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What Is a Duty to Mitigate Loss?

A hurricane has wreaked havoc on your town, causing significant damage to your window. The great news is that it’s covered by your insurance policy. But rather than fix the window, let’s suppose that a homeowner simply lets it stay damaged, allowing rainwater to come into the home. This destroys the carpet as well as the subfloor.

The homeowner may be surprised when she files a claim with the insurance provider that it is denied. She may be found at fault for not performing her duty of mitigating loss. This blog by Hollywood home insurance attorneys explains what the duty to mitigate loss is and when it is in effect so that Hollywood homeowners are not caught surprised by insurance policies.

What is the Duty to Mitigate Loss? 

Our Hollywood home insurance attorneys explain that the duty to mitigate loss is a pretty intuitive principle. It basically means that, if something gets damaged–even if the original damage was not the person’s fault–the person has a responsibility to not make it any worse or let it get any worse.

The underlying principle is that an insurance provider has contracted to pay for damages that are truly unexpected. Leaving something damaged, knowing that more damage will befall it, is not truly unexpected. But, a person does not have a duty to fix things no matter what. Nor does a person have a duty to fix things if doing so would be impossible. 

Reasonableness

Whether the duty to mitigate is reasonable is a matter of legal interpretation, as Hollywood home insurance attorneys can tell you. For instance, if a hurricane rips a roof off of a home, and then water immediately comes into the home as a result, no one would think the homeowner should go out during the hurricane and try and put up a roof.

But if a homeowner leaves the roof in that condition for months–having full knowledge that the elements will wreak havoc on the home–has not acted reasonably. They should have made efforts, once safe, to get someone out to the home to fix the roof and prevent further damage. 

Consequences of Failure to Mitigate 

Insurance policies will likely include clauses regarding failure to mitigate. In many cases, failure to mitigate could result in a reduction of the total amount that you could have recovered. For instance, let’s say a hurricane causes roof damage causing $20,000. If an insured person fails to mitigate damage–and causes an additional $10,000 in damages–they might only get a check for $10,000.

Will My Mitigation Efforts Be Reimbursed?

One mistake that people sometimes make when they learn about the duty to mitigate loss is to go out and make the repairs right away. Stop, and think it through, Hollywood home insurance attorneys say. 

First, make sure that there is a clause in the policy that allows for reimbursement of repairs. Even so, it is important to make sure those repairs are on par with what was damaged. For instance, if the damaged roof was made out of shingles and the homeowner went ahead and replaced it with more expensive material, like tin, the homeowner should not be surprised that they are not insured for the value of the more expensive roof. After all, a tin roof was not damaged. 

Homeowners also have to take care to make sure that what they are repairing is covered. For instance, if a homeowner’s landscaping gets ruined–but that is not covered in the policy–then any efforts at mitigation will not be reimbursed.

Speak to One of Our Hollywood Home Insurance Attorneys Today

In the case of a policy not explicitly reimbursing mitigation efforts, a homeowner needs to be extremely careful and contact an attorney to determine the next steps. Contacting Hollywood home insurance attorneys at 954-915-7405 before conducting any expensive returns is always advisable.