Understanding Hurricane Property Damage Claims
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Hurricane Irma will have a devastating impact on Florida. You are prepared with bottles of water, non-perishable food and a full gas tank. But are your home and valuables protected in case you need to make a hurricane property damage claim?
We are South Florida lawyers dedicated to fighting for policy holders against big insurance companies. We know that hurricane insurance claims are regularly denied.
We are here to help you ensure that your valuables are protected. In order to successfully make your Hurricane Irma claim, it is crucial that you follow these steps to preserve the best evidence of your potential losses in the event that you need to make a claim.
Steps to Take Before the Hurricane to Protect Your Potential Insurance Claim
Find All Your Insurance Paperwork and Print a Hard Copy
Almost all homeowners insurance policies require prompt reporting of losses in order to make a claim. Avoid scrambling for policy numbers in the wake of a storm. Make sure to have all your homeowners insurance and flood insurance paperwork with you in advance. You will likely lose power for an extended amount of time. You may also lose wifi. You may have to evacuate your home. Therefore, we strongly recommend you print a hard copy of your insurance information along with a hard copy of this article. Keep this with you in a folder, along with copies of important documents like social security cards, birth certificates, passports, marriage licenses etc.
Make Cell Phone Videos of Each Room of Your House
While you have power, turn on the lights in your home and make separate cell phone videos of each room in your house. Make sure to document each item of value in each room, in case of hurricane damage. Following a devastating event, it is often hard to recall each valuable item you had before the destruction. It will also be difficult to find proof of purchase for all your items. Take clearly visible cell phone videos to document your possessions. They may not be there after the storm.
Take Individual Photos of Serial Numbers on High Value Items
If you have an identifying number on a valuable item, take a photo of the number.
Photograph Antiques to Beat the ‘Preexisting Damage’ Defense
If you have a rare or antique item (ex: 300 year old baby grand piano), take photos of it before the hurricane to show that it does not have preexisting damage.
Prove That You Prepared Your Home to Beat the ‘Failure to Mitigate Damage’ Defense
Pouring sweat after putting up those hurricane shutters? Did you throw your back out moving all the patio furniture inside? Get credit for doing the right thing. Take videos or photos of the outside of your home to document that you did all that you could to prevent harm to your property. This will prevent the insurance company from blaming you for your losses after the storm.
Learn About How Your Insurance Company Requires You to Report Hurricane Damage
As the policy holder, you are under a contractual duty to report damage after the hurricane to your insurer. Find out how they want you to do this before the storm. You do not want to put this off until after you are reeling from the disaster. Ideally, get an email address where you can email photos and a description of what was damaged. This paper trail will be key evidence if you need to file a wrongful denial of hurricane insurance lawsuit.
Steps to Take During the Hurricane to Protect Your Potential Insurance Claim
The disclaimer to this section is that your safety is paramount to any property you own. Never endanger yourself and always seek shelter/evacuate if ordered to do so.
Keep a Real Time Journal of What is Going On During the Storm
This can be done by traditional means (paper and pen), on a laptop or iPad, or you can make video clips of what is going. Just make sure the date and time is documented. For example, if you hear your garage door blow away, note the time this occurred.
Make Videos of Real Time Property Damage if Possible
Keep your cell phone, iPad or camera near you during the storm. If you see actual damage occur (Ex: a leak coming from your attic) make a video of the damage in real time and document that this is a new problem and not pre-existing. Again, be safe and do not try to leave a sheltered area just to show damage.
Steps to Take After the Hurricane to Protect Your Potential Insurance Claim
Prompt Notice of Losses
If Hurricane Irma hits on its projected path, you will not be the only person reporting a hurricane insurance claim. Your insurer will be looking for ways to delay or deny coverage. Do not give them this opportunity. Report your losses immediately and get to the front of the line for reimbursement.
Written Notice of Your Damage
Do not only report the notice of damage on the phone. Put it in writing so we can prove you gave timely notice. Your email to the insurance company should include any before/after photos, the date and time of the loss, your name, your address, your insurance policy number and a description of what got damaged and how.
Demand a Homeowners Adjuster – “The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease”
If the insurance company wrongfully denies your claim and you end up in litigation, the entire case will come down to which party acted appropriately. Did you do the right thing as the homeowner? Did the insurance company act in good faith to you, its insured?
Once you’ve fulfilled your duties by reporting your claim in thorough detail, flip the burden to the insurance company. Demand that they send a claims adjuster to your property immediately to document the damage. If they send someone out to photograph your losses, you will likely get reimbursed faster. If they ignore your request, they will be hard pressed to prove their case in court.
Document Structural Damage to Your Home
Following the storm, take detailed photos or videos of what changed. Maybe you notice your wood floors have swelled up from water damage. You might notice a soft spot in your wall from a burst pipe. You may see some of your roof shingles on your lawn. Whatever it is that changed, document this extensively.
Do Not Always Take the Insurance Company’s Offer
Reality check: insurance companies make money by collecting premiums each year and paying as little as possible for claims. They are literally in the business of underpaying your claim. So be wary of any offers or loss evaluations. If your roof was destroyed in Hurricane Irma and the insurance company offers you $25,000, speak with a roofing company to ensure this will actually cover the replacement of your roof. If not, your homeowners insurance policy is undervaluing your hurricane claim.
Always Rule Out Mold
We live in Florida where humidity is a fact of life. Add in a week or more without air conditioning, and your walls may be growing toxic mold. Water damage is more than meets the eye. Get your home inspected for mold by a certified mold expert before resolving any claims with your homeowners insurance.
Do Not Release Your Insurance Company from Liability!
Most insurance companies separate your payments based on the loss sustained. So you will likely receive 3 separate checks for damage to your home, damage to your possessions and any relocation expenses. Never sign anything that releases the insurance company from liability for all claims without reviewing with an attorney. Also, do not cash any checks that say “Full and Final Settlement” without understanding which portion(s) of your claim you are settling.
What Are My Options if My Insurance Company Undervalues, Delays or Denies My Hurricane Irma Claim?
Wind Damage vs. Flood Damage
Hurricane Irma’s destructive power lies in both her potential for wind and water damage. In the mind of laypeople, these two are indistinguishable. But in the mind of insurance adjusters, house damage from wind is very different than house damage from flooding.
Your homeowners insurance will cover wind damage but not flood damage. Many South Floridians have a separate flood insurer. Some did not opt for flood insurance at all. Inevitably, insurers will try to pawn your damage off on whatever it is they do not cover under the policy.
The Inevitable Tug of War – Was the Water Damage from a Flood? Or from Wind-Driven Water and Rain?
When your home is impacted with water damage from a hurricane or storm in Florida, the tug of war begins. The long story made short is as follows. If the water that ruined your floors and cabinets came from a flood, your homeowners insurance will deny coverage. If the water came from wind-driven rain, your homeowners insurance will cover it. For this reason, when reporting your claim, you should be careful on the language that you use. We would suggest you say ‘water damage’ rather than ‘my house is flooded.’
An Example of Flood Damage vs. Wind Driven Rain Damage
If Biscayne Bay receives an unusual amount of rainfall in Hurricane Irma and water rises out of the Bay into Downtown Miami and Brickell, this is considered flood damage.
Alternatively, if your windows are broken during Hurricane Irma in Fort Lauderdale and torrential rain floods your living room, since the water came directly from the sky, this is considered wind-driven water damage (rain).
Still unsure how to proceed with your claim? Our lawyers will guide you on your path to justice.
Seeking Justice for Wrongful Denials or Delays on Hurricane Irma Insurance Damage Claims
If your Hurricane Irma damage claim is being delayed or denied by the insurance company, you need a strong advocate in your corner. The insurance company has a business model to undercut your claims. Make sure you have someone fighting for your interests.
Florida Lawyers for Wrongful Denial of Hurricane Damage Insurance Claims
The lawyers at Senior Justice Law Firm are here to help Hurricane Irma victims pick up the pieces following this tragic storm. Since 1972, our lawyers have fought against large insurance companies acting in bad faith at the expense of their insureds.
If you suffered damage in Hurricane Irma and need assistance with your claim, call us today at 561-717-0817. We always provide free consultations and we do not get paid unless you make a financial recovery. With 3 Florida offices, we can help you achieve justice for your losses resulting from Hurricane Irma.
Lastly, remember; stuff is just stuff. Every item is replaceable, except human life. Make sure to protect you and your family in this crisis and be safe.
Experience Matters With Hurricane, Flood and Wind Damage Claims
Find the Best Florida Homeowners Insurance Lawyer to Sue Your Insurer for Denying Your Claim
Our senior-most Florida insurance claim lawyer has been suing big insurance companies since 1972. Our lawyers have recovered more than $100 million in claims from insurance companies. Let our extensive civil litigation experience help you get what you deserve on your Hurricane Irma claim.
Florida Lawyers to Sue Your Homeowners Insurance
Call our lawyers today to sue your homeowners insurance company for underpaying or denying your hurricane damage claim. We handle cases against the following homeowners and flood insurers:
- American Bankers Insurance Co.
- American Traditions Insurance Co.
- Anchor Insurance
- Capitol Preferred Insurance Co.
- Castle Key Insurance (Allstate)
- Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
- Edison Insurance Co.
- Federated National Insurance Company
- Florida Family Insurance Co.
- Florida Peninsula Insurance Co.
- Frontline Insurance
- Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance
- Homeowners Choice Property & Casualty Insurance Co.
- Modern USA Insurance Co.
- People’s Trust Insurance Co.
- SafePoint Insurance Co.
- Southern Fidelity Insurance Co.
- Southern Oak Insurance Co.
- St. Johns Insurance Co.
- Tower Hill Insurance
- United Property & Casualty
- Universal Property & Casualty Co.
- Universal North America
Free Hurricane Irma Claim Consultation
Call us today at 561-717-0817.