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A Significant Victory for Homeowners filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim – Florida Appellate Court Concludes that a Water Loss from a Deteriorated Pipe is a Covered Claim

pipe burst.jpgDid you know that water damage is one of the most commonly cited reasons in claims on home insurance? This should not come as a total surprise considering the many possible causes of water damage – heavy rain, bursting of pipes, and the bathtub accidentally overflowing. However, insurance companies as of late have been increasing their denials on water damage claims.

Coming home to find a busted pipe has flooded your home is one of the biggest disasters a homeowner can face. Being mistreated by your insurance company can add insult to injury and can cost a South Florida homeowner tens of thousands of dollars. Especially if that insurance company improperly denies that water damage claim.

In a recent case, the Cheethams filed a claim with their insurer Southern Oak after their property sustained water damage when a pipe buried under the home deteriorated and caused waste water and material to back up into the home.

Southern Oak denied the claim and the Cheethams filed suit in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court. The judge assigned to handle the case for trial court agreed with the insurer that the damage was excluded from coverage under the Cheetham’s policy.

The homeowner then filed an appeal to the Third District Court of Appeal challenging the trial court’s ruling.

The Third District Court of Appeal was asked to make two important determinations:

(1) whether the policy was ambiguous; and

(2) whether the exclusion applied to the Cheetham’s situation.

Southern Oak argued that the policy excluded coverage for deterioration, as well as water damage. The Appellate Court, however, reasoned that while the damage would have been excluded under the policy because of the deterioration of the pipe, the coverage was extended under the exception when damages “result from discharge or overflow of water or steam from a plumbing system on the residence premises”.

The Appellate Court determined that, even though the policy didn’t define “plumbing system” that the pipe in the Cheetham’s case was a part of the plumbing system based on its designed function and dictionary definition.

Additionally the court reasoned that the pipe was on the residence premises and part of the system despite being buried under the home and the water exclusion the defendant pointed to only excludes water damage originating from outside the resident premises, not from within.

What does this mean for homeowners? The pertinent part was where the damage originated, had the broken pipe been off of the Cheetham’s property and caused water and debris to back up into their home, the Court would have excluded those damages from coverage. But because the pipe was a part of the Cheetham’s plumbing system and the problem causing the back up originated on their property the damage was covered under the insurance policy.

The first signs of water damage might seem trivial. But warnings like water stains on the ceilings or a leak under the kitchen sink can lead to real problems, like a weakened roof or rotten floorboards. A burst pipe can even damage your furniture and other personal possessions.
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Please do not hesitate to contact our office to discuss your insurance claim needs.

Did the Heavy Weekend Rains Damage your Home or Property?

PMN_rain_wideweb__470x386,0.jpgThis past weekend was essentially a big wash out for South Florida. Many in Miami-Dade County and Broward county experienced terrible weather. Consequently, the heavy rains caused some flash flooding in many areas throughout South Florida as a result of seeing as much as 6 inches of rain in some areas.

The heavy rains may have also caused water damage to your property. Water damage is one of the most commonly cited reasons in claims on home insurance. After heavy rains such as the ones we just experienced this past weekend may result in some form of damage to your property.

Did you know that water damage is one of the most commonly cited reasons in claims on home insurance? This should not come as a total surprise considering the many possible causes of water damage – heavy rain, bursting of pipes, and the bathtub accidentally overflowing.

Despite the fact that water damage is a common claim, not all claims for damages due to similar causes will be paid by insurance companies. In fact, claiming on home insurance against water damage can be complicated, and tricky. If you have sustained damage to your property as a result of the recent heavy downpour, then you should contact our office today for a consultation regarding your potential claim.

The first signs of water damage might seem trivial. But warnings like water stains on the ceilings or a leak under the kitchen sink can lead to real problems, like a weakened roof or rotten floorboards. A burst pipe can even damage your furniture and other personal possessions.
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Consider Your Options. Contact Us Today.

If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP at 305-263-7700 or toll free at 866-518-2913 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Aging Pipes Presents Problems for Many Homeowners Such as the Risk of Significant Water Damage to your Home from a Burst Pipe

burst-pipe-10-01-18.jpgIn the past 12 months, water and sewer pipes have burst across Miami-Dade County, flooding streets and houses, tainting bay waters and disrupting lives. Indeed, Miami-Dade County estimates that it will cost approximately $325 million in the next 10 years to make pipe repairs to many aging pipes in Miami-Dade County.

The problem being experienced by Miami-Dade County is also being experienced by many homeowners. And there is nothing more disheartening than coming home to your home to see all of your personal effects floating away as a result of a significant pipe burst in your home.

The first signs of water damage might seem trivial. But warnings like water stains on the ceilings or a leak under the kitchen sink can lead to real problems, like a weakened roof or rotten floorboards. A burst pipe can even damage your furniture and other personal possessions. A burst pipe may even pose significant and detrimental health concerns. Often times pipe bursts are associated with foul odor, and bad smell. That smelly pipe burst can often times carry parasites, viruses and bacteria such as E. coli. But the risk of illness often times also depends on the type of pipe that burst, and the duration of the pipe burst.

Why take a chance with all the problems associated with aging pipes and pipe bursts? Learn where your home is most likely to suffer water damage, and what you can do to help prevent it.

Water damage is one of the most common reasons why people make claims on their home insurance. Burst pipes and leaky appliances often lead people to discover the details of their home insurance policies. Water damage and homeowners policies can be a volatile issue in many ways.

Generally, the damage caused by water will be covered, but whatever causes the damage — say, a leaking dishwasher hose — may not be. This also highlights the importance of truthful and accurate claims reporting to the insurance company because any inaccuracy in reporting the claim may lead to a denial of the claim by the insurance company.

Our Miami insurance dispute lawyers handle busted pipe claims for homeowners. Our attorneys represented insurance companies before 2006, when we opened a firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of consumers. We understand how insurance companies work. And we have the knowledge and experience necessary to represent homeowners in disputes over an insurance claim.

In some cases, an insurance company may try to claim a busted pipe claim is not covered because it falls under flood insurance. In other cases, the insurer may claim negligence, Act of God or any other means at its disposal to deny a claim and discourage a homeowner from re-filing. The reality is that, aside from a fire, hurricane or other disaster, busted pipe claims can be among the most costly for an insurer to pay.

If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP toll free at 866-518-2913 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Burst Pipe Insurance Claims Can Be A Nightmare For Miami Homeowners

Coming home to find a busted pipe has flooded your home is one of the biggest disasters a homeowner can face. Being mistreated by your insurance company can add insult to injury and can cost a South Florida homeowner tens of thousands of dollars.

Our Miami insurance dispute lawyers handle busted pipe claims for homeowners. Our attorneys represented insurance companies before 2006, when we opened a firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of consumers. We understand how insurance companies work. And we have the knowledge and experience necessary to represent homeowners in disputes over an insurance claim.
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In some cases, an insurance company may try to claim a busted pipe claim is not covered because it falls under flood insurance. In other cases, the insurer may claim negligence, Act of God or any other means at its disposal to deny a claim and discourage a homeowner from re-filing. The reality is that, aside from a fire, hurricane or other disaster, busted pipe claims can be among the most costly for an insurer to pay.

A homeowner’s failure to pursue a claim can leave a property in severe distress. Aside from the immediate problems, future mold and mildew issues can even render a house unsellable and can have a devastating impact on the long-term financial well-being of you and your family. Depending on the severity of flooding, it may even compromise a home’s foundation or otherwise make it structurally unsound.

In still other cases, a water main or other outdoor pipe may bust, thereby flooding your property. In such cases, an adjacent homeowner, city or municipality may be responsible for making you whole. Such circumstances may not alleviate your homeowner’s insurance of responsibility — the insurer may need to pay your claim and then pursue the at-fault party.

In any of the above circumstances, a bad-faith insurance claim may be brought if it is determined that your insurance company is not treating you fairly and in accordance with its obligations as determined by your insurance policy. If bad-faith on the part of an insurance company is proven, the policy limits can become irrelevant and an insurance company can be liable for the entire amount of damages allowed by law or ordered by a jury verdict.

In theory, the threat of limitless damages under bad-faith law is meant to keep insurance companies honest. In reality, as is so often the case, it only matters if you consult with an attorney who has the knowledge, experience and ability to enforce the law and protect your rights.

Conversely, it is incumbent upon the homeowner to understand policy limits as it relates to water damage, mold contamination and other issues. Frequently, insurers are excluding mold coverage altogether. Often, additional coverage can be purchased for a modest sum if a homeowner takes the time to determine what coverage is needed to protect against such eventualities.

While insurance companies may exclude sewer backups on some standard policies (coverage can be added in most cases for a modest sum), damage caused by broken pipes is typically covered. However, the devil is often in the details. An insurance company may refuse to pay for the pipe repair, citing normal wear and tear or maintenance clauses or exclusions. Damage in a house left unlivable may not be covered to the extent it is caused by a delay in fixing the problem. And, as previously discussed, mold and mildew is an entirely separate issue upon which whole books could be written.
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If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP toll free at 866-518-2913 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

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