If your home or business has been damaged by a storm, there are several steps you’ll need to take afterward. One obligation you’ll want to take care of right away is the duty to mitigate storm damage. Basically, this means doing what is necessary to prevent additional damage to the property. If a policyholder fails to carry out this duty, he or she could jeopardize the insurance claim.
Our goal at Klotzman Property Damage Law is to help storm victims get the payouts they deserve from their insurers. If you are having trouble with your Florida storm damage claim, we can assist you.
What You Need to Know About the Duty to Mitigate
Storm damage doesn’t necessarily end when the skies clear up. The damage can be made worse if the owner doesn’t take action to minimize its effects. This is the essence of the duty to mitigate. Your insurance company will expect you to do a few things so the damaged property doesn’t further deteriorate.
The concept underlying this duty is fairly straightforward. Insurance companies are already required to pay for damages pursuant to the terms of the policy. However, if conditions worsen because the property owner allowed them to, the insurer would have to pay more for repairs. The owner cannot simply permit more property damage to accrue and expect the insurer to foot the bill.
The duty to mitigate doesn’t impose extraordinary measures on the property owner. Some additional damage to the property is likely to occur before it can be fully repaired. But the owner is responsible for taking “reasonable” steps to mitigate the damage.
Examples of How to Mitigate Storm Damage
What exactly are those steps? They vary from one storm and insurance company to another. However, these are some potential examples of what a policyholder may be expected to do in the way of mitigation.
- Cover up a hole in a damaged roof (e.g. with a tarp) to prevent additional water damage.
- Dry up wet flooring and carpeting to reduce the chances of mold damage.
- Shut off power and gas to the property if there’s a risk of fire or explosion.
- Board up broken windows to prevent rainwater from coming into the property.
Again, you are not responsible for taking unusual measures or doing anything that would jeopardize your safety. Whatever steps you take, however, should be documented. Take pictures and video of the mitigation work you perform. Keep receipts of purchases you made for the materials you used. Store the contact information of any third parties who assisted with your mitigation efforts.
What if You Fail to Mitigate?
Your insurer is generally only responsible for covering losses actually caused by the storm. If by inaction you allow the damage to worsen, you could put your insurance claim at risk. Your insurer may use your failure to mitigate as an excuse to reduce or completely deny a payout.
This could put you in a potentially costly situation. The insurance company may try to determine how bad the storm damage was before your failure to mitigate it. Using this information, the insurer may then calculate a payout. This leaves you responsible for covering, out of your own pocket, whatever was made worse by the failure to mitigate.
On the other hand, the insurer might not be able to draw this line. It may be impossible to determine how much damage can be reasonably attributed to just the storm. In this scenario, the insurer may refuse to pay you anything.
How Our Legal Team Can Help
Mitigation is not always an objective matter and can be open to interpretation. Whether and to what extent you are responsible for mitigating storm damage may trigger a dispute with your insurer. At that point, you may have to fight for a fair insurance settlement. Klotzman Property Damage Law can help you in that fight. Contact our Florida storm damage attorneys today.