What if Multiple Events Combine to Cause Property Damage?
When there is damage to your property you may think that you know what caused the damage. For example, if there is a strong windstorm that causes damage, it may be clear to you that the windstorm caused the damage. But in the real world, there can often be multiple reasons why property is damaged. Homeowners can end up having claims denied by insurance companies, when one cause is covered and one is excluded.
Let’s use the example of the windstorm. High winds in one of South Florida’s usually stormy afternoons cause the limb of a tree to break off, causing damage to your roof. “No problem,” you may think, “my policy definitely covers damage caused by wind and similar weather events.” You would generally be correct.
You call the insurance company. The adjuster comes out to investigate the damage, specifically, the tree where the limb broke off from. The adjuster seems very interested in this tree, and you wonder why. A few days later, you get a letter that the damage to your property is not covered by your policy.
How can this be? It’s because the adjuster found that the tree was not taken care of, was dying, or rotted away, and your policy contains an exclusion for damage by foliage that is caused by rot.
Now you have a dispute on your hands: what actually caused the tree limb to break off? Was it the high winds (a covered event or loss)? Or was it because the tree was rotted (an excluded, or non-covered event)?
These are called concurrent events, and they occur when two events or causes operate simultaneously to damage your property. One cause is covered and one is not. So can the insurance company deny coverage, or must it pay for the damage to your property?
As a general rule, courts will use what is known as proximate cause to determine what caused the damage to your property. In most events where there is a “chain reaction,” there is one primary cause that sets in motion the chain of events that cause the damage.
In our example above, it is likely that the damage is covered. The tree branch, although rotted, was still intact, and likely would have remained intact, had it not been for the windstorm. The windstorm was the event that set in motion the chain of events that lead to the branch breaking off.
Compare this to a situation where you don’t fully close your front door. A strong wind blows open the door, and it rains inside the home. Water damage may be covered, but clearly your forgetting to close the door—an excluded event under your policy—is what really allowed the damage to occur.
Is your insurance company denying coverage for damage to your home or property that you think should be covered? Contact the Miami property damage insurance attorneys at Velasquez & Associates P.A. today for help.