In Florida, failing cast iron pipes can cost you a lot of money. The damage to your home or business may be extensive—and expensive. Because of Florida’s unique climate, cast iron pipes designed to last for a century or more can fail within 25 years or less.
The problems with cast iron pipes in Florida are prevalent near Miami due to its heat and humidity. Insurance companies have vigorously opposed paying for the cost to replace and repair damage from faulty cast iron pipes. If your insurance company has denied your claim or failed to adequately cover the expenses caused by failing cast iron pipes, you have options.
History of Cast Iron Pipe Insurance Claims
Water is never far away in South Florida. The benefit of always being near a beach or lake has a downside for home and business owners: The high temperatures and constantly damp air have led to unprecedented rates of cast iron pipe failures.
Property insurance companies don’t want to pay to reimburse their clients for damage caused by leaky or burst plumbing, and denied claims or lowball settlement offers that don’t come close to compensating owners for damages are common. The result of this is a spike in lawsuits. One Florida government official stated there were 28,000 cast iron pipe water damage lawsuits filed in 2016 alone.
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The Cost of Damage Caused by Faulty Cast Iron Pipes
A burst cast iron pipe can be a nightmare. Many homes use cast iron plumbing for both water and sewage. Depending on which pipe is faulty, you may end up with a flood from above or a floor covered in filthy, unhealthy water.
Once one pipe has gone, it’s logical to want to replace all of them. You want to avoid dealing with the same headache repeatedly. However, the expense of removing cast iron pipes and installing new plumbing throughout a house averages around $15,000. Without insurance, that is a prohibitive cost for many homeowners or small businesses.
On top of replacing existing pipes, you need to repair all the water damage. This means replacing drywall, ceilings, and flooring. Mold prevention is also necessary. These expenditures can start at $5,000 and spiral, depending on the extent of the damage. If a bathroom fixture needs an upgrade, those costs can average over $3,000.
Finally, you need to ensure there is no damage to your foundation. Without taking quick action, foundational damage can linger and end up crushing the building’s value in the long term. After a burst cast iron pipe, foundational mitigation and repair are typically around $4,000.
Does Your Homeowners Insurance Cover Damage From Faulty Cast Iron Pipes?
Unfortunately, insurance companies typically handle these claims by denying them. Because this issue is widespread in South Florida, insurance companies may be on the hook for huge sums. This has caused them to limit payment for cast iron pipe insurance claims.
Partly due to the threat of hurricanes, floods, and surges and partly due to the high costs of repairs, many private insurance companies limit their coverage in South Florida. Residents and business owners who can’t obtain property insurance through the market can still secure a policy with Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.
Even though Citizens is a nonprofit that attempts to plug a gap in the Florida property insurance market, a policy can come with strings attached. This is especially true regarding cast iron pipe insurance coverage. Because this company has such a significant presence on the Florida property insurance scene, its rules carry weight.
In 2018, Citizens capped water damage repair claims at $10,000, unless a homeowner signed up and used the insurer’s Managed Repair Contractor Network to make all repairs. So, if a cast iron pipe bursts in your house and you have Citizens as your insurance company, it will dictate who repairs your walls and floors. Or else it will only reimburse $10,000, no matter how extensive your water damage.
Additionally, if you have burst pipes, you want to repair them quickly. However, if you have Citizens insurance, you need to get the company’s approval for any permanent work done within 72 hours of filing a claim.
Do You Have the Right to File a Suit When Your Cast Iron Pipes Fail?
What can you do if your insurance company refuses to pay for the damage in cast iron pipe insurance claims? And how do you handle a settlement amount that falls far short of making you whole? In some instances, you can take your insurance company to court.
First, if you have water damage after cast iron pipes fail, you need to file an official claim with your insurance company. Before you can sue, you need to give your insurer the chance to do the right thing. However, insurance companies are always looking out for their own good first—not yours.
Any delays in making a claim can prevent you from proceeding with a lawsuit. Your property insurance policy has terms outlining the proper time frame for alerting the company to any issues. If your pipes suffer a total failure, this typically isn’t a problem, as you’ll file a claim as soon as possible. But if you discover minor water damage from a leaky pipe, it’s easy to ignore the issue. If you wait, you may miss your opportunity.
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When to Contact a Lawyer
Because an insurance company’s first offer is never its best offer, you should avoid agreeing to any quick settlement. Once you decide to file a cast iron pipe water damage claim, the next step is to contact a lawyer.
Experienced attorneys can handle negotiations with insurance companies while also assisting you with getting your life back to normal. Property attorneys, like those at GED Lawyers, can guide you through every stage of the process. By setting up a free consultation with GED Lawyers, you can take the first step toward maximizing your failing cast iron pipe insurance settlement.