Under Florida Statutes Section 627.409, an insurance company may deny a claim for insurance coverage if they can demonstrate you have misrepresented the underlying facts of your property and its history. If they believe they have found information contradicting your application, for example, they may limit your claim or even cancel your policy. The standard of proof would require them to demonstrate that had they known the operative facts of your property’s history, the company would not have insured your property or that they would have charged a higher premium, they may be able to avoid your claim.
It is not enough that they would have simply handled the claim differently had they known. Instead, they have the burden of demonstrating how they were diligent in their effort to insure your property, but were somehow mislead. If, for example, you knew there was a confirmed sinkhole down the street, they may not have written the policy for a house. But, if their insurance application does not ask you such a question, you will not likely be responsible for their lack of diligence. The key is what your application asked you, and how you responded. The most common barrier to insurance companies using these defenses relates to the vague nature of their applications, which tend to be ambiguous. Importantly, do not “lawyer” your application. Be honest, and do not attempt to mislead. Conversely, you may not be a geologist and may not be able to determine what is material and what is not. Working collectively with your insurance agent is important but should not be a substitute of the agent’s independent responsibility to gather information on the property. If you are unclear about whether to disclose information, seek advice from an insurance attorney or other professional.
If you have a situation requiring legal representation for a sinkhole damage claim, contact Corless Barfield Trial Group Florida personal injury law firm at 877-517-5595.