Like almost all homeowners in Florida, my clients have a replacement cost homeowners’ insurance policy. This means that regardless of the age of their roof, the insurance company promised to pay the costs for a new roof if the roof has to be replaced because of hail or wind damage. (Don’t feel too sorry for the insurance companies, they charge a premium for this replacement cost coverage, and they are not forced to offer this type of coverage if they don’t want to.)
On July 8, 2012, my clients home was hit by a hail storm. At the time of the storm their architectural shingle roof was 15 years old. The homeowners submitted the claim to their homeowners insurance company. Their homeowners insurance company hired a well-known engineering firm to inspect the roof. The engineering roof prepared a lengthy, detailed report signed by a licensed engineer and a certified roofing consultant. The engineering firm made several conclusions, including: 1) There was no hail damage on the roof; 2) any problems with the roof were due to age, wear and tear, and deterioration of the roof; and 3) the hail was too small to have caused hail damage to the insured roof.
Based on the engineering report, the homeowners insurance company promptly denied the claim.
The only problem? As I’ve seen 1000’s of time before, the engineering firm was dead wrong on every issue and in every way.
I filed a lawsuit against the insurance company for breach of contract. At my own expense, I also hired an engineer, a roofer, and a forensic meteorologist to combat the insurance company’s improper denial.
The case went to trial in front of a jury last week.
Here are some of the photographs I submitted to the jury clearly showing hail damage. You can see the impact marks, as well as the granules filling the gutters after the storm.
Just as it had done in its denial letter, the insurance company argued at trial that there was no hail damage, any problems were due to wear and tear, and the hail was too small to cause damage. My three experts did a fantastic job in dismantling the insurance company positions at every turn.
The jury got the case and deliberated about 18 minutes before returning a verdict in our favor. They even gave my clients more than I asked for in my closing statement.
The two biggest take-aways from this case are:
A denial letter is not the end of the inquiry, it is just the beginning! Do not be intimidated by a denial letter no matter how strong you think it is.
Don’t evaluate your insurance denial on your own. Let me review it for free. In most of my insurance cases, if I win, the insurance company must pay my attorney’s fees and costs; and if I lose, I’ll work for free.