You take pride in your home and faithfully pay your homeowners insurance premiums – but do you know what to do when you need to file a claim? In this post, we’ll discuss what homeowners’ insurance covers as well as your rights to file a claim under Florida law.
How Homeowners’ Insurance Policies Work
Florida law does not require homeowners to carry insurance. However, if you have a mortgage on your home, your lender likely requires a homeowners’ insurance policy in the mortgage agreement. Homeowners’ insurance protects against property loss and certain damages. It is typically organized into several coverage components, including the following:
The reason most lenders require you to carry homeowners’ insurance is to protect them from financial loss if your home is damaged. As long as you owe your lender, they will want coverage for damage to your home and other structures. This portion of your homeowners’ insurance policy covers loss to the home itself.
These are structures on your property that are not attached to your home. Examples can include things like garages, sheds, guest houses, small boats, and fences.
This portion of your homeowners’ policy covers the contents of your home in case of damage. For example, if a hurricane tore off the roof, causing water to damage your furniture, cabinets, and appliances, your homeowners’ policy would offer replacement value for the affected items if you are covered for personal property.
Your policy will likely place some coverage limitations on cash and high value items like art, antiques, jewelry, furs, and electronics. However, you can always pay an additional premium for expanded coverage of high value items.
Additional Living Expenses
If damage to your home requires repairs that cannot be completed unless you move out, your policy will cover living expenses related to loss of use. This can be true whether the damage you suffer is an isolated case or if your home is located in an area restricted by civil authorities, such as during a natural disaster.
This part of your policy typically covers the additional expenses you may incur for housing costs, food, storage, relocation costs, telephone use, utilities, and rental furniture in a temporary residence. The coverage applies to above normal expenses, not normal expenses you would already be paying. Your insurance agent will know the specific limitations and exclusions in your policy.
If someone other than a household member is injured on your property and files suit against you, this part of your policy covers civil damages you would have to pay if a judge rules in the individual’s favor. This coverage also applies if someone experiences property damage while on your property. An example may be if a branch from one of your trees falls on a visitor’s car. Check your policy to know the payout limits for liability claims.
If an individual is accidentally injured in your home and seeks medical care for his or her injury, your policy will pay for the medical expenses no matter who is at fault.
Protections When You File a Claim
Your rights are protected by Florida law when you choose to file a claim. Here are the rights you need to know:
- Within 14 days of filing your initial claim, you can expect acknowledgment from your insurer.
- Within 30 days of submitting a proof-of-loss statement, you can expect your insurer to inform you whether your claim is denied, partially covered, or fully covered. They may also inform you that your claim is under investigation.
- Within 90 days of filing your initial claim, the claim should be resolved with payment or denial, whichever applies.
- In many cases, you may receive free mediation for a disputed claim through the Division of Consumer Services in the Florida Department of Financial Services.
To file a claim, it’s wise to follow these guidelines.
- Call your insurance company before you speak with any repair services or contractors.
- If you must make emergency repairs to prevent further damage, keep track of receipts and document the situation with photos.
- Require contractors to show proof of insurance before repairs begin.
If your claim was improperly handled by your insurer, an experienced attorney can help protect your right to fair compensation. Call today for a free case review.
About the Author:
A partner at Lawlor, White & Murphey and a distinguished personal injury lawyer, Ben Murphey tries complex disputes that include civil appeals, maritime and admiralty claims, wrongful death, and labor disputes. Mr. Murphey has been recognized for his excellence in the area of personal injury litigation by being rewarded with a 10/10 Avvo Rating and named a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” for the last four consecutive years (2011-2014). Mr. Murphey regularly tries cases in state and federal courts around the country, being admitted to practice before all Florida courts and the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.