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Guardian Adjusting Blog
Tips and information on all types of property damage claims.

 

Imperceptible Damage

Rick Tapanes - Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hidden Property Damage

Property damage is not always immediately discernable, especially to the untrained eye. The effects of some damage will continue well after the initial loss if not identified and remedied. When suffering property damage, every precaution should be taken to ensure that all the damage has been found and addressed.

Documenting all the damage your property has suffered is essential in receiving a favorable settlemetn. Damage that is found after a claim has been resolved will likely be disputed by the insurance company, often with a claim that the damage is due to regular wear and unrelated to the original loss. Bringing in your own property inspector is the best way to ensure that no damage goes unnoticed and unpaid.

Smoke and Ash

Smoke and ash that result from a building fire could continue to affect the property long after the fire has been extinguished. Even a home that has suffered very little damage from a fire may suffer from the long-lasting effects of smoke and ash. Often this damage is not readily visible. Smoke particles tend to remain in the air conditioning and heating systems. Aside from being carcinogenic, these particles can contribute to many ailments including childhood asthma. It is in your best interest to find the smoke and ash damage before your insurance company has settled your claim.

Mold and Rot

Water damage has the greatest potential of long-lasting effects on your property and your health. Water damage can often lead to mold. This is especially true if the property is not completely dried after the incident. Moisture in floors, carpeting, walls and furniture that is not found and removed can turn to mold in a short time. If left longer, mold will grow and spread. Severe mold can sometimes lead to irreversible health conditions while making a property uninhabitable. The mold may not make itself know for months after the initial damage. By that time, it has spread from its hiding places and will be much more difficult to handle.

Public Adjusters Can Help

A public insurance adjuster is your advocate in the face of property damage. They are trained to inspect a damaged property and uncover damage that was not caught initially (or intentionally overlooked by the insurance company). A good public adjuster knows where to look for smoke, ash, water and other damage that would otherwise go undocumented and claimed. Ideally, you should establish a relationship with a good public adjuster before a loss has occurred. In the event of property damage, your public adjuster will be ready to assist you in the claim process.

At Guardian Adjusting Services, we take pride in performing thorough property inspections that uncover all the damage that has occurred. In this way, we can help maximize our clients’ insurance settlements and save them the headache of lingering property damage. Call us to learn how we can help.

Water Claims Spike and AOB

Rick Tapanes - Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Insurance Industry Deals with Spike in Water Claims and Assignment of Benefits Lawsuits in South Florida

In South Florida, the type of property loss most frequently reported to insurance companies is water related. According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, and Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater, water related loss insurance claims are on the rise. Insurance companies believe the situation is out of control and are looking to not only raise rates to deal with the issue, but to also further reduce coverage on property policies. Since water damage claims happen so frequently, Florida property owners should be concerned.

Insurance Fraud or Industry Ploy?

The insurance industry, as well as Kevin McCarty, the former Florida Insurance Commissioner, have, on more than one occasion, suggested that the steep rise in water loss claims may be the result of fraud. One fact pointing in that direction is that while not limited to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, the rise in claims has been most pronounced in those counties.

Insurance fraud is defined as giving false information to gain benefits one is not entitled to. If the information provided is, in fact, found to be false, it is easy to identify who provided the information and who stands to benefit. However, the problem really lies in the sheer volume of fraud complaints that the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud receives on a yearly basis. That number is over 16,000! A number that is far greater than what the Division of Insurance Fraud can realistically handle. Furthermore, priority right now goes to the two most common types of insurance fraud, personal injury protection (PIP) and workman’s compensation.

Insurance Companies Say they are Being Strangled by Assignment of Benefits Lawsuits

Even with no major hurricanes, 2015 was still a tough year for insurance companies that cover homeowners in South Florida. The problem from their perspective is the proliferation of “frivolous” Assignment of Benefits (AOB) lawsuits and the high cost of fighting or settling them.

Here is what is happening in a nutshell. A homeowner’s property suffers water damage, and the homeowner calls in a water mitigation company to deal with the damage. The water mitigation company presents the homeowner with the bill as well as an Assignment of Benefits. The AOB transfers to the water mitigation company the homeowner’s rights to recover payment for damages from the insurance company. When the water mitigation company sends the claim to the insurance company, the insurance company denies the claim, or it is learned that the damage was not covered in the first place. The final step occurs when the water mitigation company decides to sue the big insurance company instead of the homeowner to collect payment.

The property insurance industry has lobbied for legislation that would limit the ability of a company to sue the insurance companies when they have no direct relationship with them. Until now, the Florida Legislature has not acted on the issue. Florida homeowners would be wise to stay abreast of developments as it could have a serious impact on their coverage and its cost.

2016 Hurricane Season

Rick Tapanes - Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 Hurricane Season Will Be Close to the 30 Year Average

The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season is here and the forecast calls for a storm season close to the historical average. Property owners in South Florida and along the US Atlantic and Gulf coasts would be wise to take note. Now is the time to prepare your property for the possibility of a hurricane or strong tropical storm making landfall and potentially causing damage.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 with peak storm activity occurring from July to October. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center has predicted the formation of 12 named storms with five of those developing into hurricanes and two into major hurricanes this season. The average over the last 30 years has been 12 named storms with six developing into hurricanes and three into major hurricanes.

A major hurricane is one of Category 3 or stronger. Category 3 hurricanes have sustained winds of 111-129 mph. The highest hurricane category, Category 5, has sustained winds greater than 157 mph. Hurricane Andrew, which made landfall in South Florida in August of 1992, was a Category 5 hurricane.

Interestingly, these predictions to not include Hurricane Alex which formed in January. Hurricanes outside of the regular season are rare but do occasionally develop. Hurricane Alex was a Category 1 hurricane that struck the Azores islands, 800 miles east of Portugal. This was the first January hurricane since 1955.

Landfall Difficult to Predict

Historically, a busy hurricane season does not necessarily correlate with hurricanes making landfall. Property owners and residents in areas that could be affected should make preparations regardless of the forecast for the season. It is possible that one or more of the named storms expected this season could strike the US, but it is also possible that we will avoid every one of them. Looking back again to 1992 we can see an example a very quiet storm season with only six named storms - half of what is expected this year. The one storm that did make landfall was the aforementioned Category 5 Andrew which had a devastating effect on Miami-Dade County. Compare that to the very busy 2010 hurricane season which saw none of its 19 named storms, 12 of which became hurricanes, make landfall.

Are We Due for a Major Hurricane?

The NOAA says that the average number of yearly hurricane landfalls in the US is one or two. The last 10 years, however, have seen an average much lower than that with a total of seven hurricane landfalls. It is likely that the US will be struck by another hurricane sooner rather than later, but it is not possible to predict if it will happen this season. It should be noted that even a tropical storm making landfall could cause major damage, especially if it is slow moving and brings heavy amounts of rain.

In the end what a busy hurricane season really means is that there will be more storms to keep an eye on as they develop and move through the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Property owners are encouraged to stay abreast of storm activity and have a plan in place in the event that a storm approaches. One part of that plan should be to review your property insurance policy. The public adjusters at Guardian Adjusting can help you review your policy and ensure that you have sufficient coverage. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

Sinkhole Coverage

Rick Tapanes - Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Are You Covered Against Sinkhole Damage?

A sinkhole can be a frightening occurrence, especially for a homeowner. Sinkholes occur when a hole or depression opens in the ground and they are caused by the collapse of an underground surface layer, which in turn is caused by water dissolving underground layers of soil and rock (usually limestone in Florida). These depression can be anywhere from 1 to 600 meters in diameter and depth. In Florida sinkholes are an unfortunate reality. To protect property owners, the law in South Florida requires all property insurance policies to cover what is called catastrophic ground cover collapse. There are four basic but increasingly serious requirements that must be met before this coverage takes effect:

  • The ground collapse occured suddenly
  • The ground collapse is clearly visible
  • The structure of the property is damaged
  • A government authority has condemned the property and ordered its evacuation

That last requirement is key, because if the property is not unfit to be occupied, the catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage will not kick in. So what happens if your home is seriously damaged but still livable? For this type of loss you may need sinkhole coverage.

Sinkhole Coverage

Sinkhole coverage will protect a property owner in the event of damage resulting from a sinkhole that does not necessarily meet all of the above criteria. Some sinkhole do not occur suddenly but rat

her gradually, and, furthermore are not visible to the naked eye. These slow forming sinkholes can still cause structural damage such as cracked walls or depressions in floors. This type of damage may not force you out of your home, but will obviously require repairs.

If you are not sure of about your sinkhole coverage, or whether or not you have it, the public adjusters at Guardian Adjusting can help. Allow us to review your policy before an event occurs to insure that your property is protected. Sinkhole coverage is not generally expensive but it will protect you from expensive repairs, especially when the damage is not catastrophic.

What to Do if a Sinkhole Occurs

The first and most important action to take if a sinkhole occurs under your property is to insure everyone's safety. This may mean leaving the property and staying somewhere else until the extent of, or potential for, danger can be determined. The safety of relocating may very well outweigh the inconvenience. Furthermore, many policies will cover alternate living expenses in some cases. The next step is to contact a public adjuster. A good Florida public adjuster can give you clear advise about what your insurance policy covers and what steps are appropriate in such a circumstance, such as contacting local authorities.

Not everyone has a complete picture of their property insurance coverage. It is best to know early and insure that you have the coverage you need. Call Guardian Adjusting today to set up a consultation with one of our expert public adjusters. We can perform a complete review of your policy and help you cover any gaps that may exist. Remember that you are likely covered for a catastrophic sinkhole loss, but that may not be enough.

Property Insurance

Rick Tapanes - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Homeowner’s Insurance Basics

You have brought your dream house, now it’s time to buy homeowner’s insurance coverage to protect what may be one of the largest investments you make in your lifetime. How much coverage do you need? What is covered? What will it cost? What are riders? Keep reading to learn the basics of buying insurance for your new home.

Determine Coverage

The first step in buying insurance coverage is determining how much you need. Instead of market value, insurance company’s use the homes rebuild cost to determine the price of the coverage. It makes sense because a damaged home will be repaired, not replaced. Depending on where you live, the home may require flood insurance. This is not included in homeowners’ insurance policies and must be purchased separately.

Included in a homeowner’s insurance policy is coverage for the contents, or your possessions. The typical amount of coverage is 75% of the home’s insurance value. There are also usually limits on the coverage for certain high value items. If you own expensive jewelry or collectibles, for instance, you may want to consider additional coverage for those. You will also want to inventory all of your possessions in the event of a claim. Take photographs or a video of all of the rooms in your home to document your possessions and put receipts for expensive items in a safe place. This will save you a lot of grief later if you need to prove what was damaged or destroyed to your insurance company.

Shopping for a Quote

A good as place as any to start comparing property insurance quotes is with your existing auto insurance company. Some, but not all, insurance companies offer multiple types of coverage. You may find that your auto insurance company will give you a good price if you bundle in your homeowner’s insurance with your existing auto coverage. Next, contact an independent insurance agent. Generally, independent agents are registered with, and can sell policies from, several different companies. This is a great way to quickly compare various quotes.

However you approach it, you will want to get quotes from at least three companies. Compare prices and take a look at reviews from existing customers. One or two bad reviews might indicate disgruntled customers who decided to vent online. It is better to get a broader idea of customer satisfaction by looking at many ratings and reading several reviews, both positive and negative.

Escrow

Many homeowners prefer to include their insurance premium in their mortgage payment. This can be easily set up with your mortgage company and is usually preferred by the bank as it gives them assurance that the property is covered. On a side note, you can include your property taxes in your mortgage payment as well. This allows you to write one check a month instead of three.

Glossary

Here are a few terms you should become familiar with when shopping for homeowners insurance:

Deductible – This refers to the amount you must pay for any repairs before the insurance company pays for the rest. For instance, if your deductible is $1000 and you property suffers $5000 worth of damage, you will pay $1000 and the insurance company will pay the remaining $4000. Deductibles are yearly, so you only pay your deductible once in any given year even if you experience another loss later that year. The higher your deductible, the lower your insurance payments will be.

Liability Coverage – This type of insurance covers medical and legal costs if a person is hurt in your home or on your property.

Premium – This is the cost of your insurance coverage. It is typically paid in monthly installments.

Rider – This is an additional policy that is in purchased alongside a homeowner’s policy to cover specific, usually valuable items in the home. Riders can be purchased for things like expensive antiques, or artwork.

Right to Repair

Rick Tapanes - Friday, February 26, 2016

You May Have Options if Your Insurance Company Invokes the Right to Repair

Does your property insurance policy include a “right to repair” clause – sometimes called “option to repair”? If you do not know, look under the “loss payment” portion of your policy where right to repair clause is usually found. On the surface that term certainly sounds like something that will be beneficial to you, but in reality it is a euphemism that grants your insurance company control over who will repair your damaged property. The concept of right to repair has been around for some time. Recently Florida insurance companies have been making it part of their regular process.

The problem with this approach, from the point of view of the property owner (it generally works out great for the insurer) is that your insurance company is interested in repairing your damaged property for as little money as possible. The contractors that will repair your property are working directly for the insurance company, not for you.

Furthermore, you have no control over the payment to the contractor and therefore have no control over the work. You will be unable to make any repairs yourself, if you are so inclined, and will not be allowed to bring in your own contractors. The right to repair also strips the property owner of their right to dispute the settlement. The insured and anyone advocating for them is taken out of the equation. The insurance company retains control over everything. Unfortunately this can sometimes result in substandard repairs.

But it is not so cut and dry. By invoking the right to repair the insurance company actually becomes the guarantor of the work done and has to accept liability for any law construction upgrades that the building department requires. For this reason, the right to repair is often used as a simple strong arm tactic. The insured is given the option to accept the insurance company’s settlement offer or they threaten to bring in their own contractors and take over the repairs.

All of this does not mean that the property owner is without rights. The insured has the right to demand that the insurance company provide the scope of work that will be done. This should include plans to make repairs with quality materials and that adhere to building code. Read your policy carefully and understand what is involved.

This is where a public adjuster from Guardian Adjusting can be a great help. The best time to call a public adjuster is before any damage has occurred. One of our public adjusters can review your policy with you beforehand and explain the right to repair clause. In the event of property damage, your public adjuster will at the ready to assist you in dealing with the insurance company. Since right to repair is often nothing more than a bullying tactic used by the insurance company, you may be surprised what a strong advocate on your side can accomplish. Call us today to set an appointment and have the protection you need at the ready.

Underpaid Claims

Rick Tapanes - Monday, January 25, 2016

Don’t Settle for Your Insurance Company’s Underpayment

Unless you have experienced property damage in the past, or have some expertise in estimating the cost of property damage, you may not even be aware if your insurance company is underpaying your claim. Without someone with that expertise working on your behalf, you may be opening yourself up to be taken advantage of.

It is not to say that insurance companies are out to cheat their customers, but their adjusters will work to minimize their costs, even if that means that you don’t get every dollar you are entitled to. Minimizing your settlement and underpaying your claims are simply ways to increase their bottom line. It is actually rare that an insurance company’s first settlement offer will be sufficient to make necessary repairs. In the worse cases, you may end up with a denied claim and no money for repairs whatsoever. Without an advocate, you are likely to take what they offer without question.

A Second Opinion

In order to protect your interests, it is best to get a second opinion on the extent and cost of your property damage. Public adjusters work as advocates for the insured. A public adjuster will perform their own inspection of the damaged property, provide a complete and unbiased estimate of the repair or replacement costs, and even act as a negotiator with your insurance company. And the services do not end there. A public adjuster will also help you complete and file your insurance claim paperwork and provide contact information for reputable contractors to get your repairs done. Furthermore, you can count on your public adjuster to be available every step of the way to answer your questions and address your concerns. In fact, by simply hiring a public adjuster, you are sending a message to your insurance company that you will not just settle for what they offer.

After the Fact

If you already accepted a settlement that you later realize is too low, or if your property insurance claim has been denied, it may not be too late. A public adjuster can help you with the process of reopening a claim and getting you the money you deserve. Reopening a claim for further settlement is a complex process and should definitely not be attempted alone.

The public adjusters at Guardian Adjusting Services have years of experience dealing with underpaid claims and reopening denied claims to get their clients the money they need and deserve to repair their property. Call Guardian Adjusting Services before damage occurs and we’ll be ready to act in the event of property damage. If you have already accepted a claim, call us as well. We can review your settlement and help you reopen your claim.

Hiring a Public Adjuster

Rick Tapanes - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Picking the Right Public Adjuster

Most people do not realize that when your home or business is damaged, you must document the claim. This means that time has to be spent listing all of the loss, item by item, and determining the cost to replace or repair everything. After filing a claim, you are not done. Unless you negotiate with the insurance company and basically fight for the money you are entitled to, you are likely to get paid less than you expect or deserve. This is where a public adjuster comes in.

Insurance companies have their own adjusters. One of them will visit our property to survey the damage and make a determination of the cost of repairs. Do not think for a minute that the number they come up with will be in your best interest. A public adjuster works for the policy holder. Similarly, they will visit the site survey the damage and determine the extent and cost of the damage. The difference is that a public adjuster serves the policy holder’s interests, not the insurance company’s. A good public adjuster will also be able to uncover hidden damage that is not readily apparent and insure that it is included in the property damage claim. Furthermore, a public adjuster will act as an advocate for the policy holder until such time as the settlement is paid. They help document the damage, prepare the insurance claim, meet with insurance company representatives, and guide the policy holder along the entire process.

What to Look for in a Public Adjuster

Finding a good public adjuster may take a bit of effort and research. Not all public adjusters are equally experienced or effective. Make sure you hire a public adjuster that will work hard to get you the money you deserve. Here are some steps to take before deciding which public adjuster you want to represent you.

Hire Within Your Area – This is a matter of accessibility. There are damage surveys to perform, meetings with the insurance company to attend, repairs to oversee. Make sure your public adjuster works in your region and will be readily available to assist you.

Hire a Licensed Public Adjuster – It is not uncommon for a public adjuster to work under a colleague’s or employer’s public adjuster license. Ask to see the professional’s license documentation to insure you are hiring someone qualified to do the job. Also find out how many years of experience, as well as what specific skills and credentials they have. This will help in your choice.

Check References – Past employers and clients are ideal. Ask if it would be OK to call them. Talking to a previous client is the best way to learn about the public adjuster’s dedication, demeanor and the outcome of previous work. They will give you a good idea of what level of service and performance to expect.

Negotiate the Fee – Public Adjusters generally work on contingency fees. They will get paid when the property damage claim is settled and the fee will be a percentage of that settlement, usually between 5% and 15%.

The best idea is to and establish a relation with a public adjuster before any damage has occurred. This way the public adjuster will already be familiar with your insurance coverage and ready to represent you immediately in the event of property damage. Guardian Adjusting has a team of highly qualified public adjuster ready to meet with you. Call us today to set an appointment and be ready in case of a future event.

Roof Leaks and Water Damage

Rick Tapanes - Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Does Your Policy Cover Roof Leaks?

When it comes to water damage, homeowners’ insurance policies become a bit complicated and specific. Damage from flood waters, which insurance companies define as being caused by rising water from an existing body of water entering a property, requires a seperate flood policy to cover it. Conversely, if your living room becomes “flooded” by rain water coming in through a leaky roof, a flood insurance policy won’t help. The majority of property insurance claims are for water related events, yet most policyholders do not have a clear understanding of what water damage they are covered for.

The first thing to do is review your property insurance coverage to understand exactly what is and is not covered. Talk to your insurance agent or a public adjuster at Guardian Adjusting. Your public adjuster can identify any holes in your coverage and make sure that you are ready for any eventuality.

Perform Regular Maintenance

The typical homeowner’s insurance policy will cover water damage caused by accidental events. The most common reason for a denial of a water claim is neglect and failure to perform regular maintenance. So, imagine that a storm brings a large amount of rain with it and suddenly your roof starts leaking in several places. Some furniture and drywall is damaged and a large portion of the carpet and floor becomes soaked. The next morning your insurance company’s adjuster gets up on your roof where she finds no visible damage. There are no roof tiles blown off by the wind or damage from a tree branch that hit the roof. The insurance company’s stance will be that the damage is due to negligence and failure to properly maintain the roof, which is the homeowner' responsibility. Similarly, any water coming in to the property through a leaky pipe or crack in the wall falls to the homeowner to prevent through routine maintenance.

Other things you may have trouble securing a claim for are improperly installed plumbing fixtures that leak, and malfunctioning appliances like refrigerators, ice makers and air conditioners. All of these items require maintenance and sometimes replacement and will not be covered by the majority of homeowners’ insurance policies.

On the other hand, you may be surprised to learn that damage resulting from these leaky roofs, walls and appliances is often covered. So, although your insurance company is not going to fix your roof, it is likely that your policy covers damage to floors, and furniture due to those leaks.

The best advice is to know what your property is covered for before the damage hits. Maintain a relationship with a public adjuster from Guardian Adjusting to stay on top of your insurance coverage and for the peace of mind of knowing that they will be there in an emergency to protect your interests.

Flood Insurance

Rick Tapanes - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Do Not Overlook Flood Damage Coverage

In insurance terms, a flood is caused by water from a rising body of water entering a property. Not considered flooding are things like water from a broken pipe or rain coming through a leaky roof. The distinction is important because it means that your property insurance policy will not cover you from losses from a flood. Flood damage coverage requires its own separate policy. In South Florida it is advisable to have flood insurance coverage whether or not your property is in a designated flood zone.

NFIP

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was put in place in 1968 to allow property owners to obtain insurance protection for flood damage to their property. Managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), NFIP also encourages communities to adopt and enforce flood management regulations, especially to reduce flood risks in new development and construction. This program was started because property owners in some areas where literally unable to purchase flood insurance from a commercial insurance company and to reduce the costs of Federal disaster relief. Today NFIP is the only option for flood insurance for property owners.

Public Adjusters and Flooding

Even though The National Flood Insurance Program is managed by the government, it doesn’t mean you should overlook hiring a public adjuster if you have experienced property flooding. You still want an advocate to help you get the settlement you deserve and to help you get your property dried out and once again usable. A public adjuster will perform a thorough inspection of your property to insure that all of the damage is identified and included in your claim. Your public adjuster can arrange for a dry out company to get the water out of your property.

A public adjuster will work with you every step of the way, documenting damage, preparing the insurance claim, repairing your property and securing your settlement. Guardian Adjusting Services has the best public adjusters in Florida. They have over 100 years of combined experience and will work tirelessly to get you the highest settlement possible and get your property repaired. Call us today to set up a consultation and be ready in the event of flood damage in the future.


         
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