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Florida Property Insurers Must Cover Damage to Personal Property Too

Fri Mar 16th, 2018 on     Property Insurance,    

Usually, property loss does not involve exclusive damage to the dwelling unit itself — there may also be damage to other, non-dwelling structures (such as a fence around the property), or more commonly, to items of personal property that also reside within the dwelling.  In some cases, the personal property of the policyholder may be of significant value, and as such, their loss may expose the policyholder to unexpected financial vulnerability.

For example, suppose that you own a number of antiques of significant value.  You intend to sell them to help pay for your child’s college tuition fees.  One day, however, a fire destroys much of your home, and the antiques are damaged beyond repair.  Their value is lost in an instant.  If the insurer does not provide adequate coverage that accounts for the losses you sustained due to the damage to your personal property, then you could be left in a very challenging financial position.

If you have valuable personal property, it’s therefore critical that you consult with an experienced Miami property insurance lawyer for guidance.

Duty to Cover Losses Sustained Personal Property

In Florida, insurance companies providing homeowner’s insurance must grant policyholders coverage for their personal property, though limits on such recovery are frequently written into the policy to minimize the insurer’s eventual liabilities.

It’s worth noting that Florida law requires insurers to give a policyholder the option to exclude their personal property from coverage (so long as the policyholder gives a formal, written statement of intent).  Excluding oneself from personal property insurance coverage may lead to a lower overall premium, so — depending on the value of one’s personal property — it could be a worthwhile consideration for many policyholders.

Personal Property Liability Limitations

Oftentimes, insurers make use of “limitations on liability” provisions that set a liability cap on certain personal property items, such as cash, antiques, jewelry, and various other valuables, though the specific limitations and caps vary depending on the policy.  If you have agreed to “obvious” exclusions and limitations, then the insurer may have a reasonable argument for capping your recoverable benefits in accordance with the insurance policy.  More often, however, Insurers include rather ambiguous provisions in the policy to induce a policyholder to sign up, then later, justify the denial of a claim on the basis of their own, limiting reading of the provision.  This is a rather common strategy in the world of insurers.

Florida law is fortunately protective of policyholders.  Under prevailing Florida law, property insurance coverage must be construed in favor of the policyholder (when there is unresolved ambiguity).  For example, if the insurer has a liability cap for antiques, but not for jewelry, they may attempt to use the ambiguous definition of an “antique” to avoid having to pay out excess damages for jewelry that has been handed down in your family for generations.  In Florida, this ambiguous definition will be construed in your favor, however.

Get in Touch With a Miami Property Insurance Lawyer for a Free Consultation

Since 1995, Ver Ploeg & Lumpkin has served the interests of Florida insurance policyholders, advocating aggressively on their behalf in a range of insurance disputes, including those that involve residential property insurance claims.  Despite fielding a team of over 25 dedicated insurance attorneys, we strongly believe in personalized legal representation.  As such, we maintain an open and transparent relationship with our clients, keeping them apprised of developments in their case.  Throughout the dispute process, we work with clients to ensure that our objectives are aligned.

Our client-oriented approach has served us well over the years.  We have helped numerous policyholder-clients obtain the compensation they deserve, whether through the appeals process, alternative dispute resolution, or — in some cases — trial litigation, and our firm has been variously recognized by national publications, including Super Lawyers, US News, and Best Lawyers.

Interested in speaking with one of our attorneys?  Call (305) 577-3996 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Miami property insurance lawyer here at Ver Ploeg & Lumpkin.

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