), Michael persuaded the Fourth District Court of Appeal that a directed verdict on liability was appropriate where the defendant did not rebut the presumption of negligence of a rear driver in a rear-end collision.