Your Homeowners Policy
Recent news stories have raised some interesting questions regarding things many do not know about their homeowners insurance policy. Specifically, there are some claims that are not covered, despite what people may believe. This comment will highlight a few of these matters.
1. Pool pop-outs: Did you ever hear about someone who drained their pool to clean or repair it and then had it rise out of the ground overnight? This happens here in Florida and it is costly to fix. Unfortunately, most homeowners insurance policies contain a provision that refuses to cover this loss because it is caused by pressure from water below the ground. This exclusion means that you will be on your own if this happens. There are ways to prevent this if you must empty the pool, but if you do not know what to do, do not empty the pool.
2. Sinkholes: While many policies do provide some coverage for sinkhole damage, they do have some specific requirements that must be met. In general, a mere sinkhole itself is not covered–that is, the opening of the hole in the ground–but there is coverage if it produces what is termed a “catastrophic collapse” (or something similar). This would require that the open hole be sudden, plainly visible and cause structural damage to the building so that it is condemned by governmental authority; mere cracking or settling or damage will not qualify for coverage.
3. Earthquakes: Simply put, earthquakes, landslides and such are not covered under most Florida policies.
4. Floods: Water damage caused by the flow of water on the surface of the land, from a body of water or sewers or overflow of any kind is not covered by your homeowners policy. That is what flood insurance is for.
5. Animal injuries: Many Florida policies now exclude coverage for dog bites and other animal injuries, whether caused by your runaway horse, your pet snake or alligator or your finger-biting parrot. If your animal causes an injury, you may not have insurance for that claim.
6. Diving boards and trampolines: If you have any of these, you should be aware that most policies exclude coverage for injuries they cause.
7. Injury to family members: Many Florida policies do not cover claims by one family member against another for negligence. For example, if your husband left his shoes on the stairs and you tripped and fell one morning, you can sue him for negligence, but your homeowners policy will not pay the claim for him; any award would have to come out of his own assets, perhaps a no-win situation.
Please note that it may be possible to get coverage for some of these situations by discussing them with your agent. For example, you can pay a bit extra to get animal liability, trampoline or diving board coverage. You can also buy a separate flood insurance policy. The thing to do is talk to your insurance agent about your specific coverage needs. The list above is not exhaustive–there are other areas of coverage issues–but at least now you know some of the things you need to explore. The best advice: Ask questions about your policy.
Many of these situations described above may depend on the precise facts and circumstances involved, as well as the specific wording of your insurance policy, and it may be possible to win coverage from the insurance company in some cases. A capable attorney should be consulted if you face one of these “non-coverage” difficulties to see if there is something to be done. Call us if you need assistance.
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