Was Your Home or Business Damaged By Water? Contact Our Law Firm for a Free Case Review
If you have encountered water damage to your property, such as your home or your vehicle, then you will need to file an insurance claim in order to get money from your policy to cover the damages or losses. At first glance, this seems like a pretty straightforward process, but as you look closer at how an insurance claim works, you will begin to realize that the insurance company is focusing almost entirely on how to settle your claim for as little money as possible.
You do not have to take on the insurance company alone. At Bernheim Kelley Battista, LLC, our water damage insurance lawyers are standing by, ready to ensure that you are not left footing the bill for damages that your insurance company is supposed to cover. If you have questions about a water damage claim or appeal, we are here to protect your rights. To set up a free, fully private initial consultation with a top-rated water damage attorney, please do not hesitate to contact us today.
What is Water Damage Insurance?
Water damage insurance is a type of insurance policy that covers damage to a property caused by water. Depending on the specific circumstances, this coverage can include damage caused by floods, burst pipes, leaks, and other water-related incidents. Some policies may only cover certain types of water damage, while others may provide more comprehensive coverage.
The best way to maximize your claim is to work with an attorney who can guide you through this process. Once you have meticulously documented all of your losses, you will still need to negotiate with the insurance company to reach a figure that works for both of you. This can be extremely frustrating, and you will be going against a professional who handles these negotiations for a living.
The Most Common Causes of Water Damage Claims
Water damage can happen for a wide variety of different reasons. Regardless of how it occurs, though, a water issue that is left unaddressed can cause substantial, long-term damage to a home or business. Here are some of the most common causes of water damage claims:
- Weather Events: Heavy rainfall, flooding, and storms can cause significant water damage to property.
- Leaking Pipes and Appliances: Burst pipes, faulty plumbing, and leaking appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers can cause water damage to property.
- Roof Leaks: A damaged or faulty roof can allow water to seep into a property, causing damage to the walls, ceilings, and other areas.
- Sewage Backup: Sewage backup can cause significant damage to property and pose health risks to occupants.
- HVAC System Failure: Faulty HVAC systems can cause water damage if they malfunction and leak water.
- Human Error: Accidental spills or leaving a bathtub or sink running can cause water damage to property.
How Common are Water Damage Insurance Claims?
Water damage claims are actually relatively common. They are one of the most frequently occurring types of property insurance claims filed in the United States. According to data cited by Policy Genius, approximately one out of 60 residential property policyholders nationwide file a water damage claim each year. These claims vary widely and their nature and severity.
Understanding the Difference Between Water Damage and Flood Damage
In the context of insurance coverage, it is important to understand the difference between water damage and flood damage. Water damage refers to damage caused by water from sources within a property, such as burst pipes or leaking appliances. Flood damage, on the other hand, refers to damage caused by water from outside the property, such as rising water from a natural disaster. While some insurance policies may provide coverage for water damage, flood damage is typically only covered by a separate flood insurance policy.
Does My Policy Cover Water Damage Losses?
Whether or not a policy covers water damage losses depends on the specific cause of the damage and the terms of the policy. Some policies may provide coverage for certain types of water damage, such as damage caused by burst pipes or leaks, while others may have more limited coverage. It is important to carefully review the terms and conditions of a policy to understand what types of water damage losses are covered and under what circumstances.
An Overview of the Water Damage Claims Process
Once you initiate your claim, a claims adjuster will be assigned to your case, who will investigate the damages, go over all of the documents you provide, and ultimately return to you with a settlement offer. Oftentimes, this “offer” is positioned as “the final offer,” but this is not always the case. Once the claims investigation is concluded, you may need to go through a series of negotiations in order to work towards an agreement that covers your losses. Remember that the insurance company’s primary goal is to settle for as little as possible in order to be as profitable as possible, and your case will be no different.
The Most Common Reasons Why Water Damage Claims are Denied
While water damage claims can be a lifesaver for property owners, they can also be denied for various reasons. Here are the most common reasons why water damage claims are denied:
- Lack of Coverage: Some policies may not cover certain types of water damage or may have limited coverage. It is important to carefully review the terms and conditions of a policy to understand what types of water damage are covered and under what circumstances.
- Alleged Negligence: If the insurance company determines that the property owner was negligent and failed to take preventative measures or address the issue promptly, the claim may be denied. As defined by the Legal Information Institute, negligence is the failure to take due care.
- Alleged Pre-Existing Damage: Pre-existing conditions are not just issues in personal injury claims and health care coverage. If the damage to the property was present before the policy went into effect, the claim may be denied.
- Delayed Reporting: Most policies require prompt reporting of water damage. If the property owner waits too long to report the damage, the claim may be denied. For example, a property insurance company may deny a pipe leak claim on the grounds that the leak was happening over the long term.
Be proactive. While the insurance claim is ongoing, it will benefit you to perform your own investigation and gather as much concrete evidence as possible to generate a comprehensive set of documents that support your counter-negotiations. The more evidence you are able to provide as supporting evidence, the better your chances will be of working towards a fair middle ground.
Be Ready for the Tactics Used By Insurance Companies
When making a water damage insurance claim, it is important to be aware of the tactics that insurance companies may use to minimize or deny your claim. Some common tactics include:
- Delaying Payment or Investigation: Insurance companies may drag out the claims process to discourage policyholders from pursuing their claims.
- Arguing about the Cause of the Damage: Insurers may try to argue that the damage was caused by an excluded event or that the policyholder’s negligence contributed to the damage.
- Underestimating the Cost of Repairs: Insurers may try to undervalue the damage to minimize the amount of the payout
Does Water Damage Insurance Cover Damage From a Sewer Backup?
Whether water damage insurance covers damage from a sewer backup depends on the specific policy. Some policies may include coverage for sewer backup damage, while others may require an additional endorsement or separate policy. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for water damage caused by a sewer or drain backup to be excluded from a standard policy.
What is an Anti-Concurrent Clause?
An anti-concurrent clause is a provision in a water damage insurance policy that states that coverage will not be provided if two or more events occur at the same time and at least one of them is excluded from coverage under the policy. In other words, if an event that is covered by the policy and an event that is not covered occur at the same time and both contribute to the damage, the policy may not provide coverage for the damage.
What is a Water Exclusion Clause?
A water exclusion clause is a provision in an insurance policy that excludes coverage for certain types of water damage. Typically, these exclusions include losses caused by flooding, surface water, or water that backs up through sewers or drains.
What to Do if Your Property Sustains Water Damage
When you are dealing with a water damage claim, one of the most important things to do is to ensure that you document EVERYTHING: every detail of every piece of your property that was damaged. If you have a toaster that was ruined by water damage and you simply submit a claim for “toaster,” the adjuster will find the least expensive toaster and add that total to your settlement amount. If you submit a claim for “Toaster: four slots, digital ‘start’ button, red light, red knob,” the adjuster will need to find this specific toaster in order to cover your actual losses. Being detail-oriented during your claim will help make sure that every line item you submit for compensation is accurately cataloged and that you have a better chance of getting a payment that represents your losses.
How to Dispute a Water Damage Insurance Claim?
Disputing a water damage insurance claim denial can be a frustrating and complex process. If your claim has been denied, here are three steps you can take to dispute the denial:
- Review the Denial Letter: When you receive a denial letter from your insurance company, carefully review it to understand why your claim was denied. Make sure you understand the policy language and the specific reasons for the denial.
- Gather Evidence and Document Losses: If you believe that your claim was wrongfully denied, gather as much evidence as possible to support your position. This might include photographs of the damage, repair estimates, or expert opinions.
- Consult With a Home Damage Insurance Lawyer to File an Appeal: Most insurance policies include a process for appealing a claim denial. Follow the instructions carefully and provide any additional information or evidence that supports your claim. If your appeal is denied, you may wish to consider consulting with an attorney or a public adjuster to help you pursue further action.
How Long Do I Have to Dispute an Insurance Claim?
The timeline for the insurance claims process is largely governed by state law, such as Florida Statutes 627.70131. The law puts obligations on both policyholders and insurance companies. For example, an insurance company in Florida generally has 90 days to make an initial decision on a water damage claim. That deadline can be extended in certain circumstances with proper notice.
In Florida, the timeframe to appeal a property insurance denial may vary depending on the specific insurance policy and the circumstances of the denial. Typically, insurance policies will include a timeframe for filing an appeal, which is typically between 60 and 180 days from the date of the initial denial. Consult with a business damage insurance lawyer right away after receiving a denial letter.
Can I Sue the Insurance Company for Denying My Claim?
Yes. You have the right to take action against a property insurance company that improperly denied, delayed, or underpaid your water damage claim. The insurance company does not have the unilateral authority to make the final decision. An experienced water damage lawyer can help you bring a strong, successful appeal.
How Much are Settlements in Water Damage Lawsuits?
Settlement depends on many case-specific factors, including the nature of your coverage and the total value of the damages. Make sure you know the true value of your claim. As your life continues to be disrupted by water damage, and the bills keep piling up for services like water damage cleaning, mold, replacement construction, and more, it can be appealing to just accept the first check they offer to alleviate your financial issues. The problem is that these issues will continue, and you do not want to accept a full and final payment, at which point you have waived your right to any additional compensation and will be on the hook for any additional payments
How Can BK Law Firm Help in a Water Damage Insurance Case?
Water damage claims are notoriously complex. You do not have to take on a big insurance company alone. At Bernheim Kelley Battista, LLC, we offer a free consultation as an opportunity to discuss the situation with no strings attached. This way, you can be sure that you are in a situation that will benefit from the support of an attorney before committing to working together. After suffering water damage, we understand that you are very likely stressed and overwhelmed by this significant disruption, and we are confident that our initial consultation will give you a better understanding of how you can move forward effectively.
Contact Our Water Damage Claims Attorney Today
At Bernheim Kelley Battista, LLC, we have the professional skills and legal experience to handle residential and commercial property water damage claims. If you need help with a water damage claim or if your water damage claim was already denied, we are more than ready to help. Give us a call now or contact us online for a free, no-obligation initial consultation.