Making a hurricane property damage claim is a stressful task, but can allow you to repair your home without spending your own cash.
The insurance industry is no stranger to these claims, with over 120 hurricanes having made landfall in Florida since 1851. Insurance companies know how to minimize their outgoing costs by manipulating, exploiting and undervaluing customer claims.
Because of that, every homeowner needs to be aware of how to handle a hurricane damage claim properly. Our Florida property damage attorneys have compiled this simple guide to help you:
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How Does a Hurricane Damage Claim Work?
A hurricane property damage claim is like any other property damage claim, except it’s focused on the damage caused by a storm via – windstorm insurance and flood insurance.
- Windstorm insurance is offered by Florida insurance companies as an additional deductible. It covers roofs and building exteriors damaged by the wind and debris of hurricanes.
- Flood insurance is another additional deductible that is highly recommended for anyone living in hurricane-prone areas. That’s because flood damage is not covered in a homeowner’s insurance policy.
Once you make a claim, an insurance adjuster should calculate the required settlement to cover your home’s damage in line with the terms of your policy. However, in many cases, the insurance company will do everything in their power to low-ball you, deny you or manipulate you into a lower payment.
How to File a Hurricane Damage Claim
Read Your Policy
Check your policy to ensure you know what your coverage allows for. This step can also protect you from being outwitted by the insurance agent.
Notify Your Insurance Company
The first thing you should do is alert your insurer about the hurricane damage and that you need to file a claim. Don’t delay, as they could try to say the damage occurred after the hurricane or because you didn’t mitigate the damage.
You should then ask them when an insurance adjuster will visit to inspect the property’s damage and calculate the settlement.
Make Urgent Repairs
Make sure you tell the insurance agent about any emergency repairs. For example, if there is a hole in the roof or downed electrical wiring, they should fix that immediately to protect you and reduce further damage.
Do not dispose of any items or debris, unless necessary for your safety. Board up any broken windows or doors. Store all repair expense receipts, as these can be refunded later by your insurance company.
If you don’t make these repairs, you could be denied a settlement because you failed to reduce further damage.
Document The Damage
Hurricanes are powerful beasts that cause a lot of damage – you need to document the damage in detail!
Photograph and tape any damage to your home, appliances, belongings, vehicles, yard, electrical wiring, water stains, broken windows and more. There is no such thing as too many photos here.
You should also list your home’s inventory to calculate the total loss of items. If you can find receipts for these items safely, do so.
Staying organized allows you to keep on top of the insurance company. You can refer back to previous quotes and information.
Log claims, dates, insurance agent names, call times, quotes, and other key information.
What to Do After You File Your Hurricane Insurance Claim
Meet the Insurance Adjuster
When the insurance adjuster arrives, it’s the moment where the property damage will be assessed to determine the settlement fee.
Being present can make a big difference. If you have your home inventory and visual evidence, you can avoid items and damage being overlooked.
You may receive visits from multiple adjusters for different types of hurricane damage.
Get Repair Estimates
Your insurance company may try to recommend you a contractor for the repairs. But that doesn’t mean you can search for your own options. It can be wise to shop around local repair contractors for estimates to see if you can find a better deal.
Hurricanes and natural disasters result in high demand for repair contractors. So you might have to wait longer than expected.
But that doesn’t mean you should take a backseat. You should still keep any receipts related to hurricane expenses, such as accommodation, travel and temporary repairs. These can all be reimbursed later by your insurer.
In some cases, you can also get paid upfront to allow you to cover your costs or to find a place to stay.
Be Prepared for Push Back
Now comes the tough part. Insurance companies are notorious for making the claims process difficult. Once the adjuster has visited your property, you might experience:
- Insufficient settlement offers
- Claims that you caused the damage
- Claims that your policy doesn’t cover the damage
- Loophole claims
- Delaying tactics
- Manipulation and bullying
Call a Florida hurricane damage lawyer immediately if you experience any of these events. A lawyer will be able to take the appropriate action to ensure you get the settlement you deserve.
Be Prepared to Negotiate
Many people think they have no power in a hurricane insurance claim. They accept lowball offers because they’re desperate for help.
In reality, you can always negotiate. In some cases, you might get a better offer through negotiations than you predicted.
Negotiations are stressful and tough for some people, though. It is recommended that you consult a Florida hurricane damage lawyer for robust assistance during negotiations.
Reopening the Claim
If you discover further damage, you may need to reopen your hurricane property damage claim.
In most cases, you should have up to one year after the date of the hurricane to file additional claims.
Contact a Florida property damage claim attorney if you get rebuffed by your insurer.
Do I Need to Hire a Hurricane Property Damage Attorney?
Sadly these claims rarely go as the claimant desires immediately. Insurance companies will do anything to reduce your settlement – remember, they’re for-profit businesses.
If you have been unfairly treated or received an unsatisfactory settlement offer, contact a Florida hurricane property damage attorney.
Alternatively, working with a property damage lawyer from day one is also recommended. They will take care of all communications, reducing the stress and burden placed on you and ensuring you get the maximum possible settlement.
Hire a Florida Property Damage Attorney Today
If your home or business has suffered from hurricane damage in Florida, then contact us today.
Attorney Jonathon Douglas leads the property damage claim team nationally ranked by US News and World Reports as a Tier 1 Law Firm, Battaglia Ross Dicus & McQuaid, P.A.
Having previously represented some of the largest insurance companies in the State of Florida, Mr. Douglas uses his inside knowledge and experience to help you navigate hurricane insurance claims.
Regardless of your situation, you can receive a free consultation today.