Should Someone Hire an Attorney to Help File a Property Claim or Should They Wait Until They’re Denied Before Bringing Legal Action?
A property claim must be reported as soon as possible. It is very important that the loss is reported to the carrier to start the 90 days that an insurance company has to investigate a loss, and also so that the carrier cannot blame late reporting as the reason for the denial of the claim. After a notice is given, it is generally determined on a case-by-case basis as to whether or not the insured needs to immediately get a lawyer involved.
If the insured is asking for specific things, such as sworn proofs of loss or recorded statements, or if they want to conduct a second inspection of the property with an engineer, I would recommend the insured(s) consult with an attorney. Our office would look at what the carrier is asking for and what’s going on in the claim to make a determination on whether we need to be involved. There are cases where we get involved immediately upon hearing about a loss, and there are cases where we will tell the insured to go ahead and cooperate with the carrier, and then check back in with us if they run into any difficulty. Sometimes, we don’t need to get involved. Other times, however, it does work to the advantage of the insured to have an attorney working to help their claim from the onset.
What If Somebody Says, “I’ve Already Paid for This Property Damage to Be Fixed, so Now I Can’t Afford to Hire an Attorney?” Where Does That Leave Them?
We take property damage cases on a contingency basis, meaning our property damage clients don’t pay us anything—no retainer, no upfront costs. We cover all costs. We get paid by the insurance company, and our check is separate from that of the clients. If a case settles before the filing of a lawsuit, we do take a small percentage of the recovery, but if the case settles post-suit, fees are paid pursuant to statute by the carrier, on top of the indemnity portion of the claim that goes to the insured.
What About If Somebody Says, “I Can Probably Just Handle This All on My Own. Even If They Denied It, the Policy Was There, so Clearly I’ll Win?”
It’s certainly possible for someone to handle a claim on their own. However, Florida is one of the few states that has a one-way fee-shifting statute, which essentially entitles property owners to a free attorney. It makes more sense for a home owner to take what is essentially a free lawyer, and let someone with experience handle their claim.
I’ve settled close to a thousand cases, and recovered tens of millions of dollars. Unless you’re perhaps an expert in construction, or with family or friends in the insurance business, which gives you the confidence to handle the case on your own, it makes a lot more sense to utilize an attorney who takes cases on a contingency basis.