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Homeowners' Insurance - A Toolkit For Consumers

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"Florida residents know firsthand that it pays to plan ahead. Dealing with wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms, sinkholes and other disasters, can drastically change our lives. Individual losses such as a home burglary, kitchen fire, or a lightning strike can also disrupt our daily lives. Homeowners' insurance helps pay to repair or rebuild your home and replace personal property due to a covered loss.
This toolkit provides information to assist you with insuring your home. It also contains tools to help you if you have a covered loss that involves the largest investment you've made - your home." - FL Department Of Financial Services, Division of Consumer Services
  • Insuring Your Home
  • Know What Your Policy Covers
  • Property Inventory And Claims Process
  • Legal And Financial Document Checklist

Click Here To Read More...

How to Travel with a Service Animal

Millions of Americans are preparing to travel for the upcoming holiday season, filling airports with anxious jetsetters just trying to make it to their next destination. For those millions of travelers, air travel is hardly an enjoyable or convenient experience. For disabled travelers like Lisa McCombs, however, the airport is not just a place of inconvenience, but it can also be a place of debilitating stress and embarrassment.

McCombs, a decorated veteran of Army deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan suffers from PTSD and utilizes her service dog Jake to help her calm her nerves. However, McCombs is suing American Airlines after a 48-hour ordeal left her embarrassed and without answers.

Her suit alleges that American Airlines agents in Manhattan, Kansas refused to allow her to board her flight home with Jake. She goes on to say that the agents demanded to know the nature of her disability and explain how Jake helps her cope with it. She went on to inform them that Jake was a service dog and not a pet, and that he was fully documented as a service animal. After being unable to board two flights, McComb was finally able to board a third, but the ordeal in Kansas would last for two days before she was finally able to return home to Mississippi.

HOW TO TRAVEL WITH A SERVICE ANIMAL

The Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) covers the regulations for commercial airlines with regard to disability access in the same way the Americans with Disabilities Acts covers most public places. If you are travelling with a service animal, here are a few points to keep in mind with regard to your rights under the ACAA:

  • Allow for extra time getting through security. Moving through security with a service animal may be more likely to set off a scanner or metal detector, so prepare for the possibility of additional screening while also making the security personnel aware that the animal is a service animal, rather than a pet.

  • The ACAA and Department of Transportation regulations require that airlines allow service dogs on flights without any additional ticketing charge and by presenting documentation or providing “credible verbal assurances” that the service animal is needed.

  • There is no limits to the number of service animals permitted on a single flight, and an airline may not require that the service animal be confined to a cage.

  • If a seating assignment cannot work with a service animal with the owner, the airline must offer the owner the opportunity to move to a seat that can accommodate the animal.

Federal regulations have been crafted to allow persons with disabilities to travel with as much convenience as possible.

The regulations also provide methods for filing a complaint when the rights provided by the ACAA or ADA have been violated. At CCohen Law Group, this is just one of many examples of the types of cases we may be able to help with. If you feel that you’ve been wrongly denied an accommodation that should be provided to you by the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Air Carriers Access Act, or if you simply have questions about it, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The "How, When, Where" of General Election Voting 2016

Info on 2016 General Election Voting

First things first - Floridians can now register to vote until Tuesday, October 18th! Monivette Cordeiro of Orlando Weekly reports, "A federal judge has ruled to extend Florida's voter registration deadline for six more days due to the destruction and mayhem caused by Hurricane Matthew." So, Florida, get out there, register to vote, AND encourage everyone you know to do the same if they haven’t yet. We’re going to cover the dates to remember, tips, and important FAQs about voting because we know this can get really confusing. Sometimes folks don’t vote simply because they’re intimidated by the process, and that’s no good - so we’re here to help.

 

The information given here will be specific for the state of Florida, however, if you would like information for any other state’s election dates and deadlines, please CLICK HERE.

IMPORTANT ELECTION DATES TO REMEMBER 

Voter Registration Deadline

Tuesday, October 18th

To register to vote or update your registration information, click here.

 

Early Voting Dates

Monday, October 24th through Saturday, November 5th

Dates and times will vary by county. Some counties offer early voting on the Sunday before Election Day. Be sure to verify your local early voting locations, days, and hours with your county Supervisor of Elections. County-by-county Supervisor of Elections contact information can be found by clicking here.

 

Request a Vote-by-Mail Ballot Deadline

Wednesday, November 2nd

To request your Vote-by-Mail ballot, click here.

Quick Note on this! This method is very convenient. If you are unable to go to the polls during early voting, on Election Day, or you simply prefer not to, this is your best option. It is can also be helpful in case of an emergency. If you want to go to the polls, you can mark your Vote-by-Mail ballot, and take it with you once you get to your polling location. Once there, you can skip the lines because you have your ballot already! Finally, just because you request a Vote-by-Mail ballot, doesn't mean you have to use it. Think of it as a security blanket, a “just-in-case” option, or the option that requires the least amount of your time.

 

GENERAL ELECTION DAY

Tuesday, November 8th

The polls are open on Election Day, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Any voters waiting in line at 7:00 p.m. will have the opportunity to cast a ballot. Be sure you bring the proper ID. Click here for more information.

 

VOTING TIPS & FAQs

 

Voter Status

Not sure what your voter registration status is? You can check by clicking here.

 

Independent Voters

Are you an independent voter? You can still vote this November 8th, 2016 because this is a General Election!*

*For Primary Elections in Florida, the story is different. Because Florida is a closed primary state, in most cases, only the voters who are registered members of a political party may vote for their party candidates.

 

Where Do I Vote?

For a list of county-by-county Supervisor of Elections in Florida, click here.

 

What’s On My Ballot?

Want to know what’s on your ballot? Take a look at your sample ballot by clicking here.

 

Identification to Bring to Your Polling Location - Key Points!

  1. Here’s what you need: identification that has a picture of you and a current signature - so if you have a student ID with your picture on it and a credit card with your signature on it, you’re good to go!

  2. If you use your driver’s license or state ID, your address on those IDs DOES NOT have to be the same as your current address. However, you will need to vote at the polling location associated with the address you where you are registered to vote.

  3. Whether during early voting or on Election Day, you will be asked to provide at the polls a valid photo ID with signature.

  4. Any one of the following photo IDs will be accepted:

    1. Florida driver’s license

    2. Florida identification card issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

    3. United States passport

    4. Debit or credit card

    5. Military identification

    6. Student identification

    7. Retirement center identification

    8. Neighborhood association identification

    9. Public assistance identification

    10. Veteran health identification card issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs

    11. License to carry a concealed weapon or firearm issued pursuant to s. 790.06

    12. Employee identification card issued by any branch, department, agency, or entity of the Federal Government, the state, a county, or a municipality.

  5. If your photo ID does not include your signature, you will be asked to provide another ID that has your signature.

  6. If you do not bring proper ID, you can still vote a provisional ballot. As long as you are eligible and voted in the proper precinct, your provisional ballot will count provided the signature on your provisional ballot matches the signature in your registration record. 

 

Who Do I Call if I Need Help on Election Day?

The American Civil Liberties Union offers three lines to call for assistance on voting. If you are turned away from the polls on voting day, and you are unclear of the reason why, call them at:

  • For English-Language, 866-OUR-VOTE OR 866-687-8683.

  • For Spanish-Language, 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA(888-839-8682), and

  • For Asian-Language, 1-888-API-VOTE (1-888-274-8683)

 

For FAQS from the Florida Department of State, click here.

Johnson v. Omega

Consistent with Florida's pro-consumer precedent, a recent Florida Supreme Court case reaffirmed an insured's entitlement to attorney's fees and costs after being forced to litigate a sinkhole claim. In Johnson v. Omega[1], the Court analyzed two issues: (1) whether an insured in litigation has the burden of rebutting the initial sinkhole “presumption of correctness” afforded to insurers pursuant to Florida sinkhole Statute, Section 627.7073(1)(c)[2], and (2) the insured's entitlement to fees pursuant to Florida Statute, Section 627.428[3].

A (very) brief rundown of the facts: Johnson noticed damage attributed to sinkhole activity, filed a claim with her insurance company who hired an engineer to investigate. What was the conclusion? You guessed it - no sinkhole, claim denied. Johnson, in turn, hired an engineer of her own who found sinkhole activity, and subsequently filed suit. Fast forward through the part where Omega hires a second engineer who agrees with Johnson's engineer, Omega's confession of judgment and admittance to Johnson's entitlement to over $200K in damages, and you'll find Omega flipping their litigation stance in an effort to avoid paying Johnson's attorney's fees. After confessing judgment, Omega recanted and proclaimed Johnson had to prove Omega acted in bad faith and rebut the "presumption of correctness" afforded to Omega’s initial investigative report during the adjustment phase of the claim. The Court rejected Omega's arguments, holding (again)[4] that the “presumption” only applies to the initial adjustment phase, not litigation; and Johnson did not have the burden of separately rebutting the “presumption” to recover her attorney's fees pursuant to Florida Statute, Section 627.428.

The Florida Supreme Court specifically stated:

To allow the insurer to backtrack after the legal action has been filed without consequence would essentially eliminate the insurer’s burden of investigating a claim…Here, it is undisputed that Omega did not admit its error in denying benefits until after Johnson filed the action. Thus, there is no question that Johnson is entitled to attorney's fees in this situation. We cannot, as the court below held and Omega requests here, discourage insureds from seeking to correct the incorrect denials of valid claims and allow insurers to deny benefits to which insureds are entitled without ramifications.[5]

It is refreshing to know that our Supreme Court continues to acknowledge and admonish insurer-deployed litigation tactics in their efforts to avoid paying the piper after wrongfully denying claim benefits. Johnson v. Omega is another win for Florida’s first-party claimants.


[2] 627.7073 Sinkhole reports.—

(1) Upon completion of testing as provided in s. 627.7072, the professional engineer or professional geologist shall issue a report and certification to the insurer and the policyholder as provided in this section.

(c) The respective findings, opinions, and recommendations of the insurer’s professional engineer or professional geologist as to the cause of distress to the property and the findings, opinions, and recommendations of the insurer’s professional engineer as to land and building stabilization and foundation repair set forth by s. 627.7072 shall be presumed correct.

[3] 627.428 Attorney’s fee.—

(1) Upon the rendition of a judgment or decree by any of the courts of this state against an insurer and in favor of any named or omnibus insured or the named beneficiary under a policy or contract executed by the insurer, the trial court or, in the event of an appeal in which the insured or beneficiary prevails, the appellate court shall adjudge or decree against the insurer and in favor of the insured or beneficiary a reasonable sum as fees or compensation for the insured’s or beneficiary’s attorney prosecuting the suit in which the recovery is had.

[4] Universal Insurance Co. of North America v. Warfel, 82 So. 3d 47 (Fla. 2012); Ivey v. Allstate Insurance Co., 774 So. 2d 679, 683-84 (Fla. 2000).

[5] Johnson v. Omega Insurance Co., No. SC14-2124, slip. op., 25-26 (Fla. Sept. 29, 2016) (internal citation omitted)

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