Best Practices when Reporting Hurricane Damage to your Insurance Company
Hurricane Ian has devastated our lives, homes, and businesses in the SWFL area. Reuters reports insurance losses up to $60 billion. The damage from Hurricane Ian is one of the largest in insurance losses from a catastrophe second only to Hurricane Katrina, which caused $85 billion in insurance losses. If you have suffered damage to your home or business as a result of Hurricane Ian, it is important that you know how the insurance claim process works. In this post, we provide some basic information on the insurance claim process and best practices for documenting and reporting your claim.
What are the first steps you should take when property is damaged by a hurricane?
One of the most important steps to take when property is damaged by a hurricane (or any insurable event) is to document all damages to your property. You should immediately take photos and videos of your damaged property, identify any damages to your property in writing by taking notes of all damages, and attempt to preserve any property that has suffered damage from the storm. When doing so, it is important that you keep said documentation organized and easily accessible as you will likely need it down the road during the claims process.
Your next step is to report your claim as soon as possible. You can report your claim by calling your insurance company or making a claim online. Be sure to write down your claim number and retain any correspondence you receive from your insurance company after you report your claim. When reporting your claim, be sure to share any information regarding the damages to your home with your insurance company. Your insurance company cannot cover damages of which it is not aware, so do your best to be as detailed as possible.
Additionally, when reporting your claim to your insurance company it is crucial that you keep documentation of your conversations with the insurance company. This includes keeping a list of the names and contact information of any insurance employees with whom you have conversations including adjuster(s), desk adjuster(s), claims manager(s)/advisor(s), etc. Your insurance company will keep a call log which details these conversations, so it is important that you make similar records of these conversations in the event you need to reference them later. Having organized logs of these communications may help you in the event of a legal dispute with your insurance company.
Make sure you understand your coverage
As you document and report your damages, it is also important that you understand your coverage. Your coverage may not only cover structural and/or property damage, but it could also cover costs of relocation, loss of use or rent, temporary repairs, business interruption, and other costs.
Under Florida law, “Hurricane Coverage” is defined as “coverage for loss or damage caused by the peril of windstorm during a hurricane. The term includes ensuing damage to the interior of a building, or to property inside a building, caused by rain, snow, sleet, hail, sand, or dust if the direct force of the windstorm first damages the building, causing an opening through which rain, snow, sleet, hail, sand, or dust enters and causes damage.” See §627.4025(a) Fla. Stat. (2022). Your policy may include language for hurricane coverage as mentioned above and may provide certain coverage(s) of which you may not be aware.
If you are having difficulties understanding your coverage, contact an attorney to assist you with the claims process. Understanding your coverage is key to reporting all damages you may have suffered or continue to suffer as a result of the storm.
What should you do if the insurance company gives you a low valuation on your claim?
After you report your claim, your insurance company is required to “adjust” your claim within ninety (90) days. In other words, the insurance company is required to give you a response to your claim and a decision of whether you have coverage for the claim and how much the company is offering to pay on said claim within ninety (90) days.
Oftentimes, dealing with insurance companies can be frustrating. Unfortunately, insurance companies attempt to pay out as little as possible on claims. Thus, the insurance company’s first offer is usually much lower than the actual damages you have suffered.
Therefore, after you receive your first offer, do not immediately accept it (and do not cash the check, if they have already issued you a check for your claim). It is in your best interest to review the offer and determine whether the amount the insurance company has offered to pay is sufficient to both repair and/or replace your property and cover any other losses you may have (i.e. loss of use, etc.).
Importantly, you should base your decision on the actual cost to repair or replace your property. Insurance companies will often issue what is called a “scope of loss” which details the losses to the property and the amount(s) that the insurance company is paying to repair/replace the same. These “scopes” are not repair estimates and should not be relied upon by you in determining whether the amount is sufficient. You should obtain valid, competitive quotes from actual contractor(s) and professionals in order to determine whether an insurance settlement is sufficient. You should obtain at least two quotes from qualified professional(s).
If you believe an insurance company’s offer is too low to actually cover the damages to your property, then you should contact an attorney to determine your next steps.
What if the insurance company isn’t responding?
Being ignored by your insurance company is a common and frustrating issue. Insurance companies are typically required to respond to you within 14 days, but actual response time can vary widely with insurance companies. If your insurance company is non-responsive, you can contact an attorney to determine your best strategy moving forward.
If you have questions, contact an attorney to assist you.
Most people simply have never had to deal with the insurance claim process (and, hopefully, will never have to deal with this process in the future). As a result, many people attempt to navigate the process on their own and fall victim to the many tactics of insurance companies to underpay and refuse to pay valid claims. The attorneys at Boatman Ricci can assist you by helping you understand the claims process and your rights under your insurance policy. And, if your insurance company underpays or refuses to pay your valid claim, Boatman Ricci can assist in bringing legal action against your insurance company.
If have questions or concerns regarding your insurance claim, please contact Boatman Ricci at (239) 330-1494 to schedule an initial consultation.
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THIS BLOG IS INTENDED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. IT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE. THE READER SHOULD CONSULT WITH KNOWLEDGEABLE LEGAL COUNSEL TO DETERMINE HOW APPLICABLE LAWS APPLY TO SPECIFIC FACTS AND SITUATIONS. BLOG POSTS ARE BASED ON THE MOST CURRENT INFORMATION AT THE TIME THEY ARE WRITTEN. SINCE IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE LAWS OR OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES MAY HAVE CHANGED SINCE PUBLICATION, PLEASE CALL US TO DISCUSS ANY ACTION YOU MAY BE CONSIDERING AS A RESULT OF READING THIS BLOG.
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 Niket Nishant, “Insurers stare at up to $60 bln hit from Hurricane Ian, AIG chief Zaffino says,” Reuters, November 2, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/business/insurers-stare-up-60-bln-hit-hurricane-ian-aig-chief-zaffino-says-2022-11-02/