When your home or business is damaged, you expect your insurance company to be there for you. That’s why you’ve paid your premiums all these years. Unfortunately, claims are often wrongfully delayed and underpaid by insurance companies. Last month, a Florida jury had enough and awarded homeowners $150,000 for a claim that was originally only for $40,000.
The couples’ home suffered cracking damage and water coming in through the walls. Their insurance company, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, denied the claim and aggressively litigated against the couple in a case that resulted in over 600 documents filed in court. Now—in addition to the $150,000 judgment—Citizens may have to pay the homeowners’ attorneys over $1 million in attorney fees and costs. One can only imagine how much Citizens has already paid its defense attorneys to avoid paying a legitimate claim that could have been resolved for a tiny fraction of the risk the company faces paying today. The Daily Business Review article on the case can be found here:
Were it not for the ability of plaintiff’s attorneys to seek payment for the time and the costs they advance to force insurance companies to keep their promises, homeowners in cases like this would be stuck without representation, and wrongful denials of legitimate claims like this one would go unchecked. It is especially discouraging to see the state-run insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, wasting resources litigating claims such as this. The case highlights the importance of Florida Statute Section 627.428, which forces insurers to pay consumers’ attorney fees in situations where the insurance companies wrongfully deny and under pay claims. It is a precious consumer right afforded by the statute that we should never allow the insurance lobby to take away from the people of the State of Florida.
The lesson of this case is never to accept an insurance company’s claim denial without consulting with an experienced property insurance attorney. Better yet, retaining an attorney from the beginning when you report the claim can often help avoid the wrongful denial altogether. Good property insurance lawyers will advance the costs to compile a team of experienced and credible experts, such as engineers and general contractors, who can not only help to repair your building, but who will stand by you in court if the insurance company fails to do its duties under the policy.