When we purchase property insurance, we do so under the assumption that our insurers will stand by us in the event of the unthinkable, and provide adequate coverage to help us recover if our property is ever damaged or destroyed.
Unfortunately, insurance companies are for-profit companies. Despite all of the feel-good commercials and catchy jingles letting you know they’ll always be there for you, they do not necessarily have your best interests in mind. In order to make money, their goal is to pay out as little as possible.
This often results in property owners being denied the coverage they deserve and have paid for, and can jeopardize an entire family’s financial future. This is called acting in bad faith, and after a major disaster such as Hurricane Irma, it is likely that some insurers will be doing just that.
How do you know, though? After all, insurance companies utilize a number of different tactics to protect their bottom lines.
Read on and we’ll tell you about several of these so that you can better protect your family and future.
An insurance company may draw out the amount of time it takes to investigate a claim before agreeing to pay. This is usually done in hopes that the policyholder will give up on pursuing the claim, or settle for a lesser amount. This can be particularly devastating in property damage claims that leave policyholders homeless.
Florida state law mandates that insurers provide a written response to a property insurance claim within 14 days of filing, and pay or deny the claim within 90 days of filing. If your insurer has not complied with these statutes, it may be time to take action.
An insurer can engage in a number of deceptive practices to keep from paying a covered claim. For example, the insurer can neglect to disclose the existence of coverage to a policyholder, fail to notify the policyholder of a claim filing deadline, or fail to provide the paperwork necessary for the policyholder to complete the claim on time.
To protect yourself against these practices, be familiar with your policy and with the procedures for filing a claim. However, these responsibilities fall on your insurer as well, and failure to provide the right information or forms may constitute bad faith.
Failure to conduct a complete investigation
Insurers are required to conduct a prompt, thorough, and fair investigation of policyholders’ claims. In some situations, the insurer may deny the claim without investigating completely – for example, determining that it was pre-existing damage without actually physically investigating the property.
Misrepresenting the law or policy language
An insurance policy can be a complex read for a policyholder, and insurance companies sometimes take advantage of this by deliberately interpreting policy language against you.
If you have difficulty understanding your policy or think that your insurance company may be misrepresenting the policy, consult an experienced bad faith attorney. At The Law Office of Andrew Winston, your initial consultation is always free, and taking the time to talk with a knowledgeable Florida lawyer could help protect your interests.
Making threatening statements
In some cases, an insurance company may try to intimidate the claimant to keep from paying out on a policy, for example threatening legal action or insurance fraud charges if he or she files or continues to pursue a claim.
An insurer should never threaten a policyholder. If your insurance company makes any such threats, contact the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation or an attorney immediately.
Refusing to pay valid claims
Some insurers may refuse to pay valid claims, even if the damages should be covered under the policy. They do this in hopes that the claimant will be unaware that the damages should be covered, or will simply give up.
If your claim has been denied and you believe that the damages should have been covered under your policy, you can file a grievance with the insurance company. You may also wish to consult with an attorney, especially for larger claims.
Offering less money than a claim is worth
In some cases an insurance company may agree to pay out on a valid claim, but attempt to lowball the policyholder by offering to pay less than the claim is worth. For example, the insurer may offer to pay less than the repair quotes received for property damage, despite higher or full coverage being called for under the policy.
Insurers often do this after natural disasters in hopes that overwhelmed policyholders will simply accept the lesser amount in order to avoid the hassle and begin recovery efforts. However, if your insurer has attempted to lowball your claim, you have every right to dispute it, and will probably be glad to have done so down the road.
If you suffered damage from Hurricane Irma and your insurance company has not acted in good faith, consult with an aggressive property damage attorney who can protect your interests and stand up to your insurance company on your behalf, getting you the coverage you deserve.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.