How to Increase an Insurance Company’s Offer on your Total Loss Auto Claim

Automobile wrecks happen every day in Tallahassee in which the people involved do not sustain any injuries. Despite the fact there are no injuries, these same people find themselves dealing with insurance companies when trying to get repairs done to their damaged vehicles. Oftentimes, the damage to the vehicle is bad enough that the cost to repair that damage would exceed a certain percentage of the value of the car (usually 80%).  In this scenario the insurance company is going to determine the vehicle to be a “total loss” and pay the owner of the vehicle the reasonable market value for the vehicle or replace the motor vehicle with a comparable motor vehicle. The Florida statute governing these practices is Fla. Stat. § 626.9743.

 

Typically, these claims go very smoothly and the insurance company will pay a fair value for the totaled vehicle. However, in some situations insurance companies attempt to pay slightly less than what they should because the vehicle owner is almost never represented by an attorney. This might only be a few hundred dollars but when you multiply that few hundred dollars by the number of claims the insurance companies pay out each year, it doesn’t take long for those hundreds of dollars to balloon into hundreds of millions of dollars. Below I will share with you a few tips to ensure you are receiving a fair value for your vehicle.  

How Do I Know if I am Receiving Fair Value for my Vehicle After a Car Accident?

First, you need to understand how the insurance companies come up with the value of the vehicle in the first place. After a collision, the insurance company will task an adjuster to look over the damage on the vehicle and come up with a repair estimate. Once an estimate is made, the insurance company will make a determination as to whether it wants to repair the vehicle or classify the vehicle as a total loss. Like I mentioned earlier, if the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds a percentage of what the vehicle is worth (usually 80%) the vehicle will be determined a “total loss.” After the vehicle is determined to be a “total loss” the insurance company will gather all of the data about the vehicle (make, model, mileage, features, accessories, etc.) and plug that information into a database. That database will search local auto dealerships and attempt to locate vehicles that match the same criteria as the one which is being replaced. Once comparable vehicles are located, the adjuster will then compare the prices and the data between the vehicles adding or subtracting from the value of the vehicle based on these comparisons. For example, if the adjuster finds a vehicle exactly like the one being replaced for $5,000 but it has 40,000 more miles, the adjuster would presumably value the vehicle being replaced higher than $5000. By doing this comparing and contrasting, the adjuster is going to come up with a value at which he/she values the car and will convey that offer to the vehicle owner. The offer will also include the sales tax that would be required to purchase a new vehicle as well.  

 

Once the vehicle owner receives the initial offer from the adjuster, it absolutely should not be blindly accepted. Most people will simply accept the offer without ever looking at the report showing the vehicles it was compared to.  One of the best ways to boost the offer on the damaged vehicle is to look through the report and ensure the vehicles it was compared with have substantially the same features and mileage. Using the example about, the vehicle owner certainly would not be likely to accept $5,000 for his damage vehicle when he finds out that the exact same vehicle with 40,000 more miles sells for $5,000. Differences like that can add hundreds if not thousands of dollars to the value.  

 

After looking through the valuation report, the owner should then gather any receipts for improvements made on the vehicle in the last year. If the car had $1,200 worth of tires put on it 3 months prior to the wreck, the adjuster needs to know and the value of the vehicle will be raised. And this could be for anything that was done to the car such as: replacing the transmission, new paint job, new stereo system, aftermarket chrome rims, etc.) Any proof that can be provided to the adjuster showing value was added to the vehicle will increase the value of the offer. Many times adjusters won’t ask for this information knowing that if they did they would be paying out more money so they won’t mention anything until the owner brings it up.  

 

Lastly, don’t forget that if the car is not operational after the wreck, you are entitled to the lost use of your vehicle during the entire time from the date of the wreck up until you settle the property damage claim with the insurance company. Again, nearly no adjuster is going to bring this up unless it is mentioned. However, the lost use amount is not valid if the insurance company provide you with a rental car during the claims process.  

Contact a Tallahassee Car Accident Lawyer Today

We receive several phone calls every month regarding the fair valuation of a “total loss” vehicle. The techniques spelled out above are exactly what I tell every client.  I would say in a vast majority of cases, if you simply look through the valuation report, provide receipts for recent additions/maintenance done to the vehicle and demand lost use damages, you will increase the value of your “total loss” claim. If you or a loved one are in a situation where you feel you are not being adequately compensated for a vehicle deemed a “total loss” call the attorneys at Barrett Nonni & Homola for a free consultation.  

Small Business, Insurance, and COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Small Business, Insurance, and COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Just when it seemed as though things couldn’t get any worse, many small business owners in Tallahassee and across the Nation are finding out that insurance companies are refusing to provide coverage for this economic slowdown even though the insurance policies (i.e., contracts) that they wrote say that they’re supposed to. Many small business owners have been paying a lot of money every month in insurance premiums for business interruption insurance policies, which are sometimes also called business continuity insurance policies. Regardless of which name is used, these policies provide coverage to businesses if they’re forced to shut down due to a natural disaster like a hurricane, tornado, fire, or a pandemic. These policies are supposed to replace the business’ income during the shutdown by covering their expenses, such as payroll, rent, loan payments, etc. That way the business will have enough money to pay all of its monthly bills during the shutdown so that when the time comes to open back up again the business is actually able to resume operations. The entire point of these policies, and the entire reason why businesses have been paying so much money every month to have this coverage, is to prevent bankruptcy.

Don’t Let Insurance Companies Take Advantage of You

Many businesses have what are known as “all risk” policies or “all coverage” policies, which means that the policies are required to cover losses arising from any fortuitous cause except those that are specifically excluded. And, many of these polices do not contain any exclusions that come even close to excluding a pandemic caused by a virus. So, for these business owners, there should be no question that they’re covered right now. But, when these business owners submit claims, the insurance companies are responding by sending out denial letters and essentially saying, Oh we didn’t mean that…that’s not what the policy language really means…we’re going to fight this.

Other business owners have all risk policies containing exclusions which say they don’t provide coverage for losses caused by bacteria. But, as many of us already know or have recently learned, a virus is very different than bacteria. And, these exclusions are very clear. The policy language doesn’t say “bacteria or virus”; it just says “bacteria.” So, there should also be no question that these business owners are covered right now too. But, as I type this, insurance companies are relying on this exclusion to deny claims.

And, insurance companies are denying claims under both types of policies despite the fact that the government told these small businesses that they must shut down because this is a public health crisis, which strengthens the argument that the insurance companies are required to provide coverage right now. Unfortunately, this behavior by insurance companies is not new; it’s the same old game that they play all the time, like with claims stemming from the BP Oil Spill and Hurricane Michael.

How We Can Help You Win Against the Insurance Company

During the lawsuits that will ensue from these claim denials, we expect to see the defense attorneys attempt to defend the insurance companies’ position by arguing some ridiculous reinterpretations of the policy language. Most of these lawsuits will likely end up in federal court due to diversity jurisdiction where a judge, not a jury, will decide whether or not the insurance companies are required to provide the coverage that they promised to provide years ago when they entered into the contract with the small business owner. So, we also expect to see some judges who will always call it fairly and other judges who will always side with insurance companies and big business.

Concerningly, talking points are currently being circulated in the insurance community which some insurance agents are using to discourage people from making claims. But, if you’re a small business owner who is shut down right now because of COVID-19 and you have one of these polices, you cannot give up, because that’s exactly what the insurance companies want you to do. Instead, submit your claim, wait to receive the denial letter from your insurance company, and then send us a copy of your entire policy and a copy of the denial letter and we’ll analyze your specific situation and provide you with our opinion about the options that are available to you free of charge. This is a unique situation, so if you’re going to hire an attorney, it’s extremely important that you find one who has specific experience handling business interruption insurance claims. If you need help with a claim against your insurance company, contact the Tallahassee Insurance Lawyers today at Barret Nonni & Homola for a free consultation about your case.

Motorcycle Insurance Requirements

Motorcycle Insurance Requirements

What insurance are you required to have on your motorcycle in Florida? This seems like a simple question, after all, the laws governing the required minimum amount of car insurance are straightforward.  However, the Florida insurance requirements pertaining to motorcycles are unique and can lead to legal 

First of all, motorcycles are not considered “motor vehicles” as the term is defined by the Florida No Fault Statute (Fla. Stat. § 627.736). Therefore, motorcycles are exempt from the minimum insurance requirements placed on cars and trucks registered in Florida.  In fact, motorcycle owners are not required to show proof of insurance when the bike is registered. However, motorcycle owners are still bound by Florida’s Financial Responsibility laws (Fla. Stat. § 324.021). In other words, if the driver of a motorcycle is charged with causing a crash, the driver will be held financially responsible for damages caused. Additionally, if the owner is charged with causing a crash and cannot provide proof of financial responsibility, the owner can face legal penalties such as: 

  • Suspension of driving privileges
  • Being required to show proof of liability/property damage insurance for up to three years
  • Suspension of registration
  • Monetary penalties

So the question becomes, what does the owner have to do to be considered “financially responsible?” In Florida, the motorcycle owner has three financial responsibility options to choose from:

Purchase Liability Coverage from a Florida Authorized Insurer

This is probably the easiest and least time consuming of the options. This is much like purchasing insurance on an automobile aside from the fact there is no requirement to purchase Personal Injury Protection (No-Fault) benefits. The minimum requirements to prove “financial responsibility are as follows:

  • $10,000/$20,000 Bodily Injury Liability
  • $10, 000 Property Damage Liability 

Additionally, most Florida insurers offer a no-fault motorcycle coverage even though it is not required by Florida law. If you still have questions, be sure to reach out to the Tallahassee Motorcycle Accident Lawyers at Barrett Nonni & Homola today and we will be happy to answer any and all questions you may have. 

Self-Insurance Certificate

This is probably the most complicated of the three options. It requires the owner of the motorcycle to post a surety bond and deposit cash/securities with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor vehicles. Upon doing so, the owner is issued a “Self-Insurance Certificate” which will be considered proof of “financial responsibility” should the owner be charged with a crash.

Financial Responsibility Certificate

This option is much like the self-insurance option, but doesn’t require the posting of a bond or any deposit of money with the DHSMV. Instead, the owner is required to complete a financial affidavit complete with appraisals evidencing a net worth of $40,000 or more. Upon approval from the Bureau of Financial Responsibility, the owner will be provided with a “Financial Responsibility Certificate” evidencing that financial requirements have been met.   

At Barrett Nonni & Homola we have years of experience handling motorcycle injury claims and counseling consumers on motorcycle insurance requirements. If you or a loved one have any questions regarding injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash or motorcycle insurance requirements please call us today. 

Hurricane Michael Storm Damage Insurance Claim Information

Hurricane Michael Storm Damage Insurance Claim Information

What is the best process for filing an insurance claim after a major natural disaster? Hurricane Michael just came through Florida devastating many families and home in its wake leaving those families in a state of sadness riddled with fear and anxiety about the future of their property. Here is a 5 step process for how to start and finish a hurricane insurance claim from the experts at Barrett Nonni & Homola.

5 Steps to Take After a Hurricane in Tallahassee

  1. Document the Damage: Documenting the storm damage that your home or business sustained due to Hurricane Michael is the most important part of this entire process.  Take photos of anything that you think may have been storm damaged by the storm, such as holes or cracks in the roof, shingles or tiles on the ground, grit from shingles in the flower beds, broken windows, etc.  In addition to taking photos of the outside of your roof, go up into your attic, if you’re able to do it safely, and take photos of the inside of your roof as well. Also, keep in mind that storm damage to the facade of your home or business is covered by insurance too, so look for storm damage to the wood, vinyl, brick, or stucco that surrounds your building.  Take photos of everything, even if you aren’t sure what you’re taking photos of; the importance of these photos in proving your claim cannot be overstated.
  2. Report the Damage: Your insurance policy contains information explaining what you’re supposed to do if your property sustained storm damage due to Hurricane Michael.  So, review your policy and make sure you understand that process. Then, call your homeowners’ insurance company or commercial property insurance company, file a claim, and provide them with copies of all the photos and other documentation you’ve gathered.  
  3. Mitigate the Damage: You have a duty to mitigate your storm damages, which means that you are required to take reasonable steps to prevent the storm damage to your home or business from getting worse over time.  If you fail to mitigate your storm damages, then the insurance company may deny your claim. For example, if there’s a hole in your roof and you’re able to hire someone to cover the hole with a tarp or you’re able to purchase a tarp and cover the hole yourself, then you are required to do so in order to prevent further water storm damage.  That being said, it’s important to remember that you only have a duty to act reasonably, so if you can’t afford to hire someone or you can’t afford to purchase a tarp or you aren’t physically able to cover the hole yourself, then you aren’t required to do so. Additionally, don’t attempt to repair any of the storm damage until after you’ve documented the storm damage and you’ve given the insurance adjuster an opportunity to inspect the storm damage.  
  4. Attend the Inspection: Shortly after you file the claim, your insurance company will send an adjuster to inspect your property and assess the storm damage.  You should be present during this inspection and you should point out to the adjuster any storm damage that you think he or she may have missed.  It’s very important that all of your property storm damage is documented during this inspection. If the adjuster fails to document some of your property storm damage and you report the storm damage to the insurance company at a later date, the insurance company may deny that portion of your claim.  For example, winds over 48 miles per hour are strong enough to lift shingles away from the roof and allow water to penetrate the building without actually ripping the singles off the roof. Then, once the storm passes, the shingles often fall back down onto the roof. In this type of situation, the roof system has been destroyed and needs to be replaced but the storm damage is not obvious to the naked eye, especially from the ground.  So, if your home or business sustained winds over 48 miles per hour during Hurricane Michael, when the adjuster comes to inspect your property, you should insist that he or she check the roof even if there isn’t any obvious storm damage.
  5. Follow-Up on the Claim: After the inspection, the insurance company will review all of the information and make a decision regarding your claim.  Continue to follow-up with the insurance company until they inform you of their decision in writing. If the insurance company denies all or any part of your claim, or if they approve your claim but the amount of money they offer you is less than the total cost of all the repairs, then it’s time to hire an experienced attorney to make sure that the insurance company doesn’t take advantage of you.  The Tallahassee storm damage attorneys at Barrett Nonni & Homola have years of experience with all aspects of storm storm damage claims, from documenting the storm damage, to dealing with insurance companies and hiring the best experts to prove your case, to negotiating fair settlements or winning your case at trial.

We hope your process is smooth and without heckling from the insurance company; however, we all know that similar to natural disasters, unexpected events can occur. If you find yourself in a place where the insurance claim is stalled or the insurance company isn’t cooperating, Let us fight for you! We have a way of making insurance companies cooperate and helping insurance claims file smoothly. Give us a call at 850-601-1111 or fill out our contact form for a free consultation.

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