Fire Damage Attorney in Pembroke Pines
According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were over 379,600 reported residential fires in 2018 alone, resulting in over $8.1 billion in losses.  While fire damage can cause severe physical damage to your home, there is also an element of mental and emotional anguish that accompanies a residential fire. While you are picking up the pieces and trying to rebuild your life, the last thing you want to worry about is fighting with the insurance company for damage reimbursement. That is where the Pembroke Pines fire damage attorneys at Schlacter Law come in. If you have suffered fire damage and your insurance company has denied, delayed, or underpaid your valid claim, contact Schlacter today. With years of experience dealing directly with insurance companies on all types of fire damage claims, the team at Schlacter has the professionalism, tenacity, and drive to help our fellow Pembroke Pines residents get back on their feet after a fire.
Common Causes of Fire Damage
Between 2009 and 2018, there was an overall 4% increase in fires. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the top four causes of residential fires are:
- Cooking, accounting for over 50 percent of fires
- Heating, generating 9.4 percent of all fires
- Unintentional fires caused by carelessness, leading to 7.5 percent of fires
- Electrical malfunction, comprising 6.8 percent of house fires
Overall trends in the leading causes of fires shows an 18 percent increase in residential cooking fires across the ten-year period, as well as a staggering 30 percent increase in residential heating fires.  It is important to remain vigilant when dealing with high-risk items in the home and take proper fire-prevention precautions to protect yourself and your Pembroke Pines home.
Fire Damage in Pembroke Pines
Fires can quickly spread and cause extensive damage to the interior and exterior of your home. While burned and melted items show the most visible signs of damage, there is often additional hidden damage to your home associated with heat and smoke. A thorough inspection conducted by a licensed, experienced fire damage professional can find the less obvious damage to your home that an insurance company might overlook. A thorough fire damage inspection includes careful surveying of the following areas:
- Roof, walls, and framing: Fire can easily burn through flammable drywall and burning embers and extreme heat can compromise the structural integrity of the roof and framing. Even if there is no overt visual damage, wall frames or wood under the roofing material may be water-stained and moldy if water was used to put out the fire and not properly remediated.
- Siding, stucco, and concrete: Depending on the exterior finish of your home, fire can have different effects. Plastic siding may melt after heat exposure, or mold may be present underneath. Stucco may split and crack due to dehydration and baking. Heat may also damage concrete foundations and must be sampled by a structural engineer.
- Windows: Window frames may melt, blister, or discolor due to heat and glass can warp or discolor.
- Structural steel: Steel beams may transfer heat and detalablize the home’s structure.
- Electrical systems: Copper, a common home electrical wire insulator, is a good conductor of heat. A licensed Pembroke Pines electrician can evaluate the heat damage to your electrical system which, if not properly repaired or replaced, can pose a fire hazard.
- Plumbing and heating systems: Pipes, connectors, and ducts buried deep within the structure of the home should be checked for damage.
- Smoke damage: Smoke can permeate walls and other soft surfaces in the home and leave a strong, lasting odor. After just a few days, smoke and ash will cause permanent discoloration of walls, ceilings, wood, and vinyl if not promptly addressed by a fire restoration company.
After a fire, an insurance company will likely send an adjuster to evaluate the extent of your fire damage and estimate the preliminary cost of repairs. However, it is rarely sufficient to have serious fire damage inspected only by the adjuster assigned by your insurance company. Hiring a third-party Pembroke Pines fire damage inspector can help ensure you have an independent assessment of damages in case there are any discrepancies in coverage or compensation offered by the insurance company. If you choose to hire a fire damage lawyer to manage your insurance claim, they can help by hiring fire investigators, structural engineers, and other experts on your behalf who will conduct an extensive search for hidden fire damage and will follow up to make sure you are wholly compensated after a fire. For help you can speak with us at 305-999-1111 or go to www.thehurricanedamage.com. We are here for you.
Fire Damage Insurance Coverage
Fire damage is typically covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy. While home insurance prices are usually determined by factors such as your home’s square footage, building costs in Pembroke Pines, and your own home’s construction and building features, most insurance policies will cover four basic fire damage areas:
Homeowners insurance typically covers the structure of your home (structural framework including roof, walls, floors, windows, doors, stairways, etc.) as well as attached structures, such as a garage. Florida’s average home insurance rate is $3,643 for the coverage level of $300,000 dwelling coverage, $1,000 deductible, and $300,000 liability. If your home is uninhabitable during repairs or while being rebuilt, the Insurance Information Institute says homeowners insurance typically helps pay for additional costs of having to live away from your home, such as hotel costs and restaurant bills. 
If your homeowners policy mentions “other structure coverage,” your insurer will help pay for damage to structures on your Pembroke Pines property that are not attached to your home. These structures may include sheds, detached garages, and perimeter fencing.
Homeowners coverage for fire damage usually extends to personal belongings within the home, such as appliances, furniture, and clothing. Coverage usually allows for the repair or replacement of fire-damaged items, but you should review your specific policy to find out if it offers actual cash value or replacement cost coverage for fire damaged items. Actual cash value coverage generally helps reimburse you for the depreciated value of damaged items (accounting for age, condition, and present-day value of the object), while replacement cost value coverage helps you to pay the new purchase price of an item today.
Some homeowners policies may also help cover landscaping costs if the fire spreads on your property and destroys a tree or shrubs. You may be reimbursed for some or all of their value.
If you are unsure if your insurance company is wholly compensating you for your fire damage loss after a residential fire, contact a Pembroke Pines fire damage attorney for a thorough review of your policy, damage case, and claim submission. They may be able to help spot gaps in coverage and help make a case for negotiations if the damage to your home was undervalued by insurers.
Common Insurance Issues
It is important to remember that, although a homeowners insurance policy is designed to protect you in event of a disaster, the insurance company itself seeks to make money by collecting policy premiums and paying out as little as possible to policyholders. As such, there are several common bad-faith tactics that companies use to delay or deny a fire damage claim. Some allegations an insurance company may use include:
- Alleging the fire was intentionally started. By definition, arson is the intentional damage, or attempt to damage, any real or personal property by fire or incendiary device. Under Florida law, arson is not only excluded from fire damage insurance coverage, but is a felony, carrying a penalty of up to thirty years in prison and fines up to $10,000 if convicted in the first-degree.   According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there were 1,212 arson offenses reported in 2018, with 841 of the arsons occurring on inhabited property. 
- Inadequate coverage. In the event of a total loss fire damage claim, most insured Pembroke Pines homeowners learn the hard way that they’re not fully insured. This means that the cost of the damage to your home would exceed the maximum amount that can be paid out by the insurance policy. A fire damage attorney can review your policy and determine if there is any room for negotiations for additional retroactive coverage. Additionally, according to United Policyholders, even partial unreimbursed losses can offset your tax obligations when you claim them as casualty loss deduction. 
- Blaming the fire on an event not covered under your policy. The most common fire-related perils covered by a typical homeowners insurance policy include: fire and smoke damage, lightning strikes, explosion (from an aerosol can or propane grill), and damage from an aircraft, car or vehicle crashing into your home.  Again, arson and other fire causes like fire due to war damage are not covered.
- Delaying your claim. Depending on your insurance company, there may be strict deadlines in which you must notify the company of fire damage and to file your claim. If you wait to file your claim and are close to the deadline, the insurer may require additional information, paperwork, or use other tactics to delay the claim. Not filing a claim on time could be used by your insurer as grounds to prove that you were not compliant with your policy terms and they can therefore deny you coverage.
- Undervaluing your claim. Between the fire itself and its associated hidden damages, the costs for fixing the structural damage to your home, fire remediation costs, and replacing your valuables can be astronomical. Insurance adjusters tend to lessen the value of your damages in an attempt to save the insurance company money. Most Pembroke Pines homeowners do not attempt to calculate costs on their own and will accept a settlement worth far less the actual value of the covered damages, and far less than what the insurance company is willing to pay. Working with a fire damage attorney will help to ensure you are fairly reimbursed. The lawyers at Schlacter Law in Pembroke Pines understand that the insurance company is more likely to respond to a lawyer, rather than to you alone. We negotiate aggressively on your behalf and get results quickly so that you can begin the processes of rebuilding your life.
After a Fire, Consult a Fire Damage Attorney
Due to the nature of the destruction, fire damage claims can be incredibly complex for homeowners to navigate. Insurers often take advantage of homeowners’s ignorance of policy terms to employ dirty tricks to pay out as little as possible. A fire damage attorney will take the time to review your insurance policy and can take you through the fire damage claims process from initial investigation to negotiations, ensuring you are fairly compensated for your damages to the fullest extent of your policy. The Pembroke Pines team at Schlacter Law knows how to combat against unfair delays, low settlement offers, and even claim denials, and we will continue to fight on your behalf until the insurance company fulfills its duty to support policyholders after a fire.
If you proceeded with the claim filing on your own and were offered a settlement you believe is unfair, we will review the language of your insurance policy, employ industry experts to assess the damage to your home, and evaluate your insurance company’s offer of compensation. If you were treated unfairly, we will negotiate or litigate with the insurer on your behalf to pursue the full compensation you deserve.
- https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/res_bldg_fire_estimates.pdf ↩
- https://www.insurance.com/home-and-renters-insurance/coverage/florida-homeowners-insurance ↩
- https://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2019/806.01 ↩
- https://statelaws.findlaw.com/florida-law/florida-arson-laws.html ↩
- https://www.fdle.state.fl.us/FSAC/Crime-Data/Arson.aspx ↩
- https://uphelp.org/claim-guidance-publications/insurance-claim-tips-for-partial-loss-fires/ ↩
- https://www.allstate.com/tr/home-insurance/perils.aspx ↩
How We Handle Cases
- Your attorney will aggressively investigate your case. Schlacter Law will compile all necessary evidence needed to maximize the value of your case. Which includes but is not limited to photographs, police reports, security camera footage, witness statements, medical bills and medical records.
- You will remain in constant contact with Schlacter Law about the progression of your case.
- Your attorney will present your case to the insurance company and will attempt to resolve your case before the case goes to court for maximum compensation.
- Your attorney will make every effort possible to resolve the case as quickly as possible for the most amount of money you may be entitled to. You will be actively involved in the negotiation process with your attorney. Schlacter Law understands that this is your one opportunity to get justice for your loss.
- If settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, Schlacter Law will be fully prepared to bring your case to court to fight for the justice you deserve.
- At no cost to you, Schlacter Law will hire any experts and professionals needed to maximize your recovery and present your case in the strongest form possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
I was told by my insurance company I am underinsured. Is there anything I can do?
- Check your policy for obvious errors, such as the insurer insuring the wrong address or the wrong square footage. Citing an obvious error that was not your fault can give you leverage for increasing your coverage limits to where they should have been.
- Calculate and document your total losses. When preparing for negotiations with the insurance company, you need to get a professional, independent assessment of the real replacement cost of your home. Compare the independent cost projection to the replacement cost the insurer/adjuster quoted you to look for coverage and cost discrepancies.
- Recall the history of how your coverage limit was set. Did you speak to an agent or purchase your policy online? What kind of coverage did the agent recommend? How did the agent explain your coverage–ads, mailers, orally and in writing?
- Consult with a fire damage attorney. A fire damage attorney can assist you in thoroughly building a case for how you were underinsured through no fault of your own. The team at Schlacter Law in Pembroke Pines will go up the chain of command and begin negotiations and demands with your insurance company or broker. We provide the documentation and make the strongest case possible for good faith coverage. When dealing with the insurance company, it is vital to understand that your own words can hurt you and following through to the exact letter of your policy is crucial in negotiations. That is why it is important to contact a reputable professional fire damage attorney to represent you.
Fire insurance claims may be denied for a variety of reasons, the most common of which being errors made on a form or inadequate documentation of fire damages. While an insurer will conduct its own investigation, you must be prepared to do the preparatory grunt work of the claim filing and provide all necessary documentation noted in your policy.
If you claim is denied, the insurer does need to offer an explanation and should give you the chance for an appeal. Any time a claim is denied, you should retain legal counsel who has experience with insurance claim denials and fire claims.
Are there any discounts available for fire insurance coverage?
Due to high coverage premiums, many Pembroke Pines companies offer discounts for fire insurance.
The average home insurance rate in Florida is nearly $1,338 more than the national average for the coverage level of $300,000 dwelling coverage, $1,000 deductible, and $300,000 liability. With insurance rates so high, there are several ways you can reduce your Florida home insurance costs. Many insurers offer discounts by bundingling more than one type of insurance policy from the company (which can cut your costs by up to 15 percent) or by making your home more disaster-resistant. This includes:
- Installing smoke detectors, which can yield a 5% discount
- Installing a sprinkler system and a fire alarm, 15-20% discount
- Loyalty discounts, up to 5% after three to five years, and 10% for six or more years (2)