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Here in Florida, we are frequently hit hard by hurricanes. If your home suffered damage in a hurricane – like the recent Hurricane Ida that did so much damage – but your claim was denied, don’t panic. Insurance companies often deny claims initially. Sometimes the denial is legitimate, and sometimes it’s an honest mistake. Sometimes it’s the insurance company’s attempt to save money. Regardless, we can help you understand the reasons for the denial and then plan to change the decision if the denial was improper.  

Often, repairing hurricane damage to a home or car can’t wait. It needs to be addressed immediately – which means you will be seeking reimbursement from your insurance company. Receiving a denial of your claim and not receiving the funds you expected or receiving much less than it cost to do the repairs can be very discouraging, but it might not be the end of the road for you. You may be able to contest the denial.

An important word of caution: While it is always best to contact your insurance company before making any repairs, sometimes they need to be made immediately. If this is the case, before you make any repairs, and possibly even before you move anything or clean anything, take pictures or videos of the damage and store them in a safe place. This evidence will be critical in supporting your claim, especially if the damage requires you to make quick repairs.

There are many excellent apartment and condo buildings available here in the greater Fort Lauderdale area that make this region a wonderful place to live, work, and enjoy the many attractions in our great state of Florida. But as tenants or condo owners, you should be vigilant to make sure your building is safe.  

An ounce of prevention…

Before purchasing a condo or moving into an apartment, look very closely at not only the unit but at all common areas. Do they look clean, well-lit, and well-maintained? How is the security system? What fire prevention systems are in place – sprinklers, fire alarms, etc.? This should also include a walk through the basement checking for cracks in the foundation and water damage which could indicate problems and neglect.  

The recent tragedy in Surfside has shed light on safety issues in condo buildings in Florida.  With so many injured and allegations that the condominium association board was aware of the problems, many are asking “why didn’t they fix the problems?” Unfortunately, most condominium association boards are composed of volunteers, and their responsibilities vary from organizing social events and dealing with parking problems to handling complaints and addressing safety issues. These volunteer boards usually do not have the expertise or manpower to handle technical details related to cracks in the foundation of the building or financing options. And so, much like the Surfside condominium situation, problems sometimes not only sit but get worse when not properly handled.  

Condominium Owner Associations (COA) are governed by bylaws, which list the duties and responsibilities of the association to its owner-members. While details of bylaws may change from one organization to another, they are all likely to include certain elements, as listed below.

COA Responsibilities

The collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida was a terrible tragedy that could have been avoided. We now know that the condominium association had received an assessment in 2020 indicating serious structural damage and that the association was planning to make much-needed improvements. Sadly, time ran out. Recently, a Miami-Dade judge approved the sale of the property in order to provide sufficient funds to pay for the many lawsuits and insurance claims from the survivors and the families of those who were not so lucky.

The condominium association is responsible for overseeing the management of the building, collecting fees and managing expenses, ensuring sufficient insurance coverage, and making repairs to common elements. Condo owners are responsible for ensuring and maintaining their own units, as is any homeowner. 

Negligence to the degree that caused the tragic collapse of Champlain Towers South is very rare, but injuries caused by negligence in condominiums are common. If you have been injured in a condominium, you have the right to receive compensation. 

Here in Florida, the Sunshine State, people use a lot of sunscreen. We are told that it protects us from the harmful rays of the sun, but recent research suggests that the sunscreen itself might be harming us. This summer the FDA has announced that it will be closely studying the negative effects of sunscreen. In early 2021, an independent pharmaceutical testing lab, Valisure, tested 294 batches of sunscreen and other sun products and found that 78 of the batches contained benzene. The FDA is now investigating the presence of additional carcinogens.  

What is benzene?

Benzene is a known carcinogen that causes cells to malfunction in ways that can cause immunity issues, and long-term exposure to it has been linked to leukemia. It is produced naturally in crude oil and gasoline, forest fires and volcanic eruptions, and cigarette smoke. It is also used extensively in the manufacturing of plastics and synthetics and is found in lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. Research into benzene several decades ago led the federal government in 1987 to limit benzene exposure in the workplace, adopting standards 50 times lower than previous standards. But some medical experts believe the exposure limits are still too high.

Florida is one of the most visited vacation destinations in the world. With numerous amusement parks, water parks, clubs, and beaches, not to mention NASA and the Daytona Racetrack, there are more reasons to visit Florida than almost anywhere in the world. Most of these destinations do their best to keep their property safe, but accidents can happen. We hope you are never injured when you are visiting Florida, but if you are, be sure to get immediate medical attention, inform a person of authority at the accident location (the manager on duty), document and take pictures of everything, and get names of witnesses and statements if possible. 

Hopefully, you will recover without incident. If your injuries are severe or long-term and you believe someone else’s negligence contributed to your injury, you might be entitled to compensation under Florida law. In order for you to receive compensation, the following conditions must be met: 

  • a third party had a duty to exercise reasonable care

Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis happens frequently in the field of medicine. Fortunately, most of the time no serious harm is done to the patient, either because the problem is not serious or the mistake is caught quickly and corrected. However, when errors or delays are caused by negligence and result in harm to the patient, the state of Florida allows patients to sue to recover damages. 

Determining medical malpractice due to misdiagnosis

As with any medical malpractice case, you must demonstrate negligence. Florida law does not allow lawsuits for just any error, since medical personnel are human and will sometimes make honest mistakes or have different medical approaches that are entered into with the full expectation that they are best for the patient. 

Florida is a wonderful state to live in and to visit, but residents are well aware of the many hurricanes that pass through Florida, and visitors should be as well. Our hurricane season runs roughly from late May through September and can sometimes cause serious damage to property. For this reason, property owners need to take precautions to protect themselves, their homes, and their businesses. Here are three suggestions from a lawyer. 

Have a good insurance policy with necessary riders

Standard homeowners insurance covers much of the damage caused by storms, but you will have to review it very carefully. Most do not cover flooding, and they often have wind damage exclusions. If this is true for your policy, purchase flood and wind coverage. Review your hurricane deductible and choose a policy that has a deductible you can afford.

Florida could be called the unofficial entertainment capital of the world. We have hundreds of attractions: amusement parks and theme parks, beaches, resorts, cruises, Everglade tours, art attractions, specialty zoos, and so much more. It really is a magnificent state, which is why more than 100 million people visit from all over the world every year. With so many visitors, it is inevitable that there will also be accidents. 

If you are injured while on vacation in Florida, your rights to seek damages are the same as they are anywhere else. The difference is that since you are from out of state and will presumably return home, you will need an expert personal injury lawyer here in Florida to continue to fight your fight while you go home to recover. 

Types of accidents while on vacation in Florida

Many small business owners here in the greater Miami area have suffered financially through COVID-19. Particularly devastating is discovering that the business interruption insurance policy they thought would protect their operation has a pandemic exclusion.  

The purpose of business insurance is to provide income replacement during a period of business interruption due to covered causes in order to help the company remain viable and able to continue to pay operating expenses and other overhead costs until the company can resume business. 

Business interruption insurance is a valuable resource, but it only covers exactly what is written in the agreement and only for the time period or up to the dollar amount agreed upon. There are, however, opportunities for policyholders to appeal the insurance company’s definitions, that is, to argue that their particular circumstance falls under their coverage guidelines. 

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