Florida Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Homeowners in Dispute Over ‘Actual Cash Value’

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Section 627.7011(3) of the Florida statutes controls property insurance claims that are filed for ‘full replacement costs’. Under the state’s insurance regulations, if a Florida homeowner files a claim for the replacement cost of their property damage, then the insurance company is required to immediately pay the ‘actual cash value’ of the losses. Then, as the case moves forward, and repair work is conducted, the insurance company is required to pay additional benefits to make up for any gap between the cash value and the replacement cost.

Unfortunately, many homeowners run into problems in which the insurance company pays virtually nothing at the start of the process, contending that the ‘actual cash value’ of their losses are extremely low. Recently, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal issued an instructive decision in the case of Vazquez v. Southern Fidelity Property & Casualty, Inc., which dealt directly with this issue. Here, our experienced Fort Lauderdale first coverage insurance dispute attorneys explain this case and what it means for Florida homeowners.

Understanding the Case 

Miami-Dade County homeowners Servando and Silvia Vazquez sustained a significant property loss. According to a public adjuster hired by the couple, the ‘actual cash value’ of the losses was worth more than $30,000. However, the insurance company disagreed with that finding. The company put an actual cash value of the losses at only $773. The company then cut a check for this amount, and stated that no other compensation would be sent until repairs were actually made in excess of the payment. The homeowners filed a lawsuit seeking the difference in the public adjuster’s estimate and the insurance company’s small payment.

The Court’s Decision  

The lower court ruled in favor of the insurance company on the grounds that the insurer had fully complied with its legal obligations under Florida law. However, the Third District Court of Appeals disagreed with that assessment, and reversed the decision. In a blunt opinion, the appeals court noted that Florida’s statute requires the insurance company to make immediate payment for the “actual cash value of the loss,” not for “the insurance company’s estimate of the actual cash value of the loss.”

Here, the appeals court made a critically important distinction. The insurance company does not have the exclusive right to determine the actual cash value of a property loss. Where a disagreement exists, as it did in this case, that disagreement must be resolved. If you are owed immediate payment for the actual cash value of your losses, and you believe that your insurer is materially undervaluing your losses, you should consult with an experienced attorney immediately.

Was Your Property Insurance Claim Denied? 

We can help. At Geyer Fuxa Tyler, our legal practice is committed to fighting for the rights of policyholders. If your property insurance claim was denied for any reason, we are standing by, ready hear your case. For your free, no obligation case evaluation, please call us today at (954) 990-5251 or contact us directly through our website.

Resources:

3dca.flcourts.org/Opinions/3D16-0915.pdf

leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0600-0699/0627/Sections/0627.7011.html

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