August 14, 2017

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER: THE PURPOSE BEHIND A POLICYHOLDER'S RIGHT TO ATTORNEYS' FEES IN FIRST PARTY PROPERTY CASES

Written by Vanessa Ross, Attorney at law with Stockham Law Group, Sarasota, FL

Recently, Barry Gilway, CEO of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, wrote an article in support of its new managed repair program. The program is intended to be “optional,” but recently there have been plans to force homeowners to either allow Citizens to repair their property using their preferred vendors, or limit the damages to $10,000.00 for water losses. One must question how a program is “optional” when there is a built in penalty if you decide not to participate in the program. Mr. Gilway recently wrote an article in support of Citizens’ managed repair program and coverage cap stating the reason behind the program as follows:

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August 11, 2017

TAKE YOUR TIME & CHOOSE WISELY

By James Ragano, Esquire with Stockham Law Group, Tampa, FL

So many of us have been in the position of being forced to pick a nursing home for a loved one with limited time, limited resources, and limited choices.  A recent study has confirmed that patients being discharged from hospitals are not given enough information to choose an appropriate long term care placement.  The following article highlights this dilemma:  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-hospitals-nursing-idUSKBN1AN2E0.  The article also provides a very useful research tool when it comes to choosing the right nursing home.  Here is that link: https://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html

You will find that this tool provides ratings for nursing homes based upon staffing, quality measures, and health inspections.  While this tool is certainly not exhaustive, it is a very helpful starting point when you are trying to find the right place for your loved one.

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August 08, 2017

NURSING HOME ADMISSIONS PAPERWORK: DON'T WAIVE YOUR RIGHTS

By James Ragano, Esquire with Stockham Law Group, Tampa, FL

You’re there. Sitting in a well-lit office of a friendly nursing home employee, and a stack of paperwork has been placed in front of you.  The nursing home staff is setting up your husband’s room, and introducing him to the other residents.  You are anxious to get the paperwork done so you can be with him.  You sign what’s in front of you without reviewing it. Without knowing it, you have just waived your husband’s right to sue the nursing home in the event something bad happens.

Nursing homes often use “Arbitration Agreements” in order to avoid being sued in a court of law.  If the nursing home staff bothers to explain to you what that means, which hardly ever happens, they might tell you that an “Arbitration” is simply a way to resolve the dispute quickly without the expense and hassle of going to court.  Don’t believe them.  Agreeing to an arbitration means waiving you and your spouse’s right to a jury trial if the nursing home does not provide good care.   It means that lawyers, rather than a jury of your peers, will decide the merits of your case.

So, what do you do?  First, take a deep breath. The nursing home cannot refuse admission to your loved one if you decide not to sign the arbitration agreement.  Second, ask to take the paperwork home so that you and your family can review it.  Often, there is other paperwork in the materials which can have a big impact upon you and your family’s rights and financial security.  Third, show the paperwork to a lawyer.  A lawyer can give you an opinion about whether the paperwork you have been asked to sign waives, or otherwise interferes with, your rights.

The nursing home admissions process is stressful.  Be sure to take the time you need to have all paperwork reviewed and approved before signing anything.

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July 07, 2017

ARE YOU PREPARED for the Next One?

Posted on 06/30/2017 by TheAARPBulletin

Are You Prepared for the Next One?

By Susannah Nesmith

Six months after Hurricane Matthew skirted the Florida coast last fall, Nancy Sikes-Kline was finally able to move out of her temporary apartment and into a house—but it wasn’t her house.

“It’s taking much, much longer than any of us ever imagined” to put her life back together, said Sikes-Kline, 60, a land use consultant and St. Augustine city commissioner.

“For older people, it’s particularly difficult because we don’t have time in our lives financially to recover. First we got hit with the Recession. And then this.”

Twenty-five years after Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida, Floridians have learned a lot about the disruptive power of nature.

Subsequent storms like Matthew, as well as wildfires, have only reinforced the message: Disasters can be devastating, and it’s best to be prepared. Florida residents need to consider everything from their insurance coverage to how and when they will evacuate.

Sikes-Kline was better prepared for Matthew than many people because she had increased her flood insurance coverage a few years before the storm, worried about the requirement that substantially damaged homes in flood zones be lifted above their previous height.

Insurance won’t cover all of the costs to rebuild her home, but she would have been worse off if she hadn’t increased her coverage.

She did receive some help with living expenses from FEMA “which we were very grateful for,” she said. “It helped stabilize us financially in those early days.”

Donna DeVaney Stockham, a Tampa attorney specializing in insurance, has seen a variety of ways people end up with insufficient coverage. She recently represented the residents of a storm-damaged condominium building, many of whom were in their 80s.

“Most of them didn’t have insurance on their own units,” she said. “It took a year to resolve. Many of them were forced to sell at very low prices because they couldn’t afford to pay their mortgage and live somewhere else. Had they had alternative living expenses coverage, they would have had more options.”

She’s seen people who didn’t update their policies as replacement costs increased, leaving them with far too little coverage.

“It’s so important to know what your coverage is,” Stockham said. “I can’t tell you how many people are underinsured or uninsured for certain risks.”

To-Do list before the disaster
Updating insurance policies is important long before a disaster threatens, because there are other crucial safety precautions to take in the final few days. These include:

  • Getting medications. Florida law requires insurers to waive “refill too soon” rules when a disaster has been declared so people can get a one-month supply.
  • Having enough food and water for three days. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least one gallon of water per person and pet per day.
  • Having an evacuation plan for yourself and your pets.

Many areas have pet-friendly shelters. Most communities also maintain registries of people who will need help evacuating. But Curtis Sommerhoff, Miami-Dade County director of emergency management, said it’s important to register early. Emergency personnel have a plan to help people who are on the registry, but that sometimes hundreds of people call for help on the day before a storm.

“We only have so many resources and sometimes we can’t get to everybody,” he said.

While Floridians get a lot of warning for hurricanes, wildfire evacuations come with very short notice. Palm Coast Fire Chief Michael Beadle urges residents to tape to their dashboards an index card with directions out of their neighborhood. He was a firefighter in 1998 when wildfires forced the evacuation of all of Flagler County.

“When you get into a panic, and there’s smoke, you can get disoriented,” Beadle said. During the 1998 fires, police found one woman driving through a back yard. They got her out, but the fire was so close it damaged their cars. “When we say you have five minutes, we really mean five minutes.”

Sikes-Kline didn’t wait around to evacuate her home before Hurricane Matthew hit.

“I was gone before they issued the evacuation notice,” she said. “There are all kinds of combinations in which hurricanes can be bad. We saw that with Andrew. It’s not worth sticking around.”

Susannah Nesmith is a writer living in Miami.

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June 27, 2017

Announcement - Florida Legal Elite™

For the second year in a row, Donna Stockham, has been recognized by her peers and colleagues as one of the top attorneys in Florida in the area of Insurance as published by Florida Trend magazine. Florida Legal Elite provides a prestigious roster of attorneys chosen by their peers for this recognition. All of us at Stockham Law Group wish to congratulate Mrs. Stockham on this extremely high honor!

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April 11, 2017

MAKING ENSUING LOSS COVERAGE WORK FOR YOU!

Published by AAPIA on April 11, 2017 http://www.aapia.org/node/1161

By Vanessa Ross, Esquire with Stockham Law Group, Sarasota, FL

Did you know that if a roof was installed improperly, there may be coverage for the water damage that occurred as a result?  Did you know that where an insured has failed to maintain the exterior of the building, there could be coverage for water damaged interior walls? Have you encountered negligently installed sliding glass doors that allow water into a dwelling?  There could be coverage for the resulting damage!

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January 31, 2017

DO I HAVE COVERAGE FOR THAT?

Vanessa Ross

Stockham Law Group

1800 2nd Street Suite 711

Sarasota, FL 34236

When damage occurs in a condominium unit, there are often many questions as to whose responsibility it is to pay for the loss. Many times, there is a lot of confusion over which insurance policy should pay for the loss. Losses caused by plumbing leaks or water intrusion often damage multiple units on various floors, as well as common elements owned and maintained by the Condominium Association.

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November 07, 2016

FAILURE OF MANAGED REPAIR IN FLORIDA - ABC ACTION NEWS. Air date November 2, 2016

If you missed our story on the failure of Managed Repair in Florida that aired on Nov. 2nd, here is an opportunity for you to watch it now at the below link. Please read your homeowner’s insurance policies and stay away from companies forcing Managed Repair. Most people do not even know they have this Managed Repair endorsement on their policy that deprives them of any say in how their home is fixed after a loss and who fixes it absent litigation.

http://www.abcactionnews.com/money/consumer/taking-action-for-you/it-is-a-new-trend-in-insurance-but-some-policy-holders-say-it-is-a-devastating-practice

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