Property damage can be both devastating and expensive. For property owners in Florida, there are many weather conditions that can cause severe damage to their homes, businesses, or other structures. Regardless of whether the damage was caused by a natural disaster, hurricane, hailstorm, broken pipe leak, fire, or vandalism, your homeowners insurance plan should cover you in case of damage. However, there are several important factors that can impact the appraisal process and how long it takes to settle home insurance claims in Florida.
For instance, Florida homeowners need to file a property damage claim with their insurance provider within a set timeframe. Fortunately, insurance companies are required to follow certain rules regarding the timeline in which they communicate with you. There are also specific statutes of limitation for filing a claim for property damage in Florida. Homeowners who don’t adhere to this timeline will find it difficult to obtain a favorable settlement for their home insurance claim.
So how long does it take to process a home insurance claim in Florida? Pinellas residents might expect quicker results but the insurance appraisal process is not as straightforward as you’d expect. While there are many factors that will determine how long an insurance claim will take to settle, there are a few milestones you can look for. You may have to wait days, weeks, or even months—sometimes even years—before you receive a payment from your insurance provider.
Common Reasons Florida Homeowners Need to File Insurance Claims
Among the types of claims that occur in the state of Florida, there are some that are significantly more frequent than others. When you understand common homeowners insurance claims, you can identify what items you need to include in your policy in the future to protect your home. Listed below are some of the most common claims filed by Florida homeowners.
Hail & Wind Damage
Wind or hail damage is a claim out of one in four insured homes that submit a property damage claim. Wind and hail damage claims in Florida are usually around $11,000, and since the state has one of the highest concentrations of thunderstorms in the country, this coverage could be crucial.
Approximately 1 in every 50 Florida homeowners who submit a property damage claim also submits a water damage claim. Common causes of water damage claims include leaky plumbing, storm damage, burst pipes, rain, and much more. Make sure you carefully review your homeowners insurance policy now so you have a clear understanding of what kind of coverage you have for water damage.
Fire & Lightning
Lightning and fire damage are rare in terms of the scale of claims, but the resulting damage is usually between $80,000 and $150,000 on average. It is not unusual for lightning to strike homes here in Pinellas, which can cause serious structural damage. Without the right insurance coverage, a homeowner could face massive financial difficulties.
Break-ins & Theft
Even in the safest neighborhoods, thefts and break-ins can occur. Damages from break-ins and theft go beyond just missing items, which can include the repair of areas where the house was broken into, the replacement value of items thrown away in the search for valuables, and more.
In addition to liability coverage for your property, it can include coverage for accidents in your yard, slips and falls, dog bites, or even incidental damage caused by collisions with vehicles.
How Long Do You Have to File a Home Insurance Claim in Florida?
You have four years from the date of the incident to file a claim for homeowners insurance in Florida. A timely filing of a claim will increase your chances of preserving evidence and getting an acceptable settlement, so it is important not to wait any longer than necessary. Your insurance provider may reject your claim if you file outside of this time period. You have 14 days from the time you notify your insurance company of your claim until they acknowledge receipt of your claim and provide you with a Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights. Insurance providers in Florida must acknowledge receipt of a claim within this timeframe, unless there are extenuating circumstances. A homeowners insurance policyholder’s rights are outlined in The Bill of Rights. You are entitled to:
- Within 14 days of your initial communication with the insurance company, you should receive an acknowledgement of your claim.
- Your insurance company must confirm within 30 days after submitting a complete proof-of-loss statement that your claim is fully or partially covered, denied, or under investigation.
- If you file a claim within 90 days of when it is due, you will receive a full or partial payment or a denial of your claim.
- Your claim will be paid interest if the insurance company fails to pay or denies it within 90 days of filing.
- Receive free mediation from the Florida Department of Financial Services for your disputed claim.
- Get a neutral assessment for a claim that involves sinkhole damages covered by your insurance policy.
- If you have any questions about your claim, you contact the Florida Department of Financial Services for free assistance.
Your insurance provider must also provide you with the appropriate forms and instructions for filling out along with confirming that they received your claim. Having completed the forms, you should gather and document evidence to support your claim once you have the forms. The insurance company has 10 days to investigate your proof of loss statement as soon as it receives it.
Insurance Response Timeline Detailed in Florida’s Homeowner Bill of Rights
When it comes to homeowner insurance claims, Florida’s Homeowner Claim Bill of Rights provides consumers with numerous rights. If someone in Florida files a home insurance claim, the insurer reportedly has 30 days to confirm whether the claim is covered, in part, or still under investigation, if the consumer has requested this information in writing. Furthermore, consumers should receive full payment, payment of the undisputed portion of a claim, or written confirmation regarding the denial of a claim within 90 days of filing it.
Common Reasons Homeowners Insurance Claims Are Denied in Florida
In spite of the fact that most insurance claims are approved, the insurance company may still deny your claim despite its validity. Below are some common reasons home insurance claims might be denied.
You may not be able to get compensation for damaged property if you don’t have the right coverage. You may be covered for losses resulting from falling objects, theft, or natural disasters like fires or floods, depending on your insurance policy. Before purchasing any insurance policy, you should check your policy for details.
Not Meeting Deadlines
Home insurance companies place time-sensitive requirements on the filing and documentation of claims. Missing the filing deadline can result in a denial of otherwise valid claims. To avoid losing out on your potential settlement, notify your insurance company as soon as possible if your home suffers damage from a covered incident.
Not Paying Your Premium
Your home insurance policy can lapse if you do not pay your premiums or do not make payments on time. If you fail to make payments on these types of policies, you can be denied a claim, so check with your insurance provider to see what effect non-payment will have. Keep up with your home insurance payments so that you don’t lose coverage.
Falsifying or Failing to Disclose Information
If you file an insurance claim, make sure you report accurate information about the damage to your home. Insurance companies might deny your claim for a variety of reasons, including lying about the nature and scope of the damage. It is vital that you follow this crucial step before filing your claim.
It is important that property owners document all damage resulting from a disaster as well as other pertinent details when filing a claim. In order to determine the validity of a claim, adjusters need as much information as possible. In the event that your insurance company denies your claim, then you will be responsible for the costs.
Failing to Secure the Home from Further Damage
An insurance company may deny a claim if a property is not adequately maintained after a covered loss. As an example, if your home sustains wind damage that causes a roof leak and you fail to prevent water from entering, you may not be able to file a claim. All homeowner policies stipulate the prevention of further damage.
Mistakes Florida Homeowners Tend to Make When Filing a Claim
There are a few things you can do to make the claims process easier if you sustain a loss and need to make a claim in Florida. We’ve listed a few mistakes to avoid when filing a homeowner insurance claim.
Failing to Read Your Policy
It’s understandable if you didn’t fully read your home insurance policy. Insurance policies can be difficult to understand. But you still have to read up on your insurance policy. You should at least understand what is covered.
Not Having the Right Coverage
In some cases, Florida homeowners assume their home insurance policies cover damage from hurricane winds and floods. However, this may be a costly assumption. For example,In hurricane-prone areas, some insurance companies may exclude wind damage, and flood damage is generally excluded from standard home insurance policies. You might actually need three separate policies in order to ensure you have the right hurricane coverage.
Not Keeping a Home Inventory
One more claim mistake that starts before any damage occurs is not keeping an inventory of your home. Having a complete list of your possessions is particularly important if you’ve suffered extensive damage. Working from memory will make it more likely that you will forget some items and fail to include them when filing your claim.
Trying to Tackle a Big Claim Alone
Claims involving large amounts of money can be complex and take months to resolve. Meanwhile, you will need to deal with multiple insurance adjusters and piles of paperwork. You may want to hire a public claims adjuster early on if you have extensive damage to your home. A claims adjuster works on your behalf to deal with the insurance company’s adjusters, to ensure you have the right documents, and to meet deadlines.
Cleaning Up Too Fast
In the aftermath of an accident, you might be in a hurry to clean up the mess. However, rushing through the process can have serious financial consequences. Often, homeowners throw away damaged items before assessing the full extent of the damage. Additionally, they throw away receipts that can be used to prove their claim. In case you need to submit a claim for a damaged item, keep it until you have enough evidence, such as photos or repair estimates, to demonstrate its damage. While filing a claim, it is imperative to keep a paper trail. A lack of documentation can result in serious insurance claims errors.
Filing Too Many Claims
When setting your rates, insurers will consider your claims history. Claims submitted by homeowners and auto insurers in the past seven years can be found in a database called the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE). In general, the more claims you have on your home insurance, the higher your premium will likely be. As a result, insurers correlate a claim with a higher likelihood of filing another claim in the future. Customers who are more likely to file a claim pay higher premiums. You may save money in the long run by paying for small repairs yourself instead of submitting an insurance claim.
What Can You Do If You Don’t Agree with Your Insurance Provider’s Decision?
If you’ve filed a homeowners insurance claim and believe your insurer wrongfully denied your claim or offered you a low payout, you still have options. Your overall strategy should consist of presenting additional evidence for your case and escalating the dispute in steps, but only to the point that the risks are outweighed by the potential benefits. If you find yourself in this situation, you can take the following steps:
- You should contact your insurance agent or company again
- Think about getting an independent appraisal
- Hire an attorney and file a complaint
As a homeowner, you have the right to seek free mediation if your claim is denied by your insurance carrier after handling this process on your own. It can be difficult to convince these companies to change their minds once they have made a decision. At Herman & Wells, our experienced insurance dispute attorneys understand the strategies providers use to make decisions and know how to challenge wrongful ones if necessary.