05 Nov 2019

Why your property damage may not be covered by your insurance

Posted By Darrigo, Diaz & Jimenez

Living in Florida is not for the faint of heart: the summers are hot, the humidity is intense, and the state’s cantankerous climate during the summer storm season causes some of the most dangerous and expensive weather-related damages in the country.

In 2017 and 2018, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation reported that more than 1 million claims were filed in the state from Hurricane Irma and Michael alone, resulting in $18.3 billion in insured losses.1

As a Florida homeowner, you pay your insurance premiums each year because you expect your insurance company to protect your property in the event of an emergency. Yet, when the time actually comes for you to collect that policy, your insurance company may not pay up.

One of the most common reasons for denied or low-ball property damage claims in Florida is the homeowner’s failure to properly mitigate further damages. 

Have you fulfilled your obligation to mitigate further damages? 

If your property has been damaged and you plan to file a property damage claim with your insurance company, you have the responsibility to limit any subsequent loss that results from the event that caused your damages. Your duty to mitigate further damages can either be explicitly stated in your insurance policy or it can be implied by the law of contracts. Regardless, you are expected to take “reasonable” measures to prevent additional damage from occurring.

What does damage mitigation include?

The goal of damage mitigation is to protect the exterior and interior of a home until repairs can begin. Examples of mitigation include:

  • Covering damaged roofs or windows with a tarp to prevent rain from entering your home
  • Removing fallen trees or debris from your home to avoid further water damage
  • Turning off a water valve to stop pipes from bursting
  • Drying out wet areas of your home and removing damp items, such as carpeting, curtains, and furniture, to keep mold from growing
  • Securing the premise to protect against burglaries
  • Unclogging gutters to ensure proper drainage

After your property has been damaged, you should do everything within your power to minimize additional damage from occurring, but you are not expected to put yourself in harm’s way or perform tasks beyond your ability, such as patching a roof or removing fallen trees. In such a situation, you should contact a professional mitigation company to assist you with your efforts.

What are the consequences of failing to mitigate damages?

Your failure to mitigate damages to your home may lower the amount of your offer. Insurance companies will only cover the amount of damages actually caused by the covered event, but will not cover damages that could have been avoided with “reasonable” care.

For example, your insurance company may pay to repair your roof damaged in a hurricane, but will deny your claim for water damages arising from a thunderstorm that occurred two weeks later if you did not properly tarp the area.

Insurance companies often utilize this principle as a reason to either deny or minimize the amount of coverage you will receive. Sometimes, insurance companies claim that it is impossible to determine the extent of the damage caused by the covered event and the damage that occurred as a result of your passive efforts to reduce the loss. In this case, the insurer may deny your entire coverage.

What if my insurance company refuses to pay a legitimate property damage claim?

If you are in an insurance dispute over a property damage claim with your insurance company and they are unreasonably denying, delaying, or reducing your insurance claim, Darrigo, Diaz & Jimenez can help you.

Our attorneys have extensive experience helping Tampa homeowners recover the insurance benefits they need and deserve. We will investigate the damage to your property and review your policy to determine whether the claim has been interpreted fairly. If negotiations with the insurance company are not sufficient, we can take the case to trial.  Led by Board Certified Civil Trial Expert, Nadine Diaz, our firm is known for obtaining maximum settlement values for our clients.

Learn more with a free consultation to better understand your rights and responsibilities. Contact Darrigo, Diaz & Jimenez, Tampa’s Home Team, today. Call (813) 774-3341 to get started.

References

1 https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-hurricanes

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