Winter Warnings for Seasonal Residents

Miami's Community Newspapers

So, soon Florida’s snowbirds will make their annual migration north for the spring. And as the caravan of Chevy Caprices rolls northbound up 95, many of Florida’s snowbirds will be wondering: “What if something happens to my nest while I’m gone?”

“How long do I have to discover a claim?” “Can the insurance company say I was away too long or waited too long to notify them?”

As an insurance lawyer I can tell you — this happens — a lot. Leaks and storms damage properties and often don’t get discovered or reported right away. Luckily, Florida’s laws and insurance policies are equipped to deal with the plain reality of over one million seasonal residents locking and leaving each Spring. So here are some tips to help protect you if disaster hits while you’re gone:

Have someone watch your property while you’re away. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Regular check-ins and cameras may help catch problems from the get-go allowing you to mitigate or prevent the damage early on.

Report right away to your insurance. Most policies have provisions that allow the insurer to avoid responsibility for the claim if it was not promptly reported to the insurance company. What is “promptly?” The law often leaves that up to juries and courts to decide which means a good lawyer can help with these types of disputes. Of course, sooner is always better.

Once you’ve reported to insurance, Florida law gives you up to 5 years to bring an insurance lawsuit if you need to. So again, the key is to notify insurance early and do what you can right away to stop damage from getting worse. A good public adjuster and/or lawyer can help.

So, remember folks, as you fly north for the summer be sure to look out for the nest you’re leaving — because I promise — your insurance company won’t.

Russel Lazega is an attorney and author of two of Florida’s most widely distributed legal textbooks on Florida Insurance Law. He also represents storm victims and consumers at war with their insurance companies and is based in North Miami, Dania Beach, Orlando and Tampa, Florida. Questions? Contact:

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