According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), approximately 1 in 60 insured homes yearly have a water or freezing damage claim. These numbers show that water damage is one of the most common causes of property damage claims nationwide.
Water damage can result from multiple causes, including burst pipes or weather events. When faced with water damage, the average Illinois property owner turns to their homeowners’ insurance to cover water damage costs.
However, your policy may only cover some types of water damage, and insurance companies may try to get out of paying for the coverage you need to repair your home. In these situations, contacting the skilled water damage attorneys at Nessler & Associates is critical.
How Water Damage is Determined
Water damage claims are the second most common type of property damage claim, with 1.61 claims per 100 house years in the 2016-2020 period. One of the most significant factors in a water damage claim is the type of water damage the property sustained, which is categorized according to its nature and severity.
Sudden vs. Gradual Water Damage
The insurance industry generally classifies water damage claims into two categories: sudden and accidental damage and gradual damage.
The sudden and accidental water damage category generally encompasses:
- Weather-related incidents, such as pipes bursting due to low temperatures
- Storm-related damage
- Overflowing or malfunctioning appliances
Typical sources of gradual water damage include:
- Water seeping through cracks in the basement or flooring
- Leaking pipes
- Faulty faucets or plumbing elements
- Broken or missing roof tiles or shingles
- Poor or improper maintenance
Severity of Water Damage
The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is the standards developing organization for the water damage restoration industry. Together with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the IICRC developed Standard S500, defining the principles, causes, and recommended actions for proper water damage restoration.
IICRC S500 defines three water categories to determine the severity of a particular case:
- Category 1: The water originates from a relatively clean or sanitary source and poses a low threat to human health.
- Category 2: Also known as “gray” water, carrying a moderate risk to human health. This type of water is contaminated with chemical or biological agents but not enough to be considered sewage or wastewater.
- Category 3: Also known as “black” water, carrying a high risk to human health. This type of water is highly contaminated with highly toxic, pathogenic, or other harmful agents and may include sewage or waste pipe backflow.
The higher the water category, the higher the estimated costs of repairs. According to statistics compiled by HomeAdvisor, the average water damage restoration costs per water category are:
- Category 1: $3 to $4 per square foot
- Category 2: $4 to $6.50 per square foot
- Category 3: $7 to $7.50 per square foot
What if My Property Was Flooded?
While most standard homeowner insurance policies include coverage against sudden and unexpected water damage, one of the most common exceptions is flooding.
These policies generally do not provide coverage for flood damage, such as the type caused by extreme weather events, even if they meet the definition of “sudden and unexpected.” In these cases, homeowners are expected to purchase separate flood insurance coverage.
Why Insurance Companies May Deny Your Claim
Depending on the exact terms of your policy and the type of water damage your property suffered, your insurance company may deny your insurance coverage claim. A typical water damage insurance policy protects homeowners against sudden and accidental water damage only, excluding cases of gradual damage.
Many insurers reject claims by asserting that the water damage your property sustained was gradual instead of sudden. For instance, if the insurance company’s investigation determines your roof tiles were worn out or in a state of disrepair, they may claim the water damage was caused by a gradual cause; in this case, poor roof maintenance.
Even if you have a valid claim, insurers may attempt to delay, reduce, or deny honoring coverage. Common reasons include:
- Insurer claims you missed a premium payment or a deadline for submitting documents
- Insurer claims you misrepresented or falsified the extent of your damage
- Insurer does not believe you provided enough information or documentation
- Insurer accuses you of negligent behavior causing water damage
- Insurer attempts to recategorize your valid claim into a gradual or flood damage case to avoid paying coverage
How an Experienced Water Damage Attorney Can Help
Water damage claims attorneys are property damage attorneys who specialize in navigating the wording and specifics of your liability insurance policy regarding water damage. They fight on your behalf and help you collect the evidence you need to prove the legitimacy of your claim.
When Should I Contact a Water Damage Attorney?
Even if the insurance company is responsive to your questions and requests, their role is to protect their bottom line, not your best interests. An attorney is always on your side and has the skills and resources to ensure you recover the maximum amount.
The role of water damage claims lawyers is to protect your rights and help you with the following:
- Navigate the terms and wording of your insurance policy
- Assist you in documenting your damages, and which ones are covered
- Assert the validity of your claim
- Answer your questions and address your concerns without the risk of reducing your payout
- Contact a water damage specialist, such as a public adjuster, to determine the causes and extent of the water damage independently
- If necessary, contact qualified water restoration specialists to conduct emergency repairs
What Evidence Can They Help Me Obtain?
Before filing a claim for water damage, contact an attorney at Nessler & Associates to help you build your case. Examples of evidence an experienced water damage attorney can help you gather:
- Establish a list of all water-damaged items and document the receipts
- Record the serial numbers of all damaged large appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, or dryers
- Take photos and record video evidence of the property damage, including inside, outside, and in the surrounding areas
- Communicate with insurance adjusters on your behalf
- Represent your interests in a court of law and obtain the fair compensation you deserve
Contact Nessler & Associates for Your Water Damage Claim
Water damage is an often devastating event causing significant damage to your home, often rendering parts or all of it uninhabitable. Despite that, insurance companies may try pressuring you to settle for less than you deserve or attempt to avoid paying out. In situations like these, you need someone you can trust.
Our legal team has the experience and resources to navigate through the legal aspects of your case, assert the validity of your claim, and give you the peace of mind you need. We will not charge attorney fees until we obtain a fair settlement or win your case in a court of law.