What do I do if a hurricane damages my property?

As Hurricane season threatens Florida, your priority is ensuring that you and your loved ones have enough first aid supplies, batteries, flashlights, non-perishable food and water. Likewise, you should strongly consider seeking appropriate shelter if you and your loved ones live in low-lying or coastal areas.

Floridians know all too well that the state has had its fair share of tropical depressions, tropical storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. These storms can cause substantial property damage. In these cases, you might have to file a hurricane claim or a windstorm claim.

Invariably, when a windstorm damages your home or commercial property, insurance companies attempt to underpay and underestimate the full extent of the damage or deny your hurricane claim or windstorm claim entirely. Also, when large-scale catastrophic events occur, insurance companies get flooded with thousands of claims. Therefore, when dealing with insurance companies after a large loss, it is best to be prepared.

Below are some helpful tips for policyholders who may need to prepare insurance claims after a hurricane.

Know Your Coverages

The different types of coverage available are found on the Declarations Page of your policy. The different types of coverage are typically the following:

  • Coverage A: Damage to your home;
  • Coverage B: Damage to other structure including a swimming pool or garage;
  • Coverage C: Damage to Personal Property (i.e. furniture, clothing, appliances);
  • Coverage D: Loss of Use – Pays for additional living expenses if your home is uninhabitable;
  • Coverage E: Liability – Protects you against financial loss should someone be injured while on your property;
  • Coverage F: Medical Payments – Covers medical bills for person(s) injured on your property.

It is important that policyholders take a closer look at their insurance coverages. Although you may think you are covered, certain policies contain exclusions which may preclude payment. For example, most (if not all) standard homeowner’s policies do not cover damage caused by floods. Flood insurance is federally regulated and obtained through the National Flood Insurance Program(NFIP) and administered by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), so it must be purchased separately. FEMA’s definition of a flood is:

  • Overflow of inland or tidal waters
  • Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source
  • Mudflow
  • Collapse of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above

Document and Assess the Damage

  • Keep a notebook with notes of every conversation and activity that relates to the claim in chronological order. Start by jotting down the date of loss, what happened, what was damaged and any relevant details concerning the loss.
  • Take detailed notes of every conversation you have with the insurance company and their adjusters.
  • Take a detailed inventory of damaged property. You should go room by room and write down every place you see any damage.
  • Also, it is imperative that you take photographs or videos of the damaged property. Doing so will ensure that you can present a total picture of the damage (no pun intended). Often, emergency repairs take place before your insurer can inspect the damage and insurance adjusters will argue that the damage never occurred or did not occur as a result of a covered peril. Taking photographs or videos ensures this won’t happen.
  • Keep every claim related document in order. Important documents include correspondence you receive from your insurance companies, correspondence you send to your insurance companies, as well as receipts, cancelled checks, statements and estimates obtained from emergency repair services, contractors and other service providers (i.e. carpet cleaning services, dry cleaners).

The above is by no means an exhaustive list, it is certainly a step in the right direction. Following the pointers in this post will certainly aid in curtailing insurance companies’ propensity to delay, deny and underpay valid claims.

Should you experience difficulty in getting what you deserve from your insurer as a result of damage caused by Hurricane Matthew make sure to contact the insurance claim lawyers at JP Salas Law at (954) 315-1155 for a case evaluation. But most importantly, STAY SAFE!

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John Salas