While the number of fires occurring each year in the U.S. has decreased significantly in the past 50 years, public fire departments still respond to over 1 million fires per year. Of these, approximately 354,400 are home fires, which typically cause an estimated $6.9 billion in direct property damage. In 2017 and 2018, however, the losses were much greater, totaling $23 and $25.6 billion, respectively, due to wildfires in California.
If your home has been damaged by fire, you know how devastating these losses can be. Even if the fire were extinguished quickly, your home might not be inhabitable and could require extensive repairs before you can move back in. In addition, your furniture and personal belongings could have been destroyed by the fire.
Most people in this situation believe their Florida homeowners’ insurance policy will cover the damage to their homes and personal belongings. However, they are very disappointed to find out that this may not be true. The insurance companies often look for ways to avoid paying for all or some of the fire damage that occurs. They may try to find a cause for the fire that is not covered by your policy, deny payment for secondary damage related to the fire (e.g., water or mold damage) or undervalue repair and replacement costs.
If your property has been damaged by fire, working with an experienced Florida insurance claim attorney can help you avoid this situation. At Malik Law, we understand what a difficult time this is and will use our experience, skill, and legal resources to help make sure you receive the payment that is rightfully yours. We’ve helped clients recover millions in property insurance, personal injury, and commercial litigation matters and want to help you collect the maximum amount possible to repair your home and replace damaged items.
Common Causes of Residential Fires in Florida
According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 25% of all reported fires occur in homes. In fact, a home fire starts every 87 seconds in the U.S. While cooking is the leading cause of these fires (after wildfires), smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths. Other causes of home fires and fire casualties include:
- Electrical distribution and lighting equipment
- Smoking materials
- Gas leaks
No matter what started the fire on your property, experiencing a home fire and dealing with the damage and insurance claim process can be overwhelming. The insurance claim attorneys at Malik Law can help ease your burden by helping you prepare your fire damage claim and negotiating with your insurance company for a fair settlement. If you have already submitted your claim and it has been denied, delayed, or underpaid, we can also negotiate or sue, if necessary, to help you get the full payment you’re entitled to under your Florida homeowners’ insurance policy.
Florida Fire Damage Claims
You should file a claim for fire damage as soon as possible after the fire occurs. This helps get the claims process started so you can have repairs made, prevent further damage from occurring, and replace damaged items.
When filing a fire damage claim, you need to compile a list of damaged items and an estimated valuation. If you have pictures of your property before and after the fire and files with dates of purchase and receipts for items, you’re in a good position to file a complete claim. If you can’t provide an itemized list and pictures, the insurance company may use an average valuation to estimate the cost of repairing and/or replacing your property that could be much less than the actual value.
Your insurance company will typically send a claims adjuster to assess the damage and estimate the cost of repairs. Even if little to no fire damage is visible, it may be beneficial to have a damage assessment done. Heat can cause damage and warping to a roof, windows, and walls that may not be visible or obvious but can be dangerous and costly, and the insurance adjuster will most likely not take this “hidden” damage into account when estimating the cost of repairs. In addition, you may benefit from having a contractor you trust give a second opinion on the cost of repairs, since his estimate could provide leverage for negotiating with your insurance company.
Denied, Delayed, and Underpaid Fire Damage Claims
Your insurance company can deny, delay or underpay your fire damage claim for numerous reasons. They may, for example, assert that the fire was started intentionally, that only structural damage is covered, that secondary damage from water used to put out the fire is not covered, or that the amount payable for fire damage is limited. They may also delay payment, so you are more apt to accept a low settlement in order to get repairs done.
If your insurance company has delayed payment on a fire damage claim, undervalued the fire damage, or denied payment altogether, you may want to dispute their decision. Doing so is well within your rights as a policyholder; however, the process can be very time-consuming and frustrating. Relying on experienced insurance claim attorneys to negotiate on your behalf and litigate when necessary is generally in your best interest.
Rely on Leading Florida Insurance Claim Attorneys
When you’re being treated unfairly by your insurance company, you need an attorney who understands the law and knows how profit-seeking insurance companies work. At Malik Law, we’ve established a reputation for preeminence in helping clients throughout Florida obtain what is rightfully theirs from their insurance companies.
Call us today at 407-500-1000 or submit the Free Case Evaluation form on our website for a free consultation with one of our expert Orlando insurance claim attorneys.
Ahrens, M. (2019, Oct.). National Fire Protection Association report: Home structure fires.
Evarts, B. (2019, Oct.). National Fire Protection Association report: Fire loss in the U.S. in 2018.