Cast Iron Pipes Lawsuit
Insurance companies try to deny claims for water damage caused by cast iron pipes, but Florida residents are fighting back by filing lawsuits.
There are 76 million homes nationwide that are silently suffering from leaking sewage—or are on the brink of facing this homeowner’s nightmare. The majority of homes built before 1975 have cast iron pipes for sewage and water. At best, these pipes will last for 50 to 75 years. But depending on the environment, pipes can corrode as early 25 to 40 years.
Insurance companies often try to fight pipe damage claims by providing low settlements or worse, denying them altogether. With legal representation though, policyholders typically receive three times more from insurers than those without representation.
The Problem With Cast Iron Pipes
Corrosion, or rust, is a common culprit of cracked, leaking, and ruptured pipes. It causes 25% of all pipe failures.
Cast iron pipes can corrode externally or internally. External corrosion is caused by acidity in the soil. In moisture-rich environments, like Florida, this process can happen much faster, necessitating pipe repair as early as 25 to 40 years.
Corrosion inside cast iron pipes is more common. Sewage can build up hydrogen sulfide gas, which, when oxidized, creates sulfuric acid—the cause of cast iron corrosion.
Corrosion is a clear indication that pipes are beginning to fail. Gradually, pipes will become thinner, making it harder for them to withstand internal pressure. Pipes become more susceptible to clogging, which can result in sewage backups and leakage through drains, yards, or even the floors and walls of your home.
Signs That Indicate a Leak
Because pipes are out of sight, leaks aren’t immediately visible. However, there are some common signs to look for that indicate plumbing problems underground:
- Warped or separated wood floors
- Tinted (raised) floor tiles
- Broken or loose floor tiles
- Water-stained floor tiles (grout)
- Water-stained or discolored carpet
- Water-stained or discolored floor rug or mat
- Clogs / backups and slow drains
- Foul smells from sewer gases
- Pest infestation (rodents and roaches)
New Insurance Policies Threaten Claims
By only patching up immediate sources of damage, insurance companies are just prolonging an eventual plumbing disaster.
Pipe repairs can cost anywhere between $2,000 and $15,000. Water damage can add $10,000 to $30,000 on top of that.
Insurance companies fight these claims by offering lowball settlements or by using crafty policies to deny payment altogether.
One way insurers resist claims is through their 72-hour notification window. Citizens Property Insurance requires that policyholders file claims within 72 hours of when they “knew or should have known that a loss had occurred.”
By including “should have known” in their policy, Citizens created a loophole that they exploit to deny coverage to policyholders. For example, if someone was out of town or believed the water damage or foul smells in their home were caused by another source, they could be denied because they filed outside of the 72-hour window.
If insurance companies do pay claims, there is usually a cap: for Citizens, this is $2,500 to $5,000 for non-hurricane emergencies.
Coverage also only covers repair for the damaged pipe—not replacing the pipe, or better yet, the entire system. Repairing only the pipes with visible damage is merely a bandaid for a much larger problem. At best, cast iron pipes only last 50 to 75 years. By only patching up immediate sources of damage, insurance companies are just prolonging an eventual plumbing disaster.
And, insurance policies now have managed repair program clauses which force policyholders to work with pre-approved plumbers and contractors. Policyholders who proactively respond to their home disasters, unaware of the clause, are ultimately left with the bill.
Citizens Property Insurance Faces Thousands of Lawsuits
“They don’t pay me. I wait 60, 90, 120, 150 days to get paid.”
In Florida, insurance claims have skyrocketed because of the cast iron plumbing crisis. But, while cast iron pipes continue to decline because of age at no fault of residents, insurers are making policyholders pay. Last year, Citizens Property Insurance increased rates by 3.2% statewide, clamped down on what they will cover, and are now denying claims.
“They don’t pay me. I wait 60, 90, 120, 150 days to get paid…There’s so much abuse (by insurers),” said Dave DeBlander, owner of Pro Clean Restoration & Cleaning in Pensacola.
Citizens Property Insurance argues that by taking these measures, it is protecting its clients from high monthly payments. In reality, they’re robbing clients of entitled compensation.
“Public hearings should have occurred prior to these policy changes, which would have given homeowners a better opportunity to be heard prior to some of their contract rights being taken away,” insurance lawyer Reggie Garcia told the Sun Sentinel.
Policyholders, upset with the new terms, are fighting back. Just in August and September of last year alone Citizens was hit with nearly 2,000 lawsuits. In 2015, they faced an average of 650 lawsuits a month.
Insurance companies will often deny water damage claims caused by damaged or old pipes. However, there are exceptions. ClassAction.com’s legal team can help you navigate your insurance policy and determine if you are eligible for compensation.
Florida residents that meet the following criteria may be eligible for a lawsuit:
- Your house was built before 1975, and you previously filed a water damage claim that was denied or lowballed.
- Your house was built before 1975 and has evidence of water damage, but you have not yet filed a claim.
With legal representation, policyholders will typically receive three times more from insurers than those without representation ($27,631 versus $9,028 in 2014).
If you choose to be represented by ClassAction.com, our team will also provide free home plumbing inspections, including a video scope of your pipes to evaluate their condition.
Get in Touch With an Insurance Attorney for Free
ClassAction.com, an affiliate of Morgan & Morgan, has a team of attorneys devoted specifically to insurance claims.
Our firm never represents corporations or insurance companies, only the people, and we’ve recovered billions from negligent companies by doing so. If your pre-1975 home suffered water damage because of pipe failure, contact us today for a free, no-obligation legal review. There are never any costs unless we win a jury award or settlement.