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Homeowner Loses Money Based on Technicality

Pekar Law, P.A. Jan. 17, 2015

Why Is It Important to Hire an Attorney to Handle Your Property Insurance Claim?

Property insurance is regulated by Florida state law and these statutes can be nuanced and complicated. While it is tempting to pursue a property insurance claim yourself, you might be setting yourself up for disaster. An attorney experienced in property insurance law can evaluate your situation and make sure that you are abiding by all of the statutory requirements necessary to preserve your rights. Not following the applicable statutes can cost you money in the long run, as evidenced by a recent Florida case.

Florida homeowner, Kathy Johnson, was insured against sinkhole damage by Omega Insurance Co. At some point, Johnson found that her home was structurally damaged and believed it was due to a sinkhole on the property. She filed a claim with Omega and the company sent a representative from an engineering and geology firm to the property to do an evaluation. The representative found that the damage was not caused by a sinkhole. Pursuant to the report, Omega denied the claim and sent Johnson a letter informing her of her rights, including her statutory right to request a neutral evaluation at the expense of the insurer. Instead of exercising this right, Johnson hired a civil engineering firm to do a private assessment. This firm found that the damage was caused by a sinkhole.

Johnson then brought suit against Omega for policy benefits. During discovery, the report prepared by the private firm was disclosed, causing Omega to request that the litigation be postponed and a neutral evaluation be performed. The neutral evaluation resulted in a finding that the damage was caused by a sinkhole on the property. Omega then paid Johnson the policy benefits to which she was entitled and the court awarded her a confession of judgment and other monies, including attorneys’ fees.

Omega appealed the confession of judgment and other award claiming that both were inappropriate because the related statutory provision only applied when the insurer wrongfully and unreasonably denied the claim. Omega alleged that they had not denied the claim improperly as they relied on the initial report when making the decision. The appellate court agreed and overturned the confession of judgment and award of other monies. As such, Johnson only received policy benefits as opposed to costs, interest and attorneys’ fees.

It is always a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable attorney before making a claim for property insurance policy benefits. Tampa, Florida property insurance attorney Jeff Pekar is a veteran in the field and regularly represents clients in property and sinkhole insurance claims. For a free consultation, call us today.