It all seemed simple enough. Your kitchen pipe burst and flooded your new Brazilian Cherry floors and you want your insurance company to fix the damage and restore your peaceful Aventura condo. After all, that’s why you pay those everincreasing premiums (nearly a 100% average increase for the coming year by my latest check). One problem: If your insurance company (like so many of us in the sunny storm corridor) happens to be Citizens you may now be forced to travel to Tallahassee to fight your claim. As if skyrocketing rates and shrinking coverage wasn’t enough, now there’s this!
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
Citizens recently convinced a court that it can force any policyholder bringing suit against it to file in Leon County where Citizens is headquartered.
WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS? One very good reason is that it makes it easier for Citizens to fight your claim and much, much harder for the average South Floridian to challenge Citizens’ claim denial/underpayment. No doubt also, Citizens is keenly aware that there isn’t a glut of hurricane and property attorneys in Tallahassee waiting since 1864 for the next big storm to hit. They have plenty of lawyers there – Joe Consumer doesn’t.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
1) First always try to settle the claim. A reputable public adjuster or attorney can almost always get you a better result. Think of it this way: Do you know how much per square foot you should pay for the glue securing those Brazilian floors or how many screws the drywall needs?
2) If you can’t settle the claim look for an attorney that practices in Tallahassee. He/She may need to be there a lot.
3) Scream to your state legislators to stop the abuse before it gets worse.
Russel Lazega is an attorney and author of several of Florida’s most widely distributed legal textbooks on Florida Insurance Law: West’s Florida Practice Series Volume 7 and West’s Florida Insurance Law & Practice. Mr. Lazega represents accident victims, insurance policyholders and condominium associations and is based in Dania Beach, Tallahassee, North Miami, Orlando and Tampa, Florida. Contact: www.Lazegalaw.com
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