Experienced representation for fire-related claim disputes
Homeownership is often considered one of the most significant investments in a person’s life. While this is true anywhere, it’s particularly relevant in Florida, a state susceptible to a wide range of natural disasters and accidents that could cause serious structural damage to your home, including fires, water leaks, hurricanes and more.
This is why homeowners insurance isn’t just a formality; it’s a necessity. But the reality is that even when you think you’re covered, fair compensation isn’t always a guarantee.
Insurance providers are in the business of mitigating their financial risk, and unfortunately, that sometimes means offering less than adequate compensation for damages to your property. You may encounter complicated policy language, delays or even an outright denial of your claim.
If you find yourself in a situation where you’re not getting fair treatment from your insurance company—especially if your claim has been denied—it’s crucial to get experienced legal help.
This is where experienced Miami insurance claims attorney Mike Redondo comes in. Specializing in homeowners insurance dispute claims, Mike Redondo knows the ins and outs of Florida’s insurance laws and can help you navigate the complexities of your unique situation.
If your fire damage claim has been unfairly denied, don’t lose hope. Mike and his team at Redondo Law can help you fight for the compensation you rightfully deserve.
Top causes of house fires in Florida
House fires can be devastating events that cause not only property loss but also severe injuries and even death. In Florida, as in other states, there are several common causes of house fires that residents should be aware of. They include:
- Electrical issues. Faulty wiring, overloaded circuits or the use of damaged electrical cords can all lead to a fire.
- Cooking accidents. Unattended stoves, ovens or deep fryers can easily cause a fire.
- Smoking. Discarding cigarette butts or ashes improperly, especially near flammable materials like upholstery or curtains, can cause a fire.
- Candles. Leaving candles unattended or placing them too close to flammable items can lead to a fire.
- Heating equipment. Portable heaters can be a fire hazard if they’re too close to flammable materials. Always keep a safe distance between heaters and other items, and turn them off when not in use.
- Grills and outdoor cooking. Operating a grill too close to your home or under an overhang is a common cause of house fires in Florida.
- Appliances. Old or malfunctioning appliances like dryers can cause fires. Regular maintenance checks and timely replacement can help prevent this.
- Flammable liquids. Improperly storing gasoline, kerosene or other flammable liquids can lead to fires. These substances should always be kept in approved containers away from the house.
- Lightning. Florida is known as the “Lightning Capital of the U.S.” A lightning strike can cause a fire, especially in rural areas where homes may be surrounded by trees.
- Holiday decorations. Christmas trees, lights, and other decorations can also be fire hazards if not installed and maintained properly.
While fire can’t always be prevented, knowing these common causes can help you take measures to minimize the risk of a house fire in your Florida home.
Florida house fire accidents, injuries and deaths
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, for every 1,000 residential fires in Florida in 2021, there were 6.2 deaths and 30.6 injuries reported. Nationwide that year, there were 6.5 deaths and 20.9 injuries for every 1,000 fires.
As of 2023, there are 462 fire departments in Florida registered with the National Fire Department Registry, of which 34.6% are volunteer fire departments. By comparison, the nationwide percentage of volunteer fire departments is a whopping 70%.
Types of damage caused by house fires
While the immediate threat of a house fire is often the first concern that comes to mind, the aftermath reveals a variety of damages that extend far beyond the flames. A fire doesn’t just consume and char; it sets off a chain reaction of destructive events affecting the structure, the interior, and even the air quality of your home.
Here’s a deeper look into the common types of damage caused by house fires:
- Structural damage. Beyond visible charring, the fire’s heat can compromise the integrity of walls, support beams and the foundation, necessitating thorough inspections and possibly extensive repairs.
- Smoke damage. Smoke has a way of infiltrating every nook and cranny, leaving behind stubborn stains and a lingering, unpleasant odor.
- Soot damage. This fine black or brown powder can blanket surfaces, requiring specialized cleaning techniques to effectively remove it.
- Water damage. The very act of extinguishing the fire often leads to water damage from fire hoses or sprinkler systems, adding another layer of complexity to the cleanup process.
- Heat damage. Intense heat can melt, warp, or otherwise deform a range of materials, including plastic, metal and glass.
- Electrical damage. The fire can wreak havoc on your home’s electrical system, melting wires and potentially causing a need for significant electrical repairs.
- Air quality issues. Combustible materials can release hazardous chemicals into the air, necessitating air quality assessments and possible remediation.
- Damage to personal property. From furniture and electronics to clothing and keepsakes, fires can destroy or severely compromise a wide array of personal belongings.
- Emotional and psychological damage. Beyond the physical destruction, the emotional toll of experiencing a house fire can have lasting effects on all residents involved.
Because of the multifaceted nature of fire-related damages, it’s often necessary to involve a team of professionals—contractors, restoration specialists, and insurance adjusters—to adequately assess and repair the harm done.
What’s the difference between smoke damage and fire damage?
Fire damage refers to the physical destruction caused by flames, such as charring, melting or total incineration of materials and structures. This type of damage often requires significant repair or replacement of the affected areas.
Smoke damage, on the other hand, is caused by the residual particles and gasses from a fire. While not as physically destructive as fire damage, smoke can leave lingering odors, discolor walls and ceilings, and even corrode metals over time.
Additionally, unlike fire damage, smoke damage can spread to areas far away from the source of the fire, affecting more of the property.
What is covered with fire damage?
In Florida, homeowners insurance policies typically offer various types of coverage that come into play if your home suffers from fire damage. However, it’s crucial to read your specific policy for exact details, as coverage can vary widely among providers.
With that being said, here are some general areas that are usually covered after a residential fire:
- Dwelling coverage. This is the core part of any homeowners insurance policy and covers the cost of repairing or rebuilding the structure of your home if it’s damaged by fire.
- Personal property. Your policy should cover the cost of replacing personal belongings like furniture, electronics and clothing that are damaged or destroyed in a fire.
- Temporary living expenses. If your home becomes uninhabitable due to fire damage, your insurance may cover the cost of temporary housing and other living expenses.
- Detached structures. Most policies also cover other structures on your property, like garages or sheds, that may be damaged by fire.
- Debris removal. After a fire, there will likely be a significant amount of debris to clear away; many policies will cover at least part of the cost of removing it.
- Water damage. Ironically, efforts to put out a fire often result in water damage, which is usually covered to some extent under your policy.
- Restoration services. Specialized cleaning and restoration services may also be covered to help return your home and belongings to their pre-loss condition.
- Liability coverage. If someone is injured during the fire and you’re found liable, this portion of your policy can help cover legal and medical expenses.
While homeowners insurance provides a safety net for many fire-related costs, it’s essential to be aware that not all circumstances are covered. For example, fires caused by intentional acts or gross negligence may not be covered.
Therefore, it’s crucial to carefully review your insurance policy and consult with an experienced Miami insurance dispute attorney like Mike Redondo to fully understand the scope of your coverage—especially if your home fire claim is denied.
What are the steps to filing an insurance claim after a house fire?
When a fire occurs, the insurance claims process generally involves several steps to determine how much will be paid out to the policyholder. This is a general outline of how it typically works:
- Report the incident. The first step is to report the fire to your insurance company as soon as possible. You’ll usually be required to provide basic information about the incident and the extent of the damage.
- Get an initial assessment. The insurance company will then send an adjuster to assess the extent of the damage. The adjuster will take photos, make notes, and sometimes interview you and any witnesses to gauge the full scope of the damage.
- Provide documentation. You will likely be required to make an inventory of damaged or lost items, often including their value or replacement costs. Receipts, photographs and videos can be very helpful in this step.
- Review your policy. The adjuster will review your policy to determine what is covered and up to what amount. This includes the structure of the home, personal belongings, and additional living expenses, among other things.
- Receive estimate and offer. The adjuster will then prepare an estimate for the repairs needed or the value of lost items and make an initial offer.
Please be aware that this initial offer from the insurance company is not final and can be negotiated, so if you feel the insurance adjuster is undervaluing your claim, contact an experienced insurance dispute attorney to discuss your legal options.
How does insurance pay out in a fire?
After the insurance company offers a settlement, if both parties agree on the compensation amount, the insurance company will issue a payment. The payment can typically be issued in various forms, like a lump sum, multiple installments or direct payment to contractors for repair work.
In some cases, you may find additional damage later on that was not initially accounted for. If this happens, you may be able to file a supplemental claim to cover those costs. Once all claims and supplemental claims are settled, the process concludes.
Throughout the process, it’s essential to keep thorough documentation and ensure that you understand your policy’s specifics, as there may be deductibles, coverage limits and stipulations that affect the payout.
What is a partial damage payout, and should I accept it?
A partial damage payout from an insurance company occurs when the insurer offers to compensate you for only a portion of the loss you’ve experienced rather than the full amount you believe you’re entitled to. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including disagreements about the extent of damage, the cause of damage, or the value of damaged items.
Deciding whether to accept a partial payout is a complex decision that depends on your individual circumstances. On one hand, accepting may provide you with quick funds to start repairs or replace damaged items. On the other hand, it might not fully cover your losses, leaving you to pay the remaining expenses out-of-pocket.
Keep in mind that once you accept a payout, you may forfeit the right to seek additional compensation later. Because of this, it’s a good idea to reach out to an experienced insurance attorney specializing in fire damage claims to evaluate the fairness of the offer. They can help you understand the implications and possibly negotiate a better settlement.
Common reasons for denied fire damage claims
House fire damage claims can be denied for various reasons, some of which may catch homeowners off guard. The most common reason these claims are denied is often “misrepresentation or fraud.”
Insurance companies are vigilant about detecting fraudulent claims, and they will scrutinize your case closely for any inconsistencies or inaccuracies in the information you provide. Whether it’s the circumstances surrounding the fire (like suspected arson), the value of the damaged items, or the condition of the property before the fire, any discrepancy can be grounds for denial.
Other common reasons for a denied fire damage claim include:
- Late reporting. Failing to promptly report the fire to the insurance company can lead to denial, making timely reporting essential for a smooth claims process.
- Incomplete documentation. Inadequate proof of loss, including poor-quality photos, missing inventory lists, or insufficient documentation of damaged goods and structural damage, can lead to a denial.
- Policy exclusions. Specific exclusions mentioned in the policy can result in a denied claim. Always read your policy carefully to understand what is not covered.
- Failure to maintain property. In some cases, insurance companies might deny claims if they determine that the homeowner’s negligence, like failing to install smoke detectors or maintain electrical wiring, led to the fire.
- Unoccupied property. Some policies contain clauses that void coverage if the property was vacant for a specific period leading up to the fire.
- Non-disclosure of additional insurance. If you have more than one insurance policy covering the property and fail to disclose this to all the insurers, your claim may be denied.
- Uncovered perils. If the cause of the fire is determined to be a peril not covered by the policy, the claim will be denied. For example, some policies don’t cover damage resulting from wildfires.
If you feel that your claim has been unfairly denied, consult an experienced insurance dispute attorney to help you navigate the appeals process and protect your rights.
How can an experienced homeowners insurance dispute attorney help with a claim?
An experienced homeowners insurance dispute attorney can provide invaluable assistance throughout the complicated process of filing and settling a fire damage claim.
First and foremost, an attorney can review your insurance policy to help you understand the scope of your coverage and the limitations that may apply. They can then also provide guidance on how to properly document the damage, which is crucial for making a strong case to the insurance company.
An attorney will also act as a mediator between you and the insurance adjuster, ensuring that your best interests are represented. This is particularly important when the insurance company offers a lowball settlement or tries to deny your claim on questionable grounds. Lawyers specializing in this area are skilled in negotiating with insurance companies and can often secure a more favorable settlement than you might obtain on your own.
If your claim is denied or you’re offered an unsatisfactory partial payout, an attorney can help you appeal the decision and may even be able to take your case to court, if necessary. Having an experienced insurance dispute attorney by your side can make the complex and often stressful process of settling a fire damage claim significantly smoother and can help you receive the full compensation to which you’re entitled.
Get help from an experienced Miami insurance dispute attorney
When it comes to safeguarding your home and your peace of mind after a house fire in Miami, don’t settle for less. Reach out to Redondo Law today, and take the first step toward ensuring your homeowners insurance truly protects you when you need it the most.
In his early career, Miami attorney Mike Redondo worked on behalf of insurance companies to minimize their financial obligations in insurance claims and personal injury cases. Today, he leverages that insider knowledge to secure the largest possible settlement amounts and court judgments for clients like you who have suffered damage to their homes from fires and other natural disasters.
Get started with securing the compensation you rightfully deserve by filling out the form below to schedule your free initial consultation.