Don’t Be Scared of Mediation! A Short Mediation Guide – Tips and Information

Over the last few decades our legal system has made a push to implement alternative dispute resolutions (“ADR”). ADR is exactly what it sounds like, an alternative to going through the formal court room process. Samples of ADR are negotiation, arbitration, and mediation. In this series of blog posts I will describe each one of these ADR forms so that you can understand ARD and not be scared of the process. In this week, I will discuss the process of mediation.

Usually court room trials are long, drawn out, expensive, time consuming, and stressful whereas mediations are almost always quicker, less expensive, and less formal. Mediation also gives you the power to choose the settlement you want. Mediation is a voluntary or court ordered event used to settle a case and avoid trial. Best of all, there is no requirement to reach an agreement during a mediation. Mediation usually takes place in a location that you or an opposing party agree upon. The people present at a mediation will be the opposing parties, their representation (if there is any), and the mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party that is hired to help both sides in a dispute reach an agreement, thus effectively settling it. The mediator is there to serve you. He/she is not a judge or arbitrator, he/she is paid by the parties and is present only to help the parties reach a successful settlement. About 90%-95% of cases end in settlements. This is why so many judges and parties choose to attend mediation, because it works. Don’t get it wrong, mediation should be taken seriously but hopefully you will feel at ease after reading this this information about the mediation process.

Pre-mediation

First, you should be prepared for mediation. Make sure you bring all important documents, evidence, statements, or items you think will be used in the mediation. Second, Set aside the appropriate time needed for a mediation. Mediation may take 10 minutes or 10 hours, it all depends on the issue and if the sides are willing to participate. Third, make sure you arrive on time – you are paying for this mediation, you might as well get your money’s worth.

The Mediation

Once both parties arrive at the mediation, or are present on the phone, the mediation will begin. It usually starts with the mediator giving an opening statement describing how his/her mediation process will go. A good mediator will start by describing his/her roll, each step of the process, who speaks first, and what he/she expects of the parties. After the mediator’s opening statement, he/she will usually ask the parties if they have an opening statement. Party opening statements can vary but usually take the form of you telling your side of the story and what you are looking to gain in the mediation or an acceptable settlement.  After opening statements, the mediator will usually allow each party to speak in turn.

During the mediation the mediator might do what is call a “caucus”. A caucus is a fancy word for the mediator asking one party to step out of the room while he/she speaks to the other party. Remember, a mediator is a neutral third party, he/she is not speaking behind your back and is not “pulling a fast one” on you. Usually a caucus is used for the mediator to gain more information in confidentiality so that he/she can better mediate. NOTE: Some mediators choose to keep all information gained during a caucus confidential and some will tell you that none of it is unless you request it. Make sure that you know which standpoint your mediator takes and inform him/her of information that is sensitive.

An Unsuccessful Mediation

Mediation may end or be canceled at any time during the process. A party may end a mediation by refusing to participate and a mediator may choose to end it if he believes there is no possible agreement. If you feel that mediation is not working, that a settlement will be reached, or you would like to continue on a later date, simply tell the mediator. Remember, there is no requirement to reach an agreement during a mediation. You can walk away at any time and choose to go to trial.

A Successful Mediation

 Alternatively, if both parties may agree to a full settlement or partial settlement. A full settlement means both parties agree to settlement terms and sign a contract stating the terms. Usually the contract is drawn up later but it may be done at the mediation. A partial settlement is when the parties agree to settle on some issues but not all, leaving the unsettled issues to be further mediated or litigated.  Remember, mediation is non-binding, you may not come to full agreement, partial agreement, or no agreement at all – it’s up to you and the other party.  NOTE: Almost every settlement requires you to give up your right to litigate the settled issue. Be cautious and read the settlement thoroughly because you will most likely not be able to take a settled issue to court ever again after signing.

Hopefully this information was helpful enough to prepare you for your future mediation. However, if you feel at any time you need to speak to a lawyer, call the Difato Law Office at any time. All consultations are free of charge regardless of if you retain us.

If You Think You Need a Lawyer

If you believe that you or someone you know is being mistreated by an insurance company and need help during the claim process, or to rebut a denial, do not hesitate to contact to contact a lawyer or make a claim.  The more signs of roof damage, the more important it is to have your home checked out to prevent further damage and possibly deadly mold.  If you do not see visible roof defects but believe your roof is in fact defective, a lawyercan hire an engineer to test your roof.

If you liked this information go to www.DifatoLaw.com to read more. If you need to speak to a lawyer call the Difato Law Office at 813-616-1110 for a free consultation and evaluation of your home or simply fill out a free case evaluation form.

– Stephen Difato

Attorney at Law

 

The information contained in this post or on http://www.difatolaw.wordpress.comis provided for advertisement, illustrative, educational, and informational purposes only. The contents of this site are not legal advice, and this website is not an offer to perform services on any matter.
http://www.DifatoLaw.com
401 East Jackson Street Suite 2340
Tampa, Florida 33602
PH:813-616-1110

 

http://www.insurancelawyerflorida.com

Crack Kills – Defective stucco, the silent killer.

 

Houses in Florida stand up to some of the harshest of conditions. From scorching heat during the summer to hurricanes in the fall, Florida houses take a beating unlike any others. As a Florida Homeowner, you want to make sure your house is prepared against any of the things mother nature has in store for you. You maintain your yard, make any fixes, or even hire contractors to repair areas but sadly, that may not be enough… The fact is, your house may be extremely susceptible to damage because of its faulty construction.

Florida homes can vary in the building material their walls are made of, such as: brick, wood, metal, stucco, and others. However, being in Florida, stucco is one of the most common materials used to seal your home. Stucco is often chosen for its ability to prevent water from entering the home, sealing if from the elements. Because stucco is so common, there are many builders’ codes and laws applying to its installation. Common enough, some builders will disregard these codes and laws in order to complete their construction of your home faster, to save money, but in the same breath use the most expensive of materials to drive up costs to you. When these codes are bypassed, you lose.

How Can I Tell If My Stucco Is Defective?

If you believe you have defective stucco it is important for you to inspect your house for signs. Signs of defective stucco may range from crumbling walls to a slight discoloration in your stucco. While you inspect your house and stucco, try to keep an eye out for these:

  • Cracks in the stucco
  • Stucco falling off walls and siding
  • Stucco is pulling away from your home
  • Discoloration in your stucco
  • Blistering in the stucco

If you found any or multiple of these, you may have defectively installed stucco. However, if you do not see these visible signs it does not mean that your stucco is not defective. Many times when there are no visible signs of stucco damage an engineer is required to test the wall. Engineers who are trained to test stucco can easily tell if the wall was constructed within the required building codes. If the engineer finds that the wall was not created in accordance with the building code, you may be entitled to compensation.

What Is at Risk If My Stucco Is Defective?

Defective stucco is just the surface of potential damage to your home. To a lay person, the cracks in a wall, pillar, or garage are merely cosmetic, however it’s what the cracks let in that is harmful. The real damage done by defective stucco it the fact that your house and walls are no longer safe from mother nature. These small cracks allow water, bugs, and mold to get into your home making it unsafe. If left unchecked, defective stucco can lead to catastrophic damage to your home and potentially be life threatening.

Properly installed stucco is a serious matter. So serious that builder codes exist to make sure that the stucco installed in your home is sealed correctly to keep water and moisture out.  Possible damages that can occur due to defective and damaged stucco are:

  • Rotting Wood
  • Water Soaked Insulation
  • Mold
  • Insect Infestation
  • Toxic Mold
  • Inhabitability

Defective stucco is usually just the surface of the damage to your home. Please inspect your walls for any cracks in the stucco. If you find a crack, go inside the room it seals and inspect for water damage or sniff for mold. Don’t leave things to risk – protect your home.

If You Think You Need a Lawyer

If you believe that you or someone you know is being mistreated by an insurance company and need help during the claim process, or to rebut a denial, do not hesitate to contact to contact a lawyer or make a claim.  The more signs of roof damage, the more important it is to have your home checked out to prevent further damage and possibly deadly mold.  If you do not see visible roof defects but believe your roof is in fact defective, a lawyercan hire an engineer to test your roof.

If you liked this information go to www.DifatoLaw.com to read more. If you need to speak to a lawyer call the Difato Law Office at 813-616-1110 for a free consultation and evaluation of your home or simply fill out a free case evaluation form.

– Stephen Difato

Attorney at Law

 

The information contained in this post or on http://www.difatolaw.wordpress.comis provided for advertisement, illustrative, educational, and informational purposes only. The contents of this site are not legal advice, and this website is not an offer to perform services on any matter.
http://www.DifatoLaw.com
401 East Jackson Street Suite 2340
Tampa, Florida 33602
PH:813-616-1110

 

http://www.insurancelawyerflorida.com

Ever been denied an insurance claim? Ever heard of “bad faith”?

Insurance companies often times deny claims. Some times the denials are correct and some times they are not. If the company is correct, most lawyers will not take on your case. Alternatively, if the denial is unjust, you may have a situation called a “bad faith” denial. The truth is that insurance companies have a statutory duty to review and investigate  claims reasonably and if they do not, they are acting in violation of these statutes.

For instance, if you have suffered a major loss to your home due to a storm, hurricane, sinkhole, roof determination, water, fire, or theft, your main and only concern is how you will fix the problem.  Ideally, this would mean you ask your insurance provider to take care of what your insurance policy covers.  They come out, look at the damage, accept that it is covered and you get a check in the mail or they arrange for service. Hopefully, this is what happens, but often times they will not cover or they will choose to underpay.  Insurance companies are for-profit… remember that.  They are elusive in their tactics and will avoid paying full coverage, or any coverage at all, if they can. It’s nothing personal, but your insurance coverage is just business to them. To them your homeowner’s coverage is just a number in a computer when to you it’s where you sleep, eat, raise your children, and share memories.

Take a look at this list – here are a few signs that an insurance company either has, or is going to, ethically mistreat you, undervalue your claim, or even wrongfully deny it.

  • Insurer delays without a reasonable basis
  • Insurer denies a claim without a reasonable explanation or basis
  • Insurer discounts a claim without a reasonable explanation or basis
  • Insurer fails to acknowledge or reply promptly to a covered claim
  • Denial of a claim without a proper investigation
  • Insurer fails to approve or deny the claim within a reasonable time
  • Insurer fails to explain why a claim was denied
  • Insurer harasses the client
  • Insurer misrepresents facts
  • Insurer is withholding material information
  • Biased investigation of the claim by the insurer
  • Falsely shifting the cause of loss from a covered cause to a non-covered cause
  • Misinterpretation of policy language
  • Insurer acts in “bad faith”

If You Think You Need a Lawyer

If you believe that you or someone you know is being mistreated by an insurance company and need help during the claim process, or to rebut a denial, do not hesitate to contact to contact a lawyer or make a claim.  The more signs of roof damage, the more important it is to have your home checked out to prevent further damage and possibly deadly mold.  If you do not see visible roof defects but believe your roof is in fact defective, a lawyer can hire an engineer to test your roof.

If you liked this information go to www.DifatoLaw.com to read more. If you need to speak to a lawyer call the Difato Law Office at 813-616-1110 for a free consultation and evaluation of your home or simply fill out a free case evaluation form.

– Stephen Difato

Attorney at Law

 

The information contained in this post or on http://www.difatolaw.wordpress.com is provided for advertisement, illustrative, educational, and informational purposes only. The contents of this site are not legal advice, and this website is not an offer to perform services on any matter.
Difato Law
401 East Jackson Street Suite 2340
Tampa, Florida 33602

PH:813-616-1110

 

 

Easy guide for filing an insurance claim

Most people have some sort of insurance: car, property, electronic, life, etc. Further, if you live in Florida, and own a car, you are statutorily required to have auto insurance! Insurance is a good thing to have but can be hard to understand. For instance – premiums, copay, deductibles, and the policy itself. This article is focused on clarifying one of these areas: the filing of a new claim.  A claim is when you contact your insurance provider and ask them to either defend you or pay for a covered event or occurrence that is listed in your policy – like a car accident or hurricane hitting your house.  Filing a claim seems complex and difficult but it is really quite simple. Take a minute and read the information in this article, it will walk you through a newly filed roof damage insurance claim and hopefully put your mind at ease about the process.

Discovering damage

Filing a claim is the start of a long and intense process. It is nothing to be afraid of, but at the same time it is important to take the process seriously and understand what will happen. The process begins when a homeowner first notices damage and decides to file a claim with his or her property insurance company, and the claim process typically ends when the insurance company makes a determination to “confirm” the claim and accept coverage for the damage, or to “deny” your claim.

Inspect Your House

Homeowners often “discover” damage to their home on a certain date. Perhaps one day you are cooking and notice a brown wet spot on your ceiling. Or during summer months a homeowner might notice the pool screen has holes in it following a hailstorm. Maybe seeing multiple neighbors that are getting their roofs replaced makes you think of yours. Whatever the cause, the first step in the roof damage claim is for you, the homeowner, to inspect your property.

For most homeowners, it is not recommended that you go on your roof. Roofs are in fact very dangerous and you do not want to fall off. However, look carefully at your property, both inside and out. Are there any leaks in your house? Have you noticed holes in window screens, or pool screens following a storm? Can you see any shingles missing or dents on your roof? Have you noticed an impact marks or dings on your gutters that look as if a golf ball struck them? These are all signs of wind and hail damage and if you’ve noticed damage to your home that you think might be related to a storm of wind, you may want to file a claim and have your home investigated.

Filing a Claim

Filing a claim involves a five minute phone call to your insurance company. Filing a claim is something you can do on your own, or if you’re more comfortable, a roofing attorney  can file your claim for you and be with you during from start to finish during the entire claim process.

Before the call, however, gather together certain things.

  • Find a copy of your insurance policy and declarations page. This will have your policy number on it; it will tell you your coverage amounts, as well as additional information.
  • Determine what your Date of Loss is. The Date of Loss is the date that the damage occurred – so, something like the storm date.

Call the phone number listed on your insurance declaration page – usually it is a toll free number. When the customer service rep answers, introduce yourself and tell them you’d like to file a claim for roof damage.

They will likely ask you several short questions:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Policy Number
  • What kind of damage are you experiencing
  • When did you first notice the damage

This is a fairly short and brief phone call, so keep your answers short and brief. Many insurance companies will record the telephone conversations, so be careful about what you say – this is not the time to vent about your home, the weather, the stock market, or to speculate about what you think might or might not be causing the problem. Listen to the questions the customer service rep asks, and answer only those questions. All you are doing at this step is filing the claim.

After you’ve filed a claim for damage to your home, the next step is to wait for a call from your insurance company’s adjuster.

Adjuster Assigned

A few days after your claim has been filed, you will likely get a telephone call from an adjuster representing your insurance company. An insurance provider’s adjuster works on behalf of the company to inspect and appraise the damage in the claim. Some adjusters are employees of the insurance companies, while others might be independent adjusters that work with your insurance provider on an outsourcing basis. The adjuster will want to schedule a time to visit your home and inspect it, as well as talk to you.

Adjuster Inspection

Get ready for the Adjuster’s inspection of your home. Often the adjuster will take pictures, so make sure your house and yard are clean – always assume the worst case scenario – that one day a picture of your home could end up in court! Make sure your home looks well kept and taken care of – jurors like homeowners who take care of their home.

Think through what you will tell the adjuster when he or she arrives – remember, this is not a social call and the adjuster is not your friendly neighbor stopping by for a visit. The adjuster has a job to do, and he or she works for the insurance company, not for you.

During the adjuster’s inspection, be careful what you say, and say as little as possible. Adjusters are trained about types of questions to ask, so what might seem like pleasant chit chat could really be pointed questions designed to get you to reveal information that might harm your claim.

Listen to the adjuster’s questions, and think before you answer them. If you don’t know an answer, the best response is to simply say, “I don’t know”. If you don’t remember something, say “I don’t remember”.

Engineer Inspection

In some cases, the adjuster will hire an engineer to judge the extent of the damage. Engineer’s reports are influential on the monetary amount of the damage but their judgment is not binding. Remember, these engineers are hired by the insurance firms and know who pay for their services…

TIPS!

  • Never, For Any Reason Whatsoever, Guess

When speaking to an adjuster or anyone from the insurance company -guessing and speculating can, and will, not help you. If you are not certain about something, simply say you don’t know or you don’t remember. “I don’t know” and “I don’t remember” are perfectly acceptable answers.

  • Only Answer the Questions Asked

You have an obligation to cooperate with your insurance company during the investigation – but you don’t want to do anything to give the insurance company cause to deny your claim, either. When answering questions the adjuster asks you, listen carefully, think about the possible answers, and only answer what was asked.

For instance, if you noticed missing singles from your roof while mowing the grass two weeks ago, and the adjuster asks you, “When did you first notice the missing shingles from your roof?” you should answer, “I noticed them two weeks ago.”

You should NOT answer “I saw it two weeks ago, but I can’t remember if they were there before or not – but you know, it’s possible they went missing months ago – heck, it’s possible they were there when I bought the home. I just don’t remember.” Address the adjuster’s questions directly, without speculation, and honestly.

  • What’s wrong with that previous answer?

You may think the adjuster will write “Homeowner believes single damage occurred two weeks ago” when in reality the adjuster could very well note that “Homeowner stated that roof damage may have been there prior to purchase of home.”

A few weeks or months later you may get a letter in the mail denying your claim due to a preexisting condition – e.g. the missing shingles were there when you first bought the home.

You are only required to answer questions about facts that you know – and in that scenario, all the homeowner knew was that the shingles missing were first noticed two weeks ago. Everything else is pure speculation, or guessing. By guessing, the homeowner harmed himself in this scenario. Do not guess; allow us to provide an opposing adjuster or possibly an engineer to inspect the damage to your home.

If You Think You Need a Lawyer

If you believe your home is subject to roof damage and need help during the claim process do not hesitate to contact to contact a lawyer or make a claim.  The more signs of roof damage, the more important it is to have your home checked out to prevent further damage and possibly deadly mold.  If you do not see visible roof defects but believe your roof is in fact defective, a lawyer can hire an engineer to test your roof.

If you liked this information go to www.DifatoLaw.com to read more. If you need to speak to a lawyer call the Difato Law Office at 904-347-5588 for a free consultation and evaluation of your home or simply fill out a free case evaluation form.

– Stephen Difato

Attorney at Law

 

The information contained in this post or on http://www.difatolaw.wordpress.com is provided for advertisement, illustrative, educational, and informational purposes only. The contents of this site are not legal advice, and this website is not an offer to perform services on any matter.
Difato Law 
9248 Estate Cove Cir, Riverview, FL 33578

 

Do I Have Roof Damage?

This is the first blog post of many to educate homeowners about their roof, storms, and insurance policies.

 

Roofs are literally on every structure in existence and are constantly being damaged by storms, wind, hurricanes, hail, and other forces of nature. Roofs also come in many shapes and sizes and use a broad array of shingles – from tar to ceramic. One of the biggest issues with roofing damage is the difficulty of matching the replacement shingles that your insurance pays for and current shingles from before the damage. Insurance companies will almost always try to push you to accept a partial repair. A partial repair is when your insurance only pays to replace the damaged areas of the roof and nothing more. A majority of partial repairs look ugly and do not match the preexisting roof. Do not accept this option that may lower the value of your house when you could be entitled to the full replacement of your damaged roof.

What Is at Risk If My Roof Is Damaged?

Most people at some point experience some sort of roof damage or leak. The reality is that usually the tiny brown leak-spot on the kitchen ceiling is most likely the least of the potential damage. Roof damage can lead to devastating consequences if not addressed, such as:

  • Rotting Wood
  • Water Soaked Insulation
  • Mold
  • Insect Infestation
  • Toxic Mold
  • inhabitation

If you see any of these signs you may want to make a claim with your insurance provider or if you have been denied your claim, you may want to speak to an attorney. Toxic mold can be deadly and requires immediate action.

How Can I Tell If My Roof Is Damaged?

Roof damage is often caused by windstorms, hurricanes, hailstorms, and defective installation. If you believe you may have roof damage it is important for you to inspect your house for signs. Signs of a damaged roof may range from blatant missing shingles to dents in your gutters. While you inspect your roof and gutters, try to keep an eye out for these:

  • Missing Shingles
  • Crease Marks In Your Singles
  • Holes In Pool Screens Or Window Screens
  • Impact Marks, Dents, Or Dings On Gutters
  • Impact Marks, Dents, Or Dings On Shingles
  • Leaks Inside Of Your Home
  • Water Discoloration On Ceilings
  • Visible Mold
  • The Smell Of Mold

If you found any or multiple of these you may be entitled to a roof repair or a new roof.

 

If You Think You Need a Lawyer

If you believe your home is subject to roof damage and need help during the claim process do not hesitate to contact to contact a lawyer or make a claim.  The more signs of roof damage, the more important it is to have your home checked out to prevent further damage and possibly deadly mold.  If you do not see visible roof defects but believe your roof is in fact defective, a lawyer can hire an engineer to test your roof.

If you liked this information go to www.DifatoLaw.com to read more. If you need to speak to a lawyer call the Difato Law Office at 904-347-5588 for a free consultation and evaluation of your home or simply fill out a free case evaluation form.

– Stephen Difato

Attorney at Law

The information contained in this post or on http://www.difatolaw.wordpress.com is provided for advertisement, illustrative, educational, and informational purposes only. The contents of this site are not legal advice, and this website is not an offer to perform services on any matter.
Difato Law 
9248 Estate Cove Cir, Riverview, FL 33578