09Sep 2019

Preparing for a hurricane goes way beyond buying water and flashlight batteries and should begin well before your home is in a storm’s path. While hurricane season is from June to November, peak storm time runs from August to late October.

For homeowners, hurricanes pose serious threat of damage to property. Dealing with issues after an event pose many financial, logistical and psychological challenges such as waiting for the storm path to be determined, dealing with damage and clean up, and sometimes fighting with your insurance company over fair compensation for your damaged property. A well-prepared owner can help reduce stress and speed claims processing.

Well in advance of hurricane season, it’s important to review and make sure your homeowner’s policy is robust enough to fully repair or rebuild in the event of a claim. It’s important to understand what your insurance covers and what it doesn’t. Be sure to review the policy thoroughly and ask questions of your insurance agent, so you can make changes prior to the start of hurricane season. Keep your policy in a secure place before and after the storm.

Following the active hurricane seasons in 2004 and 2005 that resulted in many claims against the insurance industry, policies now have high windstorm deductibles, often 2 to 10% of the face amount of the policy. For example, a policy holder with $300,000 in dwelling coverage can be responsible for a hurricane deductible between $6,000 and $30,000.

Make a video or photo inventory of all your property inside and outside your home in the weeks before a predicted storm with evidence of the date the images were taken. Keep a spreadsheet of date of purchase, purchase price, model number and warranty information of your major appliances and furniture and be sure to store it in the cloud, Dropbox, or removable zip drive (kept in a dry, safe place such as a bank safe deposit box).

These preparations help your insurance claim by establishing cash or replacement value. Knowing the age of your property helps determine depreciation. Images of your personal property, home and roof will help clearly establish any damage that was caused by the storm.

After the storm, it’s critical to thoroughly document your damage. At the very first opportunity, start photographing or videotaping every square inch of your property inside and out. Don’t forget the roof! Photograph damage large and seemingly insignificant to your property as well as in your neighborhood. Missing roof tiles or branches in your neighbors’ yards may later be found to have damaged your house.

After you have documented the post-storm damage, it’s your duty to do what you can to prevent additional damage to your property. Keep track of the work you do, such as removing trees, moving household items to safety and minor repairs. You are entitled to reasonable value of your time in these endeavors. Spending time removing debris or making temporary repairs can result in credit to your deductible. For example, 200 hours of your time at $25 an hour can be used to offset $5,000 of your deductible if you are able to document it.

A common mistake made by homeowners is what to do with damaged property, with the inclination often to throw it in the trash to be hauled away. STOP! You must make all damaged property available for inspection by your insurance company. In addition, damaged property is evidence of your loss and may be needed to prove your claim or case in court. Once your insurance company pays you for your damaged property, known as salvage, the insurance company becomes the owner of it. Make sure you notify your insurance company in writing of your intent to dispose of any damaged property and give your insurer time to come and inspect it or take possession of it.

Your homeowner’s insurance covers the cost of temporary repairs for hurricane damage, as well as living expenses and reasonable additional living expenses (ALE under the policy) if you must relocate, such as extra expenses getting to work or school. Be sure to document any ALE expenses.

You also have a duty to cooperate with your insurer, which could include sworn testimony and providing financial records. Being prepared with documentation of the state of your property before the storm can speed processing of your claim and is helpful if you need to apply for disaster aid.

Homeowner’s insurance is a contract that covers losses and damages to an individual’s house and assets. Under Florida law, reasonable attorney’s fees will be awarded to a homeowner who wins a lawsuit against the insurance company for failing to pay for a loss covered by the policy.

An attorney experienced with hurricane claims can review the information and documentation of your claim and help you determine the best course of action when dealing with the insurance company. If you find yourself having difficulty with an insurance company, contact one of our knowledgeable attorneys at Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz at 239-334-1146. Our attorneys have experience working with insurance companies for over 50 years.

30Aug 2019

As part of ongoing support of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and DUI prevention, Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz was honored to provide the briefing dinner for Saturation Saturday Aug. 24, an event organized by MADD Southwest Florida that included the Cape Coral Police Department, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Highway Patrol, Fort Myers Police Department and the Sanibel Police Department.

The operation was a saturation patrol, focusing on identifying and taking impaired drivers off the road as well as targeting areas with traffic issues that cause crashes.

#SaturationSaturday Aug. 24 resulted in statewide DUI prevention activities by more than 60 law enforcement agencies. Launched by MADD, the first Saturation Saturday was held in Missouri in 2016 as a night of increased law enforcement patrols and sobriety checkpoints designed to reduce incidents of drunk or drugged driving. It coincides with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, which runs from Aug. 14 through Sept. 2.

One of the cornerstones of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving is increased, high-visibility law enforcement to both catch drunk drivers and to deter others by sending a strong message that if you drive drunk, you will get caught.

In addition to supporting sobriety checkpoints throughout the year, the firm is presenting sponsor for Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s Walk Like MADD 5K walk and run that raises money to ensure no one in our community suffers from the impacts of impaired drivers.

Walk like MADD will be at JetBlue Park at Fenway South Sept. 28. CLICK HERE for information or to sign up to participate.

02Aug 2019

WLM-New-Logo_2016_RegTrademark_FULL-COLOR-01Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz are community leaders in reducing the risk of injuries from drunk drivers.

For two years, the firm has been a presenting sponsor for Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s Walk Like MADD 5k walk and run that raises money to ensure no one in our community suffers from the impacts of impaired drivers.

Funds raised through Walk Like MADD events across the country have saved 350,000 lives and served 820,000 victims. The Southwest Florida event planned for Sept. 28 hopes to raise $60,000.

“Having committed community and event partners like Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice and Purtz, brings us closer to a community of No More Victims of drunk, drugged and impaired driving,” said Lori Burke, executive director of the MADD Southwest Florida Office.

Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz staff and attorneys see the impact of drunk driving through the clients they represent, reinforcing their advocacy for MADD.

Firm partners Christopher and Andrea Smith are passionate personal supporters of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), with Chris leading the firm’s team fundraising efforts for the walk. Both Chris and Andrea have lost family members to drunken drivers. In fact, Chris was named after a family member who was killed by a drunken driver.

In addition, attorneys from the firm have been active in supporting area multi-jurisdiction DUI checkpoints, most recently providing food for the law enforcement officers.

“Sponsoring the briefing dinner at the checkpoint demonstrates to the officers that the law firm and the community supports them in their dedication to make our community safer for all residents and visitors,” Burke said.

Nationally on average, two out of three people will be impacted by drunk driving in their lifetime. Every two minutes, someone is injured in a drunk driving crash and every day 28 people are killed by drunk driving.

Walk like MADD will be at JetBlue Park at Fenway South Sept. 28. For information or to sign up to participate: https://www.walklikemadd.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=943.

To support the Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz team: https://www.walklikemadd.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.team&teamID=15138

09Jul 2019

Maybe your parents took you to an empty parking lot to teach you how to drive as a teenager. That may be one of the safest parking lot experiences you will have.

With slow moving vehicles, one would think parking lots are safer than roads. But one of every five motor vehicle accidents and 14% of all claims of auto damage happen in parking lots.

Non-residential parking facilities are used by 175 million people every day, and it seems that most drivers are not paying attention. A National Safety Council Public Opinion Poll found that 66% of drivers said they would make phone calls while driving through parking lots, 63% would program GPS systems, 56% would text, 53% would use social media, 50% would send or receive emails, 49% would take photos or watch videos.

In a single year, 99 people were killed and 2,000 injured when they were hit by cars backing out of parking spots, and 106 fatalities and 5,000 injuries were caused from cars moving forward. Five deaths were caused by pedestrians struck by driverless cars! Of children ages 5 to 9 who died in traffic crashes, 22% were pedestrians. Most deaths occurred because drivers failed to see kids while backing up.

Parking lot injuries can be extensive and include medical bills, lost wages and even disability. Victims hit by a careless or distracted motorist are entitled to compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

Not all parking lot injuries are caused by vehicles. Slip and fall accidents are also common in parking lots. While Florida doesn’t have the hazards caused by snow and ice, inadequate striping, potholes or cracks, lack of signage, debris, poor lighting and puddles can also lead to injuries.

In addition, more than 400,000 violent crimes are committed in parking lots or garages each year, including rape, robbery and aggravated assault.  The law in Florida requires that owners of parking lots have appropriate security in place.  If they do not, they can be found liable for people injured in their lots in violent crimes.

An owner of a parking lot can be found liable for injuries caused by the following:

  • Lack of designated walkways for handicapped and other people
  • Poorly designed structures with bad traffic flow
  • Inadequate signals or markings
  • Inadequate security and lighting
  • Uneven surfaces and potholes
  • Blind spots that block drivers’ vision
  • Improperly marked handicapped zones
  • Oil spills or runoff from poor drainage

What can you do to help ensure compensation for your injuries caused in a parking lot or a garage?

  • As soon as you can, take photos and videos of the dangerous condition that caused your injury. If you don’t have a measuring tape, use any other object to help show the depth and diameter of a hole or condition that cause your fall. Take as many pictures as possible, from a variety of angles.
  • If someone saw you fall and you are able, ask for their name and contact information and a description of what they saw. Ask them to sign and date the statement. If they are willing, use your cell phone to video an eyewitness account.
  • Criminal activity must be immediately reported to police. Always call 911 to notify law enforcement of robbery or assault.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a parking lot accident and have sustained injuries or death, it is important to seek advice from attorneys experienced with personal injury cases. The attorneys at Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice and Purtz have over 50 years of experience with personal injury cases and we are here to represent you. We have six locations in Southwest Florida. Our offices are conveniently located in Fort Myers (2 to serve you), NaplesCape CoralLehigh Acres and Port Charlotte. Contact the office nearest you and set up your appointment for a free consultation today.