Water Damage in Stuart, FL: Virginia’s Story

Water damage is the second most common cause of homeowner loss, caused mainly by plumbing failures, freezing pipes, and storm damage.   Water-related loss is responsible for over $5 billion in annual homeowner property losses each year, approximately 23% of all homeowner property losses. 

These figures are all too familiar for Virginia of Stewart Florida.  Hers is a story that has been seen time and time again, particularly in Florida.  After she discovered the water damage, Virginia contacted a plumber to identify the issue, who then referred her to a water extraction company.   As we have seen many times, the water extraction company over-charged the insurance company for their services.  Of course, this causes the insurance company to feel as though they had fulfilled their obligation to Virginia.  After consulting with a contracting company, Virginia learned that the settlement was not nearly enough to remediate her damage.  “I was out of options and did not think I would be able to get any more money from the insurance company.  I didn’t know what to do, and then I was referred to Steven at Advocate Claims Public Adjusters.  That’s when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and knew that a resolution was possible,” said Virginia.

Steven and his team reviewed the damages and found exactly what Virginia had suspected.  The settlement was not sufficient to repair her townhome.  After discovering this and negotiating with the insurance company, Advocate Claims’ Public Adjusters were able to acquire the appropriate amount to repair Virginia’s home. 

AdvocateClaims“I was surprised at how quick the settlement was reached after Steven got involved.  I couldn’t have asked for a better result.  Make Steven your first call after damage to your property and he will make it right!”

Regardless of your type of loss, a public adjuster can act as your adviser and advocate throughout the process.  Advocate Claims’ Public Adjusters have been serving Florida homeowners for over 10 years.  Call Steven today at 954-369-0573 for more information. 

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Will My Rates Go Up if I File a Claim?

Will My Homeowners Insurance Rates go up if I File a Claim?

Many homeowners across Florida worry that simply filing a claim after years of having insurance coverage, will cause an increase in their Homeowners Insurance Premiums.  Regretfully, the fear is legitimate for Floridians.  Thankfully, there are ways to avoid problems and expensive increases in the cost to insure homes in Florida.

It is factual that filing a homeowner’s insurance claim can trigger an increase.  While some states will allow insurance carriers to move rates higher, by as much as 40%, Florida insurance carriers can raise rates by 2% after filing a claim.

A strong caution should be given: these increases can happen by simply calling your insurance company, even if the result of the call was not filing a claim.  Imagine how angry you would be to find you had cost your family money, for no more coverage, just because you called your insurance company for advice!  As your Public Adjuster, Advocate Claims works directly for you, not the insurance carrier.  We can help to steer you the right way, to avoid a premium increase when possible and logical.

How to avoid increases in Homeowner Insurance Claims in Florida:

  • Call Advocate Claims first, for a free assessment of your claim. Do not call your insurance carrier prior to calling us for an assessment.  Simply calling the insurance carrier could cause an increase in your insurance rates. 
  • Work with Advocate Claims to understand the full cost of the repairs and the coverage that your insurance company is obligated to pay. 
  • Only call your insurance carrier once we have assessed the claim and can show a clear benefit to the homeowner for filing the claim.

The insurance process is often unfair.  Your insurance carrier in Florida will send a professional representative called an Adjuster.  This Adjuster represents the Insurance Company only.  As your Public Adjuster, we only represent you, the home or business owner.

It will cost you nothing to access our expert assessment of your possible insurance claim.  As your Public Adjuster, we will only charge fees for our services once we have successfully settled your claim, representing only your interests.

It is not uncommon for your insurance carrier to minimize the total cost of repair for your claim. On a recent claim we handled in Miami Florida, the insurance carrier stated a fallen tree and subsequent repairs would “likely be less than the deductible.”  This statement made the home owner believe that she would be left with $8,700 in repair costs.  We took over the claim and found that the damage was far greater than initially surveyed by the insurance adjuster.  We settled the claim for $37,250.

The home owner had already initiated the process that was going to raise her insurance rates.  Simply calling sometimes starts this process.  Once Advocate Claims took over, we were able to help in calling the insurance company and quickly getting to the real dollars necessary for the repair costs. In this case, the homeowner may have invited a 2% increase in her insurance premiums in Florida.  That being said, after her insurance carrier paid out $37,500, the 2% increase is not as hard to take.

No matter how small or large the damages are to your home or business, before calling your insurance carrier, it is wise to call Advocate Claims in Florida. We can help to avoid useless increases to your insurance rates, and help to maximize your claim to make full repairs, quick, getting you every dollar your policy allows for your claim.

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Warning Insurance Company Engineers

Warning – Insurance Company Engineers are Not Your Friends. 

Recently, insurance companies were ordered by federal judges in New York and New Jersey, to turn over multiple versions of engineering reports that were allegedly falsified and used to deny claims. This marks the first time a wide-spread action has happened legally, to trap the insurance companies in the bad faith efforts they use when working with engineers, to deny insurance claims. 

It is always wise to have a public adjuster working on your behalf early in the insurance claim process. However, it is never more important to have a public adjuster at your side than when the insurance carrier assigns an engineer to review the damages to your property, and determine if the claim should be paid.

Your insurance company’s adjuster will often say that an engineer is a third-party that can assess a claim impartially and scientifically. While in an ideal situation this may be true, it is rarely the case when dealing with an insurance carrier. One must notice the motivation for the engineer to perform within the wishes or agenda of the insurance company; otherwise, he/she would not get business from the insurance company in the future.

The process of dealing with every part of the damage to your property, in an insurance claim, is really a science project. It requires our skill in knowing every aspect of the repairs, for every aspect of the damage incurred. Additionally, we must know the laws and ordinances which govern the construction and repairs. These laws and ordinances may also demand a certain performance by the insurance carrier on the claim.

As the homeowner, it is highly unlikely that you will understand the language of the insurance company.  At Advocate Claims, we have handled thousands of Florida insurance claims and our vast experience has made us extremely capable of dealing with your claim and getting you the money that you deserve for unfortunate property damages.

 Why is your insurance company sending an engineer to your home?

The insurance company may be looking for small loopholes that give them a reason to deny paying for your claim. 

The insurance adjuster that your insurance company sent to look at your property, does not know enough about structural damages in order to justify it on your claim. This happens when the adjuster is not seasoned or the adjuster just wishes to have a second opinion.

The Insurance Company Adjuster is attempting to keep the payout on your claim lower, by telling the contractor that structural damage does need to be replaced, but rather can be repaired. 

The adjuster wants to “rule in” a policy provision in your policy which could negate or force the denial of the claim. This may be the result of a policy provision that you may not be aware existed.  Examples include: policy exclusions for wood rot, wood born insects, mold, or long term water intrusion. 

 

We meet and often negate the effects of bad engineering reports, by using our years of experience and understanding of detailed policy provisions. 

Advocate Claims, acting as your Public Adjuster in Florida, is the best resource to avoid the pitfalls of homeowner insurance claims.  Starting the process off at the start of the claim, is always the best choice when working with a public adjuster.  That being said, your claim moves into dangerous waters when an engineer comes in for a review.  Don’t let this happen without calling on Advocate Claims to consult and help.

Advocate Claims is a Public Adjusting Firm in Florida.  We represent only the policy owner, never the insurance carrier. 

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Water Damage in Pensacola, FL: Doug’s Story

We recently spoke with Doug about his experience working with Steven Venook and the team at Advocate Claims Public Adjusters. Doug had purchased a three story home near the beach. Though it was a relatively new home, one day the air-conditioning on the third floor leaked, causing water and mold damage to all three floors of his home.

Doug initially hired the emergency service company and mold remediation company referred to him by his insurance company.  The mold damages were three times the limit of mold coverage on Doug’s insurance policy.  Doug was forced to pay the balance of the damages out-of-pocket.  He then hired the contractor who built his home, to try to convey the severity of damages to his insurance company, which went ignored.   Knowing the settlement would not cover the costs that he had incurred, Doug again turned to the insurance company.  To pacify Doug, the insurance company sent another contractor to assess the damages, where he experienced much of the same run-around. 

“The insurance company then recommended mediation to settle the claim.  I spent months waiting for the date to present my case.  The insurance company was steadfast in their original offer so it was all for naught.”

However, one positive did result from the mediation: Doug learned that he had the right to appraisal, which he previously had never been informed of.  Doug contacted Advocate Claims to discuss how the appraisal works. 

“Steven explained that the process did take several more weeks, but at that point, we were out of money and out of options” said Doug.

Advocate Claims requested appraisal, a form of dispute resolution.   After extensively reviewing the damages, Advocate Claims acted as the appraisal agent and began negotiations with the insurance company’s appraiser.  Advocate Claims was able to secure an additional $85,000.00; which was sufficient enough to fully remediate Doug’s loss from the water damage. 

“The moral of the story is to be careful who you hire” said Doug.  “I would recommend Steven and his team as soon as you suffer a loss.   He is very methodical and knows the process very well.  He is detail oriented and leaves no stone unturned.   The process is arduous by nature, with many players with varied interests.  One Steven was involved, we couldn’t have hoped for a better result.”

Whether you have suffered a recent insurance loss or are in need of appraisal services, Advocate Claims can help. They have been helping Florida homeowners for more than 10 years. Give the public adjusters at Advocate Claims a call today at 954-369-0573. They will walk you through the insurance claim process and see how they can assist you.  

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Mold & Water Damage in Florida

Mold & Water Damage Insurance Claims in Florida – Hire a Public Adjuster, Early! 

Florida’s humidity and rain create the perfect Petri dish for the creation and growth of toxic and damaging mold, as well as general water damage. Florida insurance companies know this peril is more common than any other claim, and have made a tight rope for insurance claims handling mold and water damages.

Chances are good that your insurance policy limits “mold” damage to $10,000 or less in Florida.  However, water damage in general is still covered within most base insurance policies in Florida.

In Florida, investigating the insurance claim and advocating for the best possible outcome is never more key than when a Mold & Water damage insurance claim occurs.

In a high rise condominium in Boca Raton, Florida, multiple units were affected by a water main break on an upper floor. Advocate Claims was able to take over each of the claims very early in the process.

Upon speaking to the insurance adjuster, the condominium owner made the statement; “don’t be making any big spending decision; these policies aren’t going to cover more than $10,000 in mold.”

Since Advocacy Claims, as the owner’s Public Adjuster, had been working the claim from the point of discovery of the problem, we were able to advise our clients on the best way to proceed and avoid mold growth in the home and avoid limitations on the submitted insurance claim for mold coverage.

Your insurance company adjuster will investigate the damage to your home or business and write what is called a “narrative of the loss.” In simple terms, the narrative is a story about what happened and what the overall cost of the claim should be.  When Advocate Claims is working on a claim, we help the insurance adjuster come up with the narrative for the claim.  We do this by providing hard facts and overall reasoning of the cause of the damage, and the subsequent damages to the property.  By getting to this early, we can speed up the claim process instead of having to change opinions later in the process.

We set the narrative for the insurance company, with adequate information that could not be refuted.  We avoided months of delays on the project by using our skills to move the claim along quickly.

IF YOU HAVE WATER DAMAGE TO YOUR HOME OR BUSINESS:

  1. Turn off the water main.
  2. Call the plumber to repair the leak.
  3. Call Advocate Claims to notice your insurance company of the claim and gain approval for mitigation activities, to deal with the water damage before it becomes mold damage. 
  4. Only have mitigation professionals start demolition and water mitigation, after Advocate Claims has assessed the damages and fully documented the losses.  Only begin mitigation once we can provide approval of a scope from the carrier, to avoid hefty out-of-pocket expenses for this service.

Simple Facts About Florida Mold & Water Damage Insurance Claims:

  • Mold Coverage is very limited.
  • Remediation Companies should never be trusted to handle your insurance claim.
  • Acting quickly is the most important factor in settling your claim at the highest possible dollar.
  • Hiring Advocate Claims to act as your Public Adjuster will speed the process of the claim along, and safeguard valuable funds.
Posted in Advocate Claims Public Adjusters, Insurance Claim Help | Comments closed

Insurance Claims with Plumbers, Kickbacks and Restoration

Beware! Insurance Claims with Plumbers, Kickbacks, and Restoration Contractors Will Cost You!

Homeowner Insurance Claim Cautionary Report: A reason for a Public Adjuster

Diane and Mike arrived back at their Broward County home in Florida to find water pouring through 4 rooms of their home.  Mike acted quickly.  He went to turn off the water main and asked Diane to call a plumber.

Within the hour, the plumber had arrived and found the leaking pipe. It was a failed fitting on a supply line to a toilet that caused the leak.  He fixed the leak and was able to pressure test the water system to return it to service.

The plumber, as he handed Mike his bill said, “you should call this restoration and mitigation contractor to handle the clean up and work with your insurance to pay the bill; In fact, I called them to come at least see the damage.” Not long after, the Restoration Contractor came in and set Mike and Diane at ease.  They said they would handle everything.

The restoration contractor pulled out a form for Mike and Diane to sign.  The form was “just to make things easy with the insurance company.”  The form is actually called an assignment of benefits:

I hereby assign any and all insurance rights, benefits, and proceeds under any applicable insurance policies to Restoration Company. I also hereby authorize direct payment of any benefits or proceeds to Restoration Company. I make this assignment and authorization in consideration of Restoration Company agreement to perform services and supply materials and otherwise perform its obligations under this contract, including not requiring full payment at the time of service. I also hereby direct my insurance carrier (s) to release any and all information requested by Restoration Company, its representative, or its attorney to the direct purpose of obtaining actual benefits to be paid by my insurance carrier(s) for services rendered or to be rendered. In this regard, I waive my privacy rights. If payment is made directly to the Owner/Agent by an insurer, it shall be endorsed over to Restoration Company within three business days. I agree that any portion of work, deductibles, betterment, depreciation or additional work requested by the undersigned, not covered by insurance, must be paid by the undersigned on or before its completion. I hereby appoint Restoration Company as attorney in-fact, authorizing Restoration Company to endorse my name, and to deposit insurance checks or drafts for Restoration Company. Payment terms to Restoration Company are net-30 days. Late charges of 1.5% monthly are charged to any and all unpaid balances. Restoration Company shall be entitled to reimbursement for costs of collection (including reasonable attorney’s fees and costs) of unpaid amounts by Owner/Agent and for reasonable attorney’s fees and costs for the breach, or enforcement, or any terms of this entire service agreement.

Mike and Diane signed this agreement.  This is a list of what these homeowners did not know.

  • The plumber was paid $1,000 by the Restoration Contractor as a referral fee for the business. The plumber’s bill to the homeowners was $285. His motivation to get this referral fee is the ability to gain 4 times his bill.
  • The Restoration Contractor completely owns any monies collected from the insurance carrier.
  • Any amount over what the insurance company pays for this claim, will be the responsibility of the homeowners.
  • The scope of services, the amount of services, and the timing of services are out of the homeowner’s hands.
  • The Restoration Contractor stepped in the shoes of the claimant, removing the claimant from being an active participant in their own claim!
  • Many insurance companies use this same approach of removing their policyholders, by using their own preferred vendors too.

Mike and Diane became a cautionary tale.  The insurance carrier disagreed with the scope of the repairs that were needed on their home.

The restoration contractor turned in the following invoices for payment:

  1. Emergency Service Call (after hours)      $1,850
  2. Drying and Remediation Services            $15,500
  3. Restoration / Reconstruction                     $37,500

The insurance company paid the following:

  1. Emergency Service Call (after hours) $325
  2. Drying and Remediation Services            $5,200
  3. Restoration / Reconstruction                     $9,750

The Homeowners were left with a bill for $39,575.  They are now being pursued by the Restoration Contractor for failure to pay for repairs to their home.

Had Mike and Diane called Advocate Claims to represent their interests and only their interests during this claim process, as their public adjuster for their water damage claim that needed to be filed with their insurance company, we would have been able to get more money for the loss through proper documentation of the claim.  We would have also been able to avoid progressing on the project in a way that would cause the insurance company to not cover a part of the claim.

As a Florida Public Adjuster, Advocate Claims can only represent the home or business owner, with no additional interests. As your Florida Public Adjuster, Advocate Claims cannot receive payments from any other party.

As a Florida Public Adjuster, Advocate Claims will not accept payment for services prior to collecting funds for the claim.  There is no up-front cost for hiring Advocate Claims as your Florida Public Adjuster.

As your Public Adjuster, Advocate Claims settles Florida claims in a way that does not leave the homeowner or business owner holding the bag for under-paid claims.

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Dryer Fires are Growing Risk in US Homes

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are approximately 15,500 fires, 10 deaths, and 10 injuries that can be attributed to dryer fires each year.  One out of 7,800 households will experience a fire caused from an improperly maintained dryer vent.  With nearly $100,000,000 in damage each year, dryer fires are a large and growing problem. 

How do these fires occur?

When a small piece of lint becomes lodged within the vent, it creates a snowball effect where additional debris catches on the lodged debris, increasing the surface area for additional debris to become lodged.  Not only do these clogs accumulate in the vents, they also create the perfect storm for a fire, due to the highly-flammable, dry, and heated lint.

FireInsuranceClaimWhy have dryer fires become more common and more dangerous?

Dryers were traditionally located in the basement, which required relatively short exhaust vents.  Modern laundry rooms are located in the kitchen, in bedrooms, adjacent to second story bathrooms, etc.  This causes the risk to increase for two reasons.  In the event of a fire, being located against paneling, drywall, or wood, can cause a fire to expand and cause more damage to the home than it would cause in the basement, which are traditionally constructed with stone or concrete, minimizing potential damage.  The second reason is that these modern laundry rooms are located farther away from the external vent, causing the exhaust pipe to be longer and/or less direct.  The longer and less direct the pipe, the higher the chance of a dangerous clog. 

 How can dryer fires be prevented?

These types of fires are highly preventable.  Make a habit of having your vents cleaned at regular intervals to best minimize the risks associated with lint clogs.  A public adjuster can assist in evaluating your risk and can recommend appropriate cleaning intervals for your particular dryer vent configuration. Contact Steven Venook at Advocate Claims Public Adjusters at 954-369-0573 to learn more. 

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Does I Make Sense to Hire a Public Adjuster

Why Hire a Public Adjuster?

Homeowners hire public adjusters for many reasons.  Typically, the larger the loss, the greater the need for the advice of a skilled public adjuster.  It is important to retain someone with decades of experience acting as an adjuster for your particular type of loss.  This is not always the case, which is why bringing in a public adjuster to act as an advocate on your behalf is essential.

“Insurance companies are reputable businesses, but they are only as good as the field adjuster looking at your claim,” says George Skidis, public adjuster.

Some people hire a public adjuster just for the simplicity of the transaction.  A public adjuster can walk you through the process every step of the way, and advise you on how the process works.

How to Find a Good Public Adjuster

The FAPIA website is an excellent starting point to identify a skilled public adjuster in Florida. The organization requires members to be licensed and meet high ethical standards.

George Skidis reminds homeowners to, “Keep in mind that having a license alone is not a guarantee you are hiring the best”.

One of the best ways to identify a skilled public adjuster is through word of mouth.  Check ratings online, call references, and contact people who the public adjuster has served in the past.  Also, check with your state’s department of insurance to ensure there are no current complaints pending.

Does it Pay Off to Hire a Public Adjuster?

The short answer is yes. According to an article from Bankrate.com, “A study conducted in Florida, which analyzed claims at one insurance company in 2008 and 2009, shows policyholders who hired public adjusters generally received higher settlements than those who didn’t hire public adjusters. According to the study, the typical settlement to those who had the help of a public adjuster was about $22,266, compared to $18,659” which is 19% more than not hiring a public adjuster.

Public adjusters usually charge 10% of the payment from the insurance company. Financially (and in simplicity), in most cases, hiring a public adjuster makes sense.

Contact Steven Venook at Advocate Claims Public Adjusters at 954-369-0573 or email him at info@advocateclaims.com for more information on how a public adjuster can add value to your claim.

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Top Causes of Home Fires

The National Fire Protection Agency estimates that U.S. fire departments respond to over 370,000 home fires each year.  These fires cause over 2,500 civilian deaths, over 13,000 injuries, and over $7 billion in property damage, each year.  

According to the NFPA, “Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires and non-fatal home fire injuries.” Though cooking equipment is the leading cause of house fires, it is not responsible for the highest number of deaths. 

Smoking materials and heating equipment are responsible for more deaths, which can likely be attributed to the fact that homeowners would often be asleep when the fire is ignited in these cases.  A lit cigarette or a space heater that overheats when the residents are sleeping, gives the fire and dangerous smoke a head start, whereas with cooking equipment, the residents are more likely to be monitoring the equipment. 

Regardless of the cause, it is essential to take measures to prevent home fires.

 AdvocateClaims

According to the NFPA “Three out of five home fire deaths resulted from fires in which no smoke alarms were present or in which smoke alarms were present but did not operate.” 

This statistic speaks volumes about the importance of smoke detectors.  If most deaths were caused by the lack of a functional smoke detector, most deaths from fire are preventable.  Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at regular intervals.  DO NOT wait until the batteries are dead to replace them.

Also, be cognizant of where fire extinguishers are located within the home and practice evacuation routes. It is best to have a primary evacuation and secondary evacuation plan in the event of a blocked or damaged path.  Agree on a meeting place outside of the home and never go back into a burning building.  Most importantly, be aware of any potential risks and take measures to prevent a fire from occurring in the first place.   

To learn more about how to prevent house fires, contact Steven Venook at Advocate Claims Public Adjusters at 954-369-0573 or email him at info@advocateclaims.com

Posted in Advocate Claims Public Adjusters, Claim Prevention Tips, Fire, Uncategorized | Comments closed

Result from Water Damage in Boynton Beach FL: Janet’s Story

Water damage affects thousands of homes, nationwide, each year.  Janet of Boynton Beach, Florida recently engaged Advocate Claims’ Public Adjusters for her water damage insurance claim.

“Our jacuzzi tub had leaked which went unseen for a period of time.  With water and mold damage to the floor and subflooring, the master bathroom, master closet and master bedroom were ruined. Our insurance company offered us $6,100, which would not fully cover the repair.”

Janet had initially hired a water extraction company to remove the water from her home.  The company referred her to a mold restoration company to determine if there was mold in her home, as a result of the water damage. 

Both companies put their own interests ahead of hers, as the water extraction company overcharged her and her insurance company for their service bill. 

“The claim process was arduous to say the least” said Janet.   “After researching our options and our dissatisfaction with the insurance company, I received a recommendation to speak with Steven.  He was able to act as an advisor and orchestrate every step of the process.  We learned what a fair assessment of the damage was and were quickly on the way to getting our water damage remediated. “

Advocate Claims’ Public Adjusters started the process with a new investigation and determined that the initial mold investigation was poorly done and missed identifying the true source of the mold.  Additionally, the company did not identify a large area of damage.  Due to the water extraction and mold restoration companies overcharging for their services, the insurance company felt that they had paid sufficiently to remediate the issues; however, this was not the case. 

Once a proper and thorough investigation was completed by Advocate Claims’ Public Adjusters, a new and proper estimate was developed to show all of the damages that truly existed in Janet’s home.  Through extensive negotiation with the insurance company, Janet’s claim was increased from $11,000 to $30,000; which allowed her to properly repair the damages and return to a sense of normalcy after her loss. 

 “I don’t know where I would be without Advocate Claims Public Adjusters” she said.  “Without their help we would have spent thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to make this right.  I can’t recommend Steven and his team strongly enough to help look out for YOUR interests.”

InsuranceClaim

Regardless of the size of damage or type of loss you have recently suffered, Advocate Claims can help. Our licensed public adjusters have been assisting home and business owners for more than 10 years.  If you recently suffered water damage and need help filing an insurance claim, Advocate Claims can help. Give the public adjusters at Advocate Claims a call today at 954-369-0573.

Posted in advocate claims, Case Studies, Water | Comments closed
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