In South Florida, fire damage tends to take a back seat to concerns about hurricane damage, particularly high winds and flooding. Yet, fires can happen at any time of the year and can be incredibly devastating. People who have experienced a fire have to deal with injuries, property destruction, loss of a sense of personal security and possibly even death of a loved one. Trying to put your life back together while also negotiating with an insurance company can be overwhelming and may be worth consulting with an attorney who can take the burden of the claim off your shoulders while ensuring that you are fairly paid for your loss.
The Cost of Fire
According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 369,500 home fires in the U.S. in 2013. Over 2,700 people lost their lives and more than 12,000 injuries occurred in these residential fires. Direct property damage due to home fires was estimated at $6.8 billion that year. Furthermore, it is estimated that there are about 3,400 fires in office properties each year, accounting for $112 million in direct property damage. In 2011, the total cost of fire nationwide was a staggering $329 billion. This amount encompasses human losses, economic losses and the cost of provisions to prevent or mitigate the cost of fire.
Common causes of fire include:
- Children playing with matches or lighters
- Malfunctioning clothes dryers
- Home medical oxygen equipment near open flames
- Malfunctioning holiday lights and Christmas trees near open flames
- Unattended stoves, fryers and grills
- Natural gas and propane
- Space heaters used improperly
- Cigarettes and cigars
- Electrical malfunctions.
Holiday Fire Safety
Fire safety awareness is especially important during the holiday season. December is the peak time of year for home candle fires with more than half of them happening when something that can catch on fire is too close to the candle. In fact, a heat source too close to a Christmas tree causes approximately one in every six Christmas tree fires while one of every three is caused by electrical problems. For those that celebrate Christmas, the U.S. Fire Administration suggests making sure that the tree doesn’t dry out and is placed at least three feet away from fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles and even heat vents. All candles should be at least 12 inches away from anything that burns, should be in stable holders and should be placed where they cannot be knocked down easily. Better yet, consider using battery-operated flameless candles, especially if you have small children or pets.
Interestingly, the precursor to today’s City of Miami Fire-Rescue Department was created in response to the outrageous cost of fire insurance in the city. In 1898, the premiums in Miami were the highest in the nation, with annual rates at eight percent of a structure’s value. While insurance is intended to cover losses in the event fire affects your home, insurers do not always act in the best interests of their insureds. Policyholders expect insurance companies to accurately assess the damage and pay the full extent of the loss. When that doesn’t happen and you have trouble receiving the compensation you deserve from your insurance carrier, it can be best to have an attorney advocate for you.
Insurance polices are legally binding contracts under which both parties have obligations. You pay your premiums and expect the insurance company to compensate you fairly if you need to file a claim. Unfortunately, insurers are businesses and they want to pay the claim for as little as possible – sometimes offering only a fraction of the claim’s true value. It is important to remember that while much of the damage caused by a fire can be seen, it is often just the tip of the iceberg. Fire can cause major issues with insulation, roofing, internal structure, wiring and air conditioning systems. It can also leave behind a lasting odor and melt siding as well as appliances. A properly compensated claim should take such things into account.
We Can Help
As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski & Funt, P.A. has helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities and remedies. We are highly experienced in handling fire loss claims and, in many cases, we can do so without cost to you. Fees and expenses are frequently paid by the insurance company, so nothing comes out of your recovery. We also work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee or cost to you. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a case evaluation form.