St. Pete woman files insurance claim to repair storm damaged roof, insurance company says damaged

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla .– A 59-year-old woman from St. Petersburg is the latest victim of bad faith practices by Citizens Property Insurance Corp., according to her attorney.

Martha Henderson, secretary of the Pinellas County School District and holder of a Citizens policy for 15 years, applied to Citizens to have the roof of her 2,369 square foot home repaired after storms ravaged the county de Pinellas in September 2019, but Citizens are bluntly saying some of the damage was caused by the owner herself, according to Citizens’ letter denying its coverage.

Henderson filed its claim in mid-October 2019, months after storms damaged Henderson’s property and others around it.

This left Henderson’s roof with damaged and completely missing shingles.

More than six months later, Henderson received a letter from Citizens stating that she would not be covered for the damage. According to Citizens’ denial of coverage letter, Henderson’s claim was dismissed because part of the damage to his roof was “man-made” and “intentional” as a result of an inspection by Citizens.

While the charge that she damaged her own roof is something Henderson vehemently denies, her roof would still be covered under the doctrine of concurrent causation, which states that when multiple perils contribute to a loss, coverage is allowed if at least one cause of the loss is covered by the policy.

In the case of Henderson, this is true.

In fact, Citizens’ own engineer who inspected the roof, Byron Anderson, said in his inspection report and affidavit that there appeared to be 12 cases of “wind event damage” on the roof. Henderson’s 15-year roof, which Henderson’s policy covers.

Nonetheless, citizens denied Henderson coverage, leaving her to live with a damaged roof ever since.

But Derek Hendricks, Henderson’s attorney at Jenkins Law, refuses to let Henderson become another victim of Citizens.

“Martha Henderson, who has been a loyal and paying customer of Citizens for a decade and a half, shouldn’t have to go through the headache of filing a claim and waiting six months with a damaged roof just to be denied coverage. which is rightly due to him. “Hendricks said.” The strategy of ‘delay, deny, defend’ has become common practice for citizens and something that policyholders see from them thousands of times a year. “

Henderson’s case is slated to go to trial in April 2022, leaving her to live under a damaged roof until then.

Unfortunately, Henderson’s case is not an isolated incident. David Crosby, a public claims adjuster and founder of Bay Area Public Adjuster, as well as a consultant in the Henderson case, says this is one of too many cases where citizens seek to avoid paying their policyholders what is due to them.

“More than three-quarters of the nation’s home insurance lawsuits happen right here in Florida and it’s because of companies like this,” says Crosby. “Citizens never have to face the music, so in their minds, why should they stop? “

For example, citizens refused to pay covered damages to James and Victoria Sidlauskas of Brooksville, Fla. For a repair to their roof, even though Citizens’ own adjuster admitted the roof was damaged by the wind. during a legal deposition, Crosby says. The Sidlauskas have been taking legal action with the citizens since February last year and have been living with a 4-foot hole above their bathtub since filing their initial claim.

In the case of Judith Hutchinson, 78, her roof and fence were damaged by a storm in December last year. After filing a claim for damage to his 35-year-old home, citizens agreed to pay only for damage to his fence – about $ 2,905. Hutchinson challenged this settlement and submitted proof of loss of $ 67,073 which Citizens still refuses to pay.

According to Crosby, one of the reasons this behavior may continue is that Citizens Property Insurance Corp., a heavily state-backed private company, is legally immune from bad faith first party claims, which means they can continue to break their law. own contracts without penalty. They are the only insurance company in Florida with this exemption.

Typically, when an insurance company breaks the law in the adjustment process, it must pay the insurer three times the damages for not adjusting legally.

Citizens never have to pay for these damages.

Additionally, in July of this year, Governor Ron DeSantis enacted a property insurance program that allows citizens to charge their clients 15% more for policies to make up for money lost in litigation.

“We want it to be affordable for homeowners. We don’t want this to be just some sort of litigation pot, ”DeSantis said at an Enterprise Florida board meeting. “And that’s really (is) what was happening in Florida. I mean a huge, huge proportion of the money was going towards litigation costs. “

As Henderson and thousands of other plaintiffs sue citizens every year for failing to live up to their end of the deal, Florida’s response is to allow citizens to raise their rates to make up for the money. lost in litigation, deferring responsibility for their own wrongdoing. to their customers.

Anyone who believes citizens have treated their insurance claim the same is encouraged to contact the Bay Area Public Adjuster by calling 727-579-0000 or visiting www.BayAreaPA.com.

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