What to do if you have property damage in Florida?

The best way to deal with future property damage is to be prepared for it. First, I recommend that you obtain a property insurance policy that provides you with sufficient coverage to protect your property based upon your particular needs and budget. If you do not know a credible and knowledgeable property insurance agent, please feel free to contact me for a referral. Second, I recommend that you take photos and videos of your property on an annual basis, and store that information in a cloud or other safe place where it will always be accessible to you. Third, I recommend that you properly maintain your property, and use credible contractors to do so. Fourth, I recommend that you store all receipts for any personal property that costs over $1,000.00, as well as all receipts, invoices, estimates, and proof of payment, which reflect any and all repairs, maintenance, and improvements rendered upon the property at any time for a period of no less than 10 years.

Unfortunately, all of the preparation in the world will not prevent property damage. It’s an inevitable part of life and property ownership. After you sustain a non-life-threatening loss or damage to your property I recommend as follows: First, attempt to find your property insurance policy. If you are not in possession of your policy, the easiest way to procure the policy is to contact the agent that sold you your policy. You may also contact your property insurance carrier who is obligated to provide you with a copy of your policy upon your request for it.

Second, you should contact your property insurance carrier and notify them of the property damage as soon as possible. You must report the loss promptly even if you are unsure if the damage will exceed your deductible. The first couple of pages of your property insurance policy should provide you with the phone number, fax number, and ideally the email address for the claims department of your property insurance carrier. If this information is not disclosed in your property insurance policy, then google “claims department for xyz property insurance company,” and you should be able to find the correct contact information. After you obtain the contact information for your property insurance carrier, call your carrier and notify them of your loss. Your insurance carrier will likely ask you what caused the damage to your property. If the cause of the damage appears obvious, ie. hurricane or fire, then state that you are not an expert, but the damage may have been caused by hurricane or fire. If you do not know the cause of the damage, simply state that you are in the process of seeking an expert opinion, and do not know the cause of the damage at that moment.

Your insurance carrier should then provide you with the name and contact information for an insurance adjustor who should be contacting you within 48 hours to discuss your claim and arrange an inspection of the damage to your property. You will want to make sure you obtain something in writing that confirms receipt of your notice of the damage to your property from your property insurance company. If you do not receive some written communication from your property insurance carrier which memorializes your notice of your loss, then you will want to send a written communication to your property insurance carrier that does memorialize your notification of the loss and send it in a manner, which can be tracked, ie. email, UPS, Fedex, USPS certified mail, etc.

Third, you need to document your property damage and your property damage claim. Take pictures and video of all of your real and personal property damage. Further, create a log of any and all communications with your property insurance company and any of their agents, which reflects the date and time of any and all communications and the substance of those communications. You should also keep a separate folder where you maintain all written communications exchanged with your property insurance carrier and their agents concerning your property damage insurance claim.

Fourth, you need to mitigate the damages to your property caused by the loss. For example, if you have a water leak, you will want to contact a water remediation or mitigation company as soon as possible to dry out your property and prevent mold. If you experience roof damage due to a storm you will want to place a tarp on your roof as soon as possible to prevent further water intrusion. You should keep all receipts, invoices, estimates, work orders, and proofs of payments for all of your repairs.

After you satisfy the foregoing steps, you should contact me or another property damage insurance litigation attorney to determine your rights and obligations. The consultation with any reputable attorney should be complimentary. Unfortunately, the property damage claims investigation and property damage adjustment process can be overwhelming, and it is advisable to confer with an experienced property damage lawyer before you proceed further. That will help protect your interests, help you repair your property damage as soon as possible. Depending upon the size of your property damage claim and the extent of your property damage, these steps could help save you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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