What Are An Insured Property Owner’s Duties After A Loss In Florida?
After a damaging event, property owners face several responsibilities while submitting claims to their insurers. Most homeowners know they should document damage, collect photographs, obtain estimates, and so forth. What some insureds might not know is that some acts aren’t just voluntary – they are duties listed within their policy and failure to complete them can put an end to their claim.
When the loss occurs, insureds should notify their insurance company and also review the “Duties after a Loss” provisions within their coverage policy. Insurers will consider any reason to deny a claim, and failures by the insured to follow required steps are chief among them.
Under most Florida homeowners’ insurance policies, the insured has 3 general duties after a loss:
- Duty to Provide Prompt Notice. Each insurance company may have a different definition or timeframe as to what constitutes “prompt” notice. In most cases, this will not be an issue because you likely contacted your insurance company as soon as possible and quickly gathered information and evidence surrounding the damage. You will also want to relay any other useful information (damaged pieces, names of witnesses, etc.) to your insurer as quickly as you are able.
- Duty to Allow a Premises Inspection and Cooperate Regarding the Claim. Your insurance company will send an adjuster to meet you and inspect the property. You have a responsibility to allow the inspection to occur, allowing the adjuster to inspect areas they deem necessary. During this part of the process, it is wise to collect the adjuster’s name and other information in case a dispute arises later. In some situations, you may need to consult an attorney and discuss options for an independent inspection.
- Duty to Mitigate Damage. This involves the insured’s responsibility to “stop the bleeding”, so to speak. Mitigating damage may include covering holes in a roof, boarding up broken windows, shutting off water valves after pipes have burst, etc. A homeowner should also make efforts to prevent a mold problem from starting after water or moisture has entered the property. Failure to mitigate damages can result in reduced coverage under your policy, or even a denial of coverage.
As a general rule, you want to keep your insurance company updated on any developments regarding the damaged property. This includes independent analysis and inspections regarding the damage. In one case, a Florida couple saw their claim denied after waiting until litigation to disclose expert analysis regarding sinkhole damage. The case, (Herrera v. Tower Hill Preferred Insurance Company, 161 So.3d 565 (2014), illustrates the problems homeowners may face if they are not forthright with their insurers during the claims process. Failures to adhere to a “Duty after a Loss” can cause significant problems for a property owner.
Contact our Florida Property Damage Insurance Attorneys to Discuss Your Duties as an Insured Property Owner
It’s not unusual to see an insurance company point fingers at the insured and allege that they failed to follow a duty after a loss under their policy. If you are experiencing problems during the claims process or have had your claim reduced or rejected, it helps to have an experienced legal team at your side. Our property damage attorneys at Bundza & Rodriguez, P.A., have many years of experience dealing with these issues. We will help you review your records and make your argument to the insurance company. We will also take appropriate legal action whenever necessary. To discuss your property damage policy and any alleged failures to complete a duty after a loss, call 386-252-5170 or contact our Daytona Beach property damage attorneys online to request a consultation today.