One of the interesting effects of the unfortunate wildfires affecting Central Florida has been the PR campaign to induce homeowners to raise the insurance coverage on their homes. Local news programs have been replete with this advice. Although this is seemingly a very good idea, and one should always carry enough insurance for any unexpected occurrence, it only works if the insurance company holds up their end of the bargain as well.
Many times in our practice we see situations where the insured pay their premiums diligently, only for the insurance company to not hold up their end of the contract and refuse coverage to the insured. The insurance company never had a problem collecting checks from their insured therefore promising to help them and treat them fairly should they ever need to make a claim. However, when the day to make a claim comes, the insurance company tries to finagle ways out of paying a fair amount, and oftentimes paying at all. Many times the companies try to confuse their insured by using procedural tricks to try to get out of paying. Although lawyers often help the situation by forcing the insurance companies to provide coverage, the time and inconvenience to the insured, who have usually suffered harm, is burdensome.
In Florida, an insurance company must act fairly and honestly towards its insured and with due regard for her or his interests according to Florida Statutes Section 624.155. Another protection afforded to citizens of Florida is that if an insured prevails in one of these coverage disputes, then the insurance company is responsible for attorneys fees and costs. Therefore, most lawyers will take these cases at no cost to the client. Many companies seem to forget that they are entering into a contract with those they insure and also have responsibility to them. Hopefully when people reevaluate their coverage and decide on whether or not to increase it, insurance companies will do the same and reevaluate how they treat their insureds.