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Hurricane Matthew Preparation Tips

hurricane-matthewAre you ready for Hurricane Matthew?  If you have not already prepared, the time is now to prepare.  Advanced preparation is critical because right before a storm hits, supermarkets and home improvement stores are jam-packed with last minute shoppers.

Waiting until the last minute on important supplies is especially dangerous because items fly off the shelves and you risk being left without necessary supplies. It is also important to stock enough supplies to last you through a storm and beyond.

The National Hurricane Center recommends including these items in your hurricane survival kit:

• Water – at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days

• Food – at least enough for 3 to 7 days

• Car chargers and back-up car batteries

• Non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices

• Foods for infants or the elderly

• Snack foods

• Non-electric can opener

• Cooking tools / fuel

• Paper plates / plastic utensils

• Blankets / Pillows, etc.

• Clothing – seasonal / rain gear/ sturdy shoes

• First Aid Kit / Medicines / Prescription Drugs

• Special Items – for babies and the elderly

• Toiletries / Hygiene items / Moisture wipes

• Flashlight / Batteries

• Radio – Battery operated and NOAA weather radio

• Telephones – Fully charged cell phone with extra battery and a traditional (not cordless) telephone set

• Cash (with some small bills) and Credit Cards – Banks and ATMs may not be available for extended periods

• Keys

• Gas for your car

• Toys, Books and Games

• Important documents – in a waterproof container or watertight resealable plastic bag

insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.

• Tools – keep a set with you during the storm

• Vehicle fuel tanks filled

• Pet care items

• Proper identification / immunization records / medications

• Ample supply of food and water.

Who is Responsible for the Damage Caused by that Fallen Tree?

A large oak tree falls on and into a small house during a storm demolishing its roof

A large oak tree falls on and into a small house during a storm demolishing its roof

When Ponce de Leon discovered Florida he fell in love with its lavish landscape and beautiful plants.  Given lush natural beauty he observed he named this newly discovered land “La Florida” or a place for flowers.  Indeed, South Floridians today are known to adore their plants and flowers.  But between neighbors, trees can often be a source of dispute.  Which begs the question, who is responsible for the damage caused by that fallen tree?

In South Florida, neighbors often squabble over trees and debris said trees may shed.  But many may not know what their legal rights are as it relates to those trees and their real estate.  This post aims to shed some light on those issues.

A common source of dispute between neighbors is the overgrowth of trees and brushes.  It should come as no surprise to any South Floridian of the presence of trees on one’s property that extends to the neighbor’s property.  That extension could be in the form of over-hanging branches, or roots, or both.

That overgrowth often begs the question – who is responsible for the overgrowth of branches and roots and that damages that may flow from that overgrowth.

The Third District Court of Appeal in Gallo v. Heller, 512 So.2d 215 (Fla. 3d 1987) answered this question by stating that:

a possessor of land is not liable to persons outside the land for a nuisance resulting from trees and natural vegetation growing on the land. The adjoining property owner to such a nuisance, however, is privileged to trim back, at the adjoining owner’s own expense, any encroaching tree roots or branches and other vegetation which has grown onto his property

In Gallo, Gallo sued his neighbor, Heller, claiming that Heller’s ficus and melaleuca trees encroached into Gallo’s property causing damage to Gallo’s property.  The court ruled that while Gallo may not recover damages from Heller for the encroachment of Heller’s plants, branches, and roots, on Gallo’s property, Gallo may nonetheless take any measure necessary to trim or cut any of Heller’s plants that may be on Gallo’s property.

Simply put, one is permitted to take any steps necessary to trim or cut any overhanging branches or roots that comes on to one’s property, but one cannot take any action as it relates to the source of the branches or roots if they are not on one’s property.

Another issue that often arises stems from damage caused by dead trees as well as live plants.  The general rule is that if a live plant, or tree, falls onto a neighbor’s property causing damage to the neighbor, then the owner of the live tree is NOT responsible for the damage caused by the live tree.  However, if the tree or plant is dead and that dead tree or plant falls onto the neighbor’s property, and causes damage, then the owner of the dead tree IS liable for any damage caused by the dead tree.

Of course, the best method of resolving neighborly disputes is to keep an open mind and maintain the ability to openly speak with your neighbor about the issues.  The legal process should be viewed as a last resort as a lawsuit may do more harm than good in terms of maintaining a harmonious neighborhood.

The Difference Between Replacement Cost Coverage and Actual Cost Coverage

aa damaged propertyOften times we are asked to explain the difference between replacement cost coverage and actual cash value coverage.  Both of these terms describe insurance coverage intended to cover you for your damaged or stolen property.  However, the amount you receive for your damaged or stolen property will depend largely on whether you have replacement cost coverage or actual cost coverage.

Replacement cost coverage will pay you for the item in today’s dollars.  For instance, let’s say your sofa was stolen or damaged from your home.  Replacement cost coverage will reimburse you the full cost of replacing the sofa with a new one of like kind.

On the other hand, actual cash value will pay you the replacement cost of the sofa minus any depreciation.  The best way to understand actual cash value is that the most you could expect to receive from the insurance company for your stolen or damaged sofa is approximately the same price you would have received if you had tried to sell the sofa prior to it being stolen or damaged.

So to quickly recap, both actual cash value and replacement cost coverage are both based on the cost today to repair or replace the damaged/stolen property with new property.  However, actual cash value will deduct that amount by applicable depreciation whereas replacement cost does not factor in any depreciation.

But what happens when you have to make a claim for your damaged property?  If you had purchased replacement cost coverage, insurance companies may pay you the actual cost value of the repair and wait until you submit a receipt for the cost incurred for the total repairs before they pay you for the difference.

Indeed, Florida Statute Sec. 627.7011 was amended to codify that practice.  The Florida legislature’s final bill analysis provides that the amendment to the statute “changes current law relating to the payment of replacement costs.  For partial dwelling losses, the insurer must initially pay at least the actual cash value of the claim, less any insurance deductible.  The remaining amount owed on the claim (i.e., the difference between the initial amount paid and the replacement cost) is paid by the insurer periodically as the repair work is done and expenses are incurred by the policyholder.”  Slayton vs. Universal is a case decided by the Fifth District Court of Appeal that discusses these issues as well.

Please note, however, that insurance companies are not permitted to deduct depreciation from the total and final replacement cost payment.  While they may “withhold” payment until the actual expense is incurred, they cannot deduct “depreciation” from said payment if you have replacement cost coverage.

Predicting the 2014 Hurricane Season

Predicting the 2014 Hurricane Season.

The 2013 hurricane season went down in the record books as one of the tamest on record.  Recall that 2013 was supposed to be a very busy season especially in light of the fact that 2012, 2011 and 2010 produced at least 19 named storms each season.  Yet 2013 only produced only two hurricanes.                                                                                                                 Hurricane2014Forecast

If the predictions hold, then 2014 promises to be just as uneventful as 2013.  The experts predict 2014 to be comprised of 9 named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane.

It is never to early to start planning for hurricane season.

2014 Hurricane Season

Hurricane Strikes in July are Rare

miami_storm07-25-2006.jpgHurricane season has been quiet so far. If you were raised in South Florida or have lived here for a few years, you know that hurricanes typically become a major concern in the months of August, September and October. However, that doesn’t mean that we won’t see a storm in July.

Since 1900 Florida has been struck by three hurricanes in the month of July. The last one happened in 2005 when a category 3 storm struck near Pensacola. On the other hand, numerous tropical storms have struck Florida in July. The last one hit us in 2010.

The reason we don’t see many hurricanes striking Florida during this time of year is because of prevailing steering currents that send the storms south or west of Florida. Whenever we do see tropical systems in July they are usually in the Gulf of Mexico because the waters heat up quickly by early summer.

Not only are July storms less common, they are weaker. Since most June and July storms form in the eastern Atlantic they are weaker because they don’t have the time to travel across more water. However, during the peak months, the storms tend to be stronger because they develop in the western basin of the Atlantic. This basically gives the storm the whole Atlantic to travel and gain strength.

Although July is a slow month for tropical systems we still need to be prepared. As recently as 2005, three hurricanes developed in the month of July. On this blog, we’ve taken the time to prepare various posts to make sure our readers properly prepare for a hurricane. Don’t just think of the canned food and water. Remember that part of hurricane preparation entails making sure you have all the necessary supplies to survive a hurricane as it strikes, and after, as well to ensure that you have all the necessary information to file an insurance claim in the event your home or business is damaged.
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EXTENDED BODY:
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.

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.
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Hotel Guest Dies in Fatal Fire

fire 001.jpgAfter a fire at a Philadelphia hotel near Independence Mall, a male guest was found dead in his room. The fire is believed to have been caused by the hotel’s electrical system.

This is just another illustration of how hotels often times have not taken the time to set up appropriate measures to maintain its property to the detriment of all those staying at the hotel. Our firm has handled plenty of cases where resorts and hotels have failed to properly maintain its premises resulting in serious injuries. Our firm has extensive experience handling these claims.

As for the case in Philadelphia, the fire sent several hundred guests onto Philadelphia streets during the morning hours on October 30th. The fire was not large enough to set off the hotel’s sprinkler system, but it set off the fire alarms and prompted management to make an announcement. Guests praised the evacuation process. The evacuation was described by one guest as “organized” and free of any panic.

According to the hotel manager, the fire was confined to the corner of one room. The Fire Department stated it took them about twenty minutes to contain the fire. Guests were allowed to return to their rooms. However, the 8th floor remained closed so the hotel could address damage caused by smoke and water from the hoses used to put it out.

The Fire Marshall’s Office is currently investigating the cause of the fire while officials await autopsy results for the middle-aged to elderly man who was found dead. Witnesses on the scene reported the scene smelled of an electrical fire.

The hotel is currently under investigation to determine the exact source of the fire and to what extent the electrical system was in a state of disrepair. Also, the investigation will address whether the electrical system was in a faulty state due to lack of inspections and maintenance.
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EXTENDED BODY:
Consider Your Options. Contact Us Today.

If you, or a loved one, have been injured in a hotel, resort, amusement park, car accident, or assaulted, while at a hotel, restaurant or bar, please contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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

Florida Supreme Court Ruling Clears Up Ambiguity in Disputes Involving Escrow Accounts and Hands Developers a Significant Victory in Pre-Construction Contract Disputes

Victory for Developers-thumb-300x400-79964Back in September of 2011, we discussed the impact of the Third District Court of Appeal’s ruling mandating that developers must keep pre-construction deposits in separate escrow accounts.

However, the Florida Supreme Court has since reversed that ruling. In so doing, the Florida Supreme Court concluded that the deposits could be kept in one account so long as the accounting was done separately and the monies were not commingled with the developer’s own money.

The Florida Supreme Court’s ruling clears up an ambiguity regarding Fla. Stat. Sec. 718.202 and the requirements set forth in that statute governing the maintenance of pre-construction deposits. Simply put, the ruling is a significant victory for developers because developers are now free to keep money from condo buyers in one account so long as that account is not commingled with the developer’s money and proper accounting is kept.

This is a significant ruling that will no doubt have an impact on both ongoing development as well as many South Florida legal battles that continue to rage on in South Florida’s courts.

Since the real estate market went bust back in 2007, developers and pre-construction contract buyers of condominiums (many of which were never built) have flooded South Florida’s court system with lawsuits. Many of those lawsuits focus on the buyer’s effort to have their deposit returned. In most cases, those deposits were either 10 or 20 percent of the purchase price.

Florida Statute Sec. 718.202 protects condo buyers’ deposits of up to 10% of the purchase price and forbids developers from using that money during construction. Failure to adhere to the statute may result in 3rd a degree felony against the developer. However, the developer is permitted use funds in excess of 10% of the purchase price for construction purposes. But Fla. Stat. Sec. 718.202 imposes certain requirements on those funds too.

Thus, an ambiguity arose in the interpretation of that statute. The legal question became whether or not the monies that could be used for construction purposes were to be held in the same escrow account as the initial 10% deposit, or whether those funds needed to be placed in their own separate escrow account

Florida Supreme Court Ruling Clears Up Ambiguity in Disputes Involving Escrow Accounts and Hands Developers a Significant Victory in Pre-Construction Contract Disputes

Victory for Developers-thumb-300x400-79964Back in September of 2011, we discussed the impact of the Third District Court of Appeal’s ruling mandating that developers must keep pre-construction deposits in separate escrow accounts.

However, the Florida Supreme Court has since reversed that ruling. In so doing, the Florida Supreme Court concluded that the deposits could be kept in one account so long as the accounting was done separately and the monies were not commingled with the developer’s own money.

The Florida Supreme Court’s ruling clears up an ambiguity regarding Fla. Stat. Sec. 718.202 and the requirements set forth in that statute governing the maintenance of pre-construction deposits. Simply put, the ruling is a significant victory for developers because developers are now free to keep money from condo buyers in one account so long as that account is not commingled with the developer’s money and proper accounting is kept.

This is a significant ruling that will no doubt have an impact on both ongoing development as well as many South Florida legal battles that continue to rage on in South Florida’s courts.

Since the real estate market went bust back in 2007, developers and pre-construction contract buyers of condominiums (many of which were never built) have flooded South Florida’s court system with lawsuits. Many of those lawsuits focus on the buyer’s effort to have their deposit returned. In most cases, those deposits were either 10 or 20 percent of the purchase price.

Florida Statute Sec. 718.202 protects condo buyers’ deposits of up to 10% of the purchase price and forbids developers from using that money during construction. Failure to adhere to the statute may result in 3rd a degree felony against the developer. However, the developer is permitted use funds in excess of 10% of the purchase price for construction purposes. But Fla. Stat. Sec. 718.202 imposes certain requirements on those funds too.

Thus, an ambiguity arose in the interpretation of that statute. The legal question became whether or not the monies that could be used for construction purposes were to be held in the same escrow account as the initial 10% deposit, or whether those funds needed to be placed in their own separate escrow account

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