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Using an Expert Witness to Support Your Property Damage Claim

In Florida, like in most states, homeowners can sue their homeowners insurance company when the insurer wrongfully denies a property damage claim.  Insurers deny claims for many reasons. An insurer’s denial of a claim often can violate the terms of the insurance policy. When this happens, the homeowner can sue the insurance company for breach of contract, seeking damages for the insurer’s wrongful denial of a claim.  

A common form of insurance policy in Florida is an “all perils” policy, where the policy lists those events that are excluded from coverage such as damage to the home caused by wear and tear. When a homeowner sues an insurance company for breach of contract under an all perils policy, the insurance company, not the homeowner, has the burden of showing that the damage was caused by an event that is excluded under the policy.  This is important because it means the insurance company, not the homeowner, has the burden of proof at trial on what caused the water damage.

Insurance companies often hire experts to testify at trial in support of their denial.  To give an example, an insurance company might hire an engineer to testify that the damage to the home was caused by wear and tear, not wind or hail.  Homeowners can hire their own experts to support their claims at trial, as well as rebut any arguments made by the insurer.

In a recent case, for example, we hired three experts (a forensic meteorologist, a mold expert and a construction and remediation expert) to prove at trial that the damage caused to our client’s home was the result of hurricane damage, not wear and tear.  Once we prevailed with the case, the insurer, not the homeowner was responsible for the costs of the homeowner’s experts because the insurer had wrongfully denied the claim. This makes perfect since – the Florida legislature does not want Florida citizens to be stuck with paying thousands of dollars in expert fees to bring a valid claim which an insurance company has wrongfully denied.

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Jason Cornell is a Florida attorney who represents homeowners whose insurers have wrongfully denied property damage claims.  You can reach Jason at 561 616-3333, or jcornell@liggiolaw.com

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