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What are the Insurance Companies Doing with your Money – State Farm is Under Criminal Investigation While Citizens Spends Lavishly on Themselves Even as They Pleaded Poverty and Raised Rates for Florida Homeowners

insurance_fraud_photo_three.jpgWe often hear how about all the problems facing insurance companies despite the fact that Florida went a record 6 straight years without getting hit by a hurricane.

Yet despite that amazing streak of good fortune for all of Florida, insurance companies are still raking in huge profits while increasing the premiums we Floridians have to pay on insurance.

What are the insurance companies doing with those premiums? According to the Miami Herald, high ranking officials at Citizens enjoyed lavish dinners and outings at our expense.

How lavish? Citizens executives spent nearly $9,200, including two nights in a boutique hotel and a $234.91 dinner for three at an award-winning French restaurant. Other instances of financial abuse included traveling executives often staying in luxury hotels costing as much as $600 a night even when less expensive accommodations were available nearby. Many Citizens executives dined at fancy restaurants and repeatedly spent more than $50 per person on such fare as rack of venison, sea bass and dungeness crab.

If those financial abuses were not enough, State Farm is under even greater scrutiny. State Farm Insurance, the nation’s largest home insurer, is currently addressing an ongoing criminal investigation related to how it handled potentially tens of thousands of hurricane claims.

State Farm’s internal documents reveal a clear corporate policy of intentionally denying consumer claims for roof damage originating from wind storms. The systematic denial of those types of claims may have quietly saved State Farm close to $1 billion.

State Farm documents reveal an attempt by State Farm managers to hide the company’s policy of non-payment from state insurance regulators.

Our storm damage attorneys are not surprised at the insurance companies conduct. If you have sustained property damage then contact us today to discuss your rights.

Insurance Companies are Seeing a Spike in Claims being filed as a result of the damage caused by Tropical Storm Isaac in South Florida

Tropical-Storm-Isaac-on-familiar-course-TL258KB8-x-large.jpgTropical Storm Isaac left its imprint all over South Florida. Tropical Storm Isaac produced flash flooding, down power lines, and overall extensive property damage throughout South Florida.

The next step for all South Florida homeowners who sustained property damage as a direct result of Tropical Storm Isaac is to assess the extent of the damages and determine what needs to be done to repair the damage.

It should be emphasized that all damage should be photographed, and any repairs made should be properly documented. If you purchased supplies at the local hardware store, make sure to keep the receipt. If you hired the contractor to perform certain remedial measures, make sure you keep the invoices documenting the nature, cost and scope of work.

After you have assessed your damages, and performed any remedial repairs to prevent the damage from getting worse, it may be time to contact your insurance company. Our storm damage attorneys are prepared to assist you with the claims handling process as well in the evaluation process.

Filing an insurance claim is often times not an easy process. But it is best to be prepared prior to filing the claim in order to help ensure a smooth claims process. And the best preparation is to fully understand the nature of the loss, and have it properly documented.

With that said, insurance companies in South Florida are expecting a rise in claims. Citizens expects approximately 5,000 to 6,000 claims to be filed over the next few weeks.

As you prepare for your claim, please understand that time could be a significant factor working against you. In order to properly file a claim with your insurance company the claim needs to be timely filed. If you fail to timely file a claim, then your claim is forever barred.

Some claims require that they be filed “immediately” with the insurance company. And failure to file an “immediate” claim may jeopardize the claim. Flood claims in particular have special rules that need to be properly handled. Please contact our office today if you are in doubt regarding the claims process, or if you simply have questions regarding the potential claim.

The Aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaac in South Florida – What Do You Do If Your Property Was Damaged or Flooded? What About Your Business?

tropical_storm_issac,_generic_medium.jpgTens of thousands of homes and businesses remained without power Monday across South Florida as the remnants of Tropical Storm Isaac continue to wreak havoc for South Florida residents and businesses alike.

Heavy rains, and hail, have caused wide spread flooding and property damage. Strong wind gusts has caused trees to fall which has resulted in extensive property damage throughout South Florida.

Our storm damage attorneys stand prepared to assist you during this time of heavy rain and chaos. But now is also the time to ensure that you remain pro-active to protect yourself, your property and your business.

This significant weather event may have caused damage to your home, your property, or even your business. It is of critical importance that your damage be properly documented.

Start by taking photographs of the damages and properly inventorying your damage. Damage to your personal contents is of particular importance since it could be both time consuming and emotional to document.

Also, please take the necessary efforts to stop any further damage with your property as a result of the wind and rain coming from Tropical Storm Isaac. Keep all receipts and paperwork associated with such efforts and any emergency repairs you may need to take.

It will also be critical to determine whether or not your claim is a result of flooding, or wind. This distinction is critical to understand and in assessing your rights and applicable coverage available to you as a result of the damage sustained thanks to Tropical Storm Isaac.

What about your business? Well, if you have a business interruption policy then you may have coverage available to you as a result of Miami-Dade County Mayor’s decision to issue an evacuation order for people living in mobile home parks, unsafe structures, and areas prone to flooding. He also closed the Port of Miami.

As a result of this Order, businesses have been ordered to close until further notice. Such an order is commonplace when a natural disaster threatens, like Tropical Storm Isaac.

If your business purchased standard business income coverage then it is likely that your policy provides coverage for any loss of income caused by the Mayor’s decision to issue an evacuation order and close the Port of Miami.

Our firm stands ready to assist with your property damage needs and to battle with your insurance company to ensure proper compensation for your insurance claim. Whether you are a resident with damaged property, or a business owner who has sustained an interruption to your business as a result of Tropical Storm Isaac, call us today for a free consultation.

Our Miami Hurricane Insurance Claim Lawyers are Monitoring Tropical Storm Isaac as it Approaches South Florida

sns-tropical-storm-isaac-20120822.jpgOur Miami storm damage attorneys continue to report that South Florida has entered the height of hurricane season. Indeed, Tropical Storm Isaac is yet another named storm of what promises to be an active hurricane season.

Tropical Storm Isaac has already left an impact on Haiti and Cuba, and was heading for South Florida.

The move prompted a warning from the National Hurricane Center in Miami that Tropical Storm Isaac will likely intensify prior to making landfall.

More than a million people in the Caribbean have seen power cut off

Projections for South Florida

Most computer forecast models show Tropical Storm Isaac traveling through South Florida and making an eventual landfall through the Florida Keys.

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.

Alberto? Beryl? Chris? Debby? Our Firm Stands Ready to Help Miami Homeowners if a Named Storm Strikes South Florida

So far this year there have been four named storms, including one hurricane and three tropical storms. Any of these storms are strong enough to do significant damage. However, none of them reached South Florida.

Tropical depressions are storms with winds of up to 38 mph and are identified only by numbers; tropical storms are given names and have winds form 39 to 73 mph and hurricanes have winds above 74 mph.
569818_tormenta_tropical.jpg
Storms so far in 2012 have included:
-Tropical Storm Alberto: Reached speeds of 60 mph and one of the earliest named storms in recent history having formed before the official start of hurricane season.
-Tropical Storm Beryl: Speeds of 70 mph. Beryl made landfall in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. It was the strongest landfall in the United States for any pre-season Atlantic tropical cyclone on record.
-Hurricane Chris: The first hurricane of the season reaching strength of 75 mph.
-Tropical Storm Debby: Reached speeds of 60 mph and dumped a ton of rain on Tampa and Jacksonville.

Our Miami hurricane damage lawyers urge you to take the South Florida hurricane season seriously and properly prepare for the safety of you and your family. Our staff will be available around the clock in the event of a serious storm and can assist you in filing claims or handling disputes with your insurance carrier.

Storms are named in order of the alphabet each year, except for the letters q, u, x, y, and z, which are omitted. Whenever a storm causes serious damage, like Wilma or Katrina, the name is retired and replaced.

Names for 2012 are:

  • Alberto
  • Beryl
  • Chris
  • Debby
  • Ernesto
  • Florence
  • Gordon
  • Helene
  • Isaac
  • Joyce
  • Kirk
  • Leslie
  • Michael
  • Nadine
  • Oscar
  • Patty
  • Rafael
  • Sandy
  • Tony
  • Valerie
  • William

The 2011 Hurricane Season is Quietly Coming to an End

3fec2d5c0f862956f093f178ea67d7eb.jpgThe 2011 hurricane season was the third busiest on record, with 19 named storms. Of those storms, 7 of them turned into hurricanes, and 3 of them turned in major hurricanes measured at Cat 3 or stronger.

Indeed, it has been a very fortuities few years for South Florida. History has shown us that past hurricane seasons as busy as this one typically results in at least two named storms and making landfall. For instance, researching records back to 1900 revealed that in five previous seasons with 10 or more hurricanes, at least two named storms made landfall somewhere in the United States. And so far this season, we have seen 19 named storms, none of which has made landfall in Florida.

The hurricane season began with Arlene, which developed on June 29 in the Gulf of Mexico, and made landfall near Veracruz, causing 25 fatalities, and at least $223 million in damage.

Irene was the lone hurricane to hit the United States in 2011, and the first one to do so since Ike struck southeast Texas in 2008. Irene was also the most significant tropical cyclone to strike the Northeast since Hurricane Bob in 1991.

As this hurricane season comes to a close, it appears as though Florida again dodged potential catastrophe in that no significant storm made landfall this year.

Since hurricane tracking began, South Florida has never previously gone 6 straight years without getting struck by a hurricane. The last hurricane to strike South Florida was Wilma back in October 2005. The last tropical storm to hit South Florida was Bonnie back in July of 2010.
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Our Miami insurance dispute lawyers handle hurricane 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.

History Demonstrates that Hurricanes in October Can Still Cause Extensive Damage

Hurricane-Hazel-Oct-1954-002.jpgHurricane season is typically on the decline in October. Fortunately, it has been a quiet hurricane season for us in Florida. To date, a hurricane has failed to make landfall in South Florida this year.

History has shown us, however, that there can still be potent hurricanes this time of year. So now is not the time to let your guard down. But history also shows us that October hurricane strikes are rare occurrences. Indeed, on average there is 1 hurricane strike in October every 5 years.

While it is exceedingly rare for a hurricane to strike in October, such strikes can be rather potent. For instance, Hurricane Wilma in 2005 was one of the strongest hurricanes on record. In fact, at its peak, Wilma reached full fury over the western Caribbean with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour. Wilma’s central pressure of 26.05 inches is the lowest ever recorded for an Atlantic hurricane.

Wilma weakened over time and ultimately made landfall in South Florida as a Category 3 hurricane. But Wilma still caused major damage and disruption throughout South Florida. In fact, Wilma became the 3rd costliest hurricane in U.S. history causing over $20 billion dollars in damages in South Florida, primarily from wind damage to structures in the highly populated areas of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale.

Then there was also Hurricane Hazel back in 1954. Hazel was one of the strongest hurricanes on record for October, and also the farthest northern Category 4 hurricane to hit in any month. It struck the South Carolina/North Carolina border with devastating impact and to this day remains a benchmark for how bad a hurricane be on those coasts.
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If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in South Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP toll free at 866-518-2913 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Hurricane Research Flights Could Be Curtailed due to Recent Budget Cuts Made by Congress

hurricane flight.jpgDuring these tough economic times, government has set in place many spending cuts. Now, due to federal spending cuts, the air squadron which performs hurricane research may have its operations budget cut by 40%. This air squadron has helped hurricane forecasters more accurately track storms over the last decade

While the budget cut proposal is many months away from becoming a reality, a red flag has been raised with top forecasters. They worry that reduced flights or hours for the planes they used to track hurricanes will stall their efforts to better computer forecast models.

Apart from the short-term effect of lowering operating costs, those cuts may lead to high long-term costs. Improved forecasts can help save lives and money. The money would be saved because improved forecasts would help communities more effectively conduct evacuations. Luckily, these proposed cuts would not affect the daily flights into active tropical storms. However, these planes are not equipped to conduct the research done by the Hurricane Hunters.

These researchers are rightfully concerned about the potential long term costs of the loss of this valuable research. This research is vital because it helps us all better understand the nature of hurricanes. In turn, the public is better able to prepare for the impending landfall of these storm systems.

At this point in the hurricane season, forecasters predict that tropical activity is going to increase. Accordingly, make sure you have plans in place for your property and family as we will begin to see more tropical storms and hurricanes in the coming months.

On this blog we have posted several articles discussing useful tips on preparing for hurricane season. Our Miami Hurricane Dispute Lawyers are also prepared to assist you with any hurricane damage claim you may have against your insurance company.
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About the AuthorGabriel de las Salas is an attorney with the law firm of Alvarez & Barbara, LLP. His practice is focused on general civil and commercial litigation, including personal injury, insurance claims and real estate disputes. Mr. de las Salas received his B.A., cum laude, from the University of Florida, and his J.D., from Stetson University College of Law.

The Tropics Have Been Active So Far This Hurricane Season: Hurricane Emily to Form Soon and Threaten Miami Later this Week?

NHC_91L1.gifA developing tropical system, destined to become Emily early this week, will threaten the Antilles first and could approach part of the U.S. coastline this weekend, including Miami and the Florida Keys.

The National Hurricane Center has given this storm a 70% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours. No matter what path this storm takes, it will be in conditions that favor intensification into a hurricane for the next 24 to 48 hours. In sum, this is a storm that bears monitoring over the next few days.

If this developing storm does become a named storm, its name will be Emily.

The 2011 Hurricane Season Has Been An Active One So Far This Year

So far this year, there have been three named storms to date, in the Atlantic. Historically speaking there is typically only one named storm in the Atlantic between June and July.

Only once has there been a hurricane season in which four, or more, named storms developed during July.
That was back in 2005, the year that gave us before Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.

But back in 2005, and before we had Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, we had Hurricane Emily. In July of 2005, Hurricane Emily was one of five named storms. And it was a monster.

With sustained winds of 160 miles per hour, Hurricane Emily became the strongest hurricanes ever to form before August. Indeed, Hurricane Emily was the first category 5 hurricane of the record breaking 2005 hurricane season.

Time To Prepare

With hurricane season upon us, now is the time for all individuals and businesses alike throughout South Florida to properly plan for hurricane season. Our Miami insurance dispute lawyers would like to urge you to take the time now to plan for hurricane season.

Please visit this blog to learn useful tips on planning for hurricane season, and please contact our office should you sustain any hurricane/wind storm related damage.
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Consider Your Options. Contact Us Today.

Before opening our law firm in 2006, our attorneys worked for some of the state’s, and nation’s, largest law firms, and worked representing the insurance companies for years. Our attorneys are now uniquely positioned to use that experience to assist individuals and businesses alike throughout Florida with their insurance claims. As a result, our attorneys are well versed in the impact insurance has on businesses, condominiums, and individuals alike. Our insurance litigation practice group is prepared to tackle your insurance claim.

Given our extensive experience litigating for, and against, insurance companies, our insurance litigation practice group is prepared to provide aggressive, efficient and effective representation on a broad spectrum of insurance claims in Florida for local, national, and international clients. We are prepared to advocate insurance claims at the pre-suit stage, trial, appellate and arbitration levels.

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

Call us today toll free at 1-866-518-2913 or at 305-263-7700.

Texas May be Struck by Tropical Storm Don on Friday

Tropical-Storm-Don-heads-toward-Texas-2K8I89H-x-large.jpgTropical Storm Don earned respect when she earned her name on Wednesday. Tropical Storm Don is expected to make landfall in southeastern Texas on Friday.

This should serve as a reminder to all of us here in South Florida that tropical depressions, or areas of intense thunderstorms that gather in the tropics, become named tropical storms when they reach sustained wind speeds of 39 mph.

Understanding how storms are characterized can assist homeowners in knowing what to expect. However, our Miami hurricane damage lawyers caution homeowners against becoming complacent in cases where a tropical storm fails to become a hurricane, or when a hurricane fails to climb the charts.

The act of rating a storm can actually be dangerous when it leads to such complacency. The storm-classification system is designed to assist South Florida residents in understanding what to expect — as long as they understand that, in all cases, a storm carries the risk of serious property damage and the potential for serious or fatal injury when residents fail to take the proper safety precautions.

Tropical storms, such as Don, have wind speeds of 39 to 73 miles an hour and are associated with torrential rains, localized flooding, downed trees and power lines and the possibility of structural damage, particularly to older buildings or mobile homes.

A tropical storm reaches hurricane strength when winds climb above 74 miles an hour and are categorized on a scale of 1 to 5 until the winds reach roughly twice that speed. Anything with sustained winds of more than 155 mph is considered a Category 5 hurricane. Katrina was a Category 5 storm when it hit New Orleans and Andrew was a Category 5 storm when it devastated South Florida in 1992.

Florida Today provides a nice graphic illustration.

Category 1: Minimal Hurricane
Winds: 74 to 95 miles per hour
Storm surge: Up to 5 feet
Damage: Some trees and power lines may be down; damage caused by flying debris; localized flooding; those in mobile and modular homes are at greatest risk.

Category 2: Moderate Hurricane
Winds: 96 to 110 miles per hour.
Storm Surge: 6 to 8 feet.
Damage: Downed trees and power lines; some flooding; debris damages; structural damage possible, particularly in older homes. Mobile and modular homes at great risk.

Category 3: Extensive Hurricane
Winds: 111 to 130 mph
Storm Surge: 9 to 12 feet
Damage: Widespread flooding possible. Significant structural damage to homes and buildings possible. Downed trees and power lines. Probable destruction of mobile and modular homes.

Category 4: Extreme Hurricane
Winds: 131 to 155 mph
Storm Surge: 12 to 18 feet
Damage: Widespread destruction of homes and buildings, structural damages and roof loss are common, significant flooding and storm surge risk, higher likelihood of significant time without power.

Category 5: Catastrophic Hurricane
Winds: Greater than 155 miles per hour
Storm Surge: 18 feet
Damage: Widespread destruction

The important thing to keep in mind when considering a storm’s rating is that all of these storms can cause significant property damage and can lead to the risk of serious or fatal injuries. This weekend’s tropical storm, in Texas, with winds of 40 miles per hour, is roughly twice as powerful as our typical violent summer weather. A minimal category 1 hurricane is four times as powerful as a typical summer storm.
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If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in South 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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