Fire Losses unfortunately cause the destruction of substantial structural components and the loss of significant personal property items. When dealing with your insurance company after reporting a Fire Loss, remember that your carrier is operating a business, with a natural incentive to wrongfully deny or undervalue the damages you sustained in your loss. Your policy and Florida law will provide a backdrop for your ability to recover for losses associated with fire damage. You may have special limits of liability for certain personal property items or categories of items such as antiques or jewelry.
Initially after reporting an insurance claim for a Fire Loss in Florida it is important to not sign any release or other documents without consulting a professional. We also strongly recommend that you take the opportunity to speak with someone prior to providing a recorded statement. Although your assigned adjuster or third party adjuster may be friendly and approachable, don’t forget that your insurance company will tightly construe the terms, conditions and exclusions in your policy when making a determination regarding coverage.
Regarding coverage, from the onset, in fire loss claims one of the other issues with denied claims are exclusions based on allegations of arson. If your carrier has excluded coverage on that basis or believes there is a basis to do so, rest assured you will be called upon to provide a mini-deposition in a setting known as an Examination Under Oath or EUO. If you have an EUO set for a current fire loss claim, it is critical that you seek professional guidance and preparation. Your testimony will be used in the determination of whether coverage is afforded and to determine the scope of coverage for the loss.
If your Fire Loss Claim was Denied
If you filed a Claim for a Fire Loss in Florida and your claim was denied by your carrier for any reason, we may be able to help you. As outlined above, whether your carrier has an obligation to provide coverage for your insured building is dependent upon Florida law and the terms and conditions of your policy of homeowners’ insurance. You are entitled to a certified copy of your policy via Fla. Stat. 627.4137. The policy language is critical to determining the scope and extent of coverage for your particular claim. If your loss was denied based on cause or origin exclusions, we will work with you to obtain a certified cause and origin fire specialist. You are entitled to a second, independent opinion to determine the cause and origin of a fire. Ultimately, if your claim was denied and our investigation reveals that coverage should have been afforded, we will file suit in the county in which the property was situated, in any county in Florida to help you get the benefits you deserve. If we don’t recover for you, we won’t get paid. So if you have a denied Fire loss in Florida, give us a call for a free consultation.
If your Fire Loss was Confirmed
Assuming that coverage was afforded for your Fire Loss that means that your Florida insurance carrier has determined that the cause and origin of the fire was from a covered event. As such, you are entitled to all available policy benefits based upon the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in your Florida Homeowners Policy of Insurance. In the event of a covered loss due to fire damage it is crucial that you take the time to speak with a professional to determine the property inventory of lost personal property and the proper scope of damage to your structure. It is important that you not include any personal property that was not really lost, any untruthfulness will be likely exposed and can lead to all sorts of exclusions and denials under the typical Florida Homeowners Insurance Policy. Finally, we can help you make use of all of your policy benefits. In addition to the proper scope of damage for personal property and structural damage, it is important that you take advantage of all policy benefits in your policy. You are potentially entitled to loss of use, debris removal, law and ordinance and a host of other insurance benefits that you need to push for.
If your structure has been substantially or completed destroyed because of a fire loss, Florida’s Valued Policy Law, codified in Fla. Stat. 627.702 provides that you may be entitled to the full amount of your structural value under the policy if the cost to replace or rebuild exceeds that coverage limit. This amount in the standard Homeowner’s Insurance Policy is listed as Coverage A.
If you find yourself dealing with the stress of a fire insurance claim after suffering damage to your home or business property and would like to seek professional help, give us a call for a free consultation.
Brice Zoecklein, Esq.