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Should Your Homeowners Insurer Pay for Water Damage Caused by a Leaking Pipe?

Many homeowners policies are referred to as “all perils” policies which insure against a broad scope of damages with certain limitations, or “exclusions” contained in the policy that list items not covered. When it comes to water damage, policies often cover damage to the property caused by “accidental discharge” or “overflow of water or steam.” Such coverage can extend to plumbing that ruptures, damage to the home caused by water discharge from an appliance, plus many other damage scenarios.

Insurers, in their quest to control the amount of claims paid to their insured, may deny a claim for water damage which should otherwise be covered.  For example, insurers sometimes deny coverage for water damage claiming that the discharge was not “sudden and accidental,” but was instead the result of continuous seepage over an extended period of time.  

When an insurer wrongfully denies a claim, it is important to consult with a lawyer to see if the claim denial is improper.  Insurers sometimes deny claims based on the quick, unsubstantiated opinions of a claims adjuster. Adjusters often are dealing with a high volume of claims and have limitations on the amount of time they can devote to investigating the cause or source of the water damage.  Once an adjuster denies a claim, litigation may be necessary so that through discovery and motion practice you can show the insurer that their denial of the claim was improper and contrary to the terms of the policy.

Under Florida law, when an insurer denies a claim based on an exclusion in an all perils policy, it is the insurer’s burden at trial to prove the exclusion applies.  This is important because even though the homeowner might bring the lawsuit against the insurer, at trial the insurer must convince the jury by a preponderance of the evidence that the cause of the water damage was the result of a loss that was excluded under a policy.  

Jason Cornell is a Florida lawyer who represents homeowners and business owners with claims against insurers.  You can reach Jason at 561 616-3333, or jcornell@liggiolaw.com.

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