Here in Florida, we’re well aware of water damage from tropical storms and floods, but what about a pipe bursting inside your house? The damage to your floors, walls, ceilings, and personal items can be extensive, and your insurance company might not cover your repair and replacement costs.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss steps you can take after a pipe bursts in your house to contain the damage and obtain the funds you need to pay for necessary repairs and replacements.
When you see water gushing from a ceiling, wall, or appliance, try to stay calm and think of safety first. If you can safely get to your home’s circuit breakers, your first step should be to turn of the breakers for the part of the house affected by water from the burst pipe. Electricity and water should not be mixed, so if water has invaded the area surrounding your circuit breaker, consider calling a professional to handle the situation.
Similarly, if you can safely get to your water shut-off, turn off the water supply as soon as possible to stop more from pouring into your home.
Once you’ve stopped the flow of water, call your insurance company to report the damage. They can give you names of water remediation and restoration companies to call immediately to prevent further damage, such as mold, from occurring and suggest steps you can take to try to salvage your personal items in the affected area. They can also advise you on finding suitable accommodations, if the damage necessitates leaving your home.
Keep in mind that when speaking to insurance company representatives, you should never use the words “flood” or “flooding,” since they mean something very specific (and not covered by your typical homeowners’ policy) to insurance companies. You want as little confusion as possible over what occurred in your home and don’t want to give your insurance company any reason to not pay for damages.
As you do an initial assessment of the damage, be sure to take pictures and document all damaged personal items, furniture, flooring, walls, ceilings, and cabinetry. You will need this proof of damage for your homeowners’ insurance water damage claim.
Your insurance company will send an adjuster to assess the damage at your home. Having pictures of the water damage and a list of damaged items with receipts, if possible, will help expedite the assessment. Additionally, if your claim is denied or undervalued, your photos and documentation will help your water damage attorneys prepare your case in order to get you the best settlement possible.
It’s a good idea to stay in touch with your insurance company about the status of your claim so you’re aware of how the process is progressing. According to the Florida Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights (Florida Statute 627.7142), you should be notified of your claim’s status (fully covered, partially covered, denied, or being investigated) within 30 days of filing and receive full settlement, payment of the undisputed part, or denial of your claim within 90 days of filing.
Disputes can occur for many reasons. For example, when insurance policies cover only the actual cash value (ACV) of replacing or repairing damaged items as opposed to the replacement cost, disagreements over how much items, such as cabinetry, flooring, walls, or works of art are worth often occur. In addition, the amount your insurance company authorizes for repairs or installations in your home may be much less than what contractors quote you, or the contractors might find additional damage that not taken into account when determining how much your insurance company would pay for a repair.
Insurance companies can also find reasons to deny your water damage claim. They might, for example, say that the damage was caused by a leak over time or an appliance that wasn’t well maintained, rather a sudden pipe bursting. They might also claim that the water damage was due to ground water (flood) entering your home rather than a pipe bursting or that the damage occurred because water was left sitting in your home for more than 14 days and, therefore, excluded from coverage.
If your water damage claim is denied or underpaid, it’s time to get help from experienced water damage claim attorneys. At Malik Law, we know all the different ways insurance companies try to minimize payouts and will fight for what is rightfully yours.
When you have a legitimate claim, don’t be intimidated by your insurance company. Get the help you need to get paid fairly for all of the damage to your property.