Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 12, 2020

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Litigation over whether wind or flood was responsible for the damage to homes continues long after Hurricanes Rita, Wilma and Katrina ended. R. Jason Richards, a Florida attorney whose firm represents victims of hurricane fraud and bad faith insurance practices, says that at the end of the day, it’s about being able to repair the damage to your house, and an attorney can help in that process when your insurance company doesn’t do right by you.

Don’t give up!

Richards told us that an attorney can basically take over the fight for you, which is a huge benefit to policyholders who ofter simply give up. He explained:

If you don’t have the money to do that because your insurance company isn’t paying you what they should have paid you, then you should do whatever you can to be made whole, without having to spend your own money to do so. Unless you just have deep pockets and aren’t really concerned about pursuing the issue, you’re the one who is going to suffer.

The attorney can basically take over the fight for you, which I think is a huge benefit to policyholders because they often get very frustrated with the process and just throw their hands up and say, ‘I’m tired of this whole process.’

Policyholders often underpaid on claims

Richards told us that policyholders were underpaid on claims in nearly every case he handled after the 2004 hurricane season. He continued:

At the end of the day I honestly can’t recall a case I took from the 2004 hurricane season where the policyholder did not obtain a recovery, because in every situation they were underpaid on their claim.

However, if you contact an attorney, you can sit back and let the attorney do the work and fight the fight for you. That’s extremely beneficial because the law of averages would dictate that you’re probably going to get a recovery, so it’s probably worthwhile to contact an attorney to try to enforce your rights and find out what’s going on and how much more money you may be entitled to.

Again, in my experience, it’s been the case that the policyholder ends up getting more money because the claim was undervalued. So, from a perspective of whether or not to contact an attorney, if you need the money to repair your house, it seems pretty obvious that you’d want to go ahead and contact an attorney and try to get paid more money.

Richards says that most of these cases involve an undervaluation of claims, and when that happens, it’s pretty obvious. He provided the following example.

When you have a contractor providing you with an estimate of $100,000 and the insurance company saying that the work should be able to be completed for $22,000, obviously there’s a discrepancy there. More often than not, the contractor’s estimate for $100,000 is more realistic than the $22,000 your insurance company is willing to pay you.

Attorneys’ fees

If that situation sounds familiar, you may need an attorney. If so, it’s important to realize that attorneys are compensated on a contingency fee basis, so no up-front costs would be involved in these cases, according to Richards. He says that his firm funds the litigation and if they recover, costs, such as filing fees and expert fees are taken out of the recovery. He explained:

If you recover a percentage of the recovery will be paid to the attorney for pursuing the claim. However, in Florida, if you sue your insurance company and you prevail, you’re statutorily entitled to attorney fees and most costs. So there’s really no harm in contacting an attorney in that situation because you may be able to get a recovery and you may not have to pay attorneys fees or some costs based on the defendant’s wrongful conduct.