If your house is damaged in a hurricane in Florida, you should notify your insurance company, start the process of preparing and filing a claim for your losses, and talk to a lawyer if the insurer does not treat you fairly. Although Florida law does not require you to work with a lawyer on your hurricane damage claim, that might help you get the insurance payout that you deserve.
The old adage, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” is often applied to dealing with insurers after a hurricane. The companies might have hundreds or thousands of claims to process at one time, and they tend to take claims that involve lawyers seriously.
Assess the Damage to Your Property
After the storm passes and it is safe to go outside, you should evaluate the exterior of your home for damage. Try to get a good look at the roof. Roof damage can lead to interior harm to your home.
Contact Your Homeowner’s Insurance Company
You should contact your insurer immediately about the storm damage and your intent to file a claim under your homeowner’s insurance policy. Have the company tell you the steps they want you to follow in preparing your paperwork.
Some insurers require you to use their form for the damages claim. If you use a different template, even if it is one that the insurance industry generally accepts, your insurance carrier might deny your claim for improper notice.
Time is of the essence in notifying your insurer. One company denied a policyholder’s claim because he was working on fixing the damage and preventing further harm to the house for two days before he contacted his carrier.
After a significant event like a hurricane, insurers assemble teams of claims adjusters, appraisers, and estimators to evaluate the damage to the homes they insure. You need to get on this list right away. If you miss out when the team does a sweep through your area, you might have to wait weeks or months to get your damage inspected.
Read Your Homeowner’s Insurance Policy
The language in your policy will control whether you will get insurance proceeds for the damage to your home. All homeowner’s policies exclude coverage for certain events. For example, a standard policy will not pay benefits for flood damage. You would have to purchase a separate flood insurance policy to have protection in that situation.
Sometimes the way that you word your damages claim can cause the insurer to deny your claim. For example, your policy might say that it will pay for damage from storm surge but not from flooding. If you inadvertently refer to the cause of the damage as flooding instead of storm surge, the insurance carrier might deny your claim.
Create a Documentation File for Your Damages Claim
Much of the proof of your claim will get lost if you do not act quickly. You should take photographs and videos right away, before conditions change. It could take months for the insurer to process your paperwork, and you want evidence of the damage when it was fresh.
Make sure that you do not misplace any of the receipts from your out-of-pocket costs. Your policy might provide some benefits for a hotel or other lodging, meals, and travel when you cannot stay in your damaged home. Put all of the receipts, credit card slips, and other proof in a resealable gallon-size plastic bag.
Keep copies of all the repair estimates, appraisals, inspections, and other assessments done on your property. If you had to buy clothing, furniture, or other personal property to replace what the storm-damaged, you should keep documentation of those purchases. The bottom line is that you should prepare as if you would have to stand in front of a judge a year from now and prove all of these losses with physical evidence.
Cooperate With Your Insurance Company
Give the insurer the documentation they want as soon as they ask for it. Understand that they are handling hundreds, if not thousands, of claims. Make it a simpler process for them to send you your money.
Talk to a Lawyer
We saw the destruction hurricanes Michael and Irma left behind, and you deserve protection once a hurricane ravages through your area. If the insurance carrier denies your damages claim or only offers to pay part of your claim, you might need the help of an attorney. At the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine, we help people in your situation. We can contact the insurer and try to get them to pay you a fair amount for your losses. We can advocate for you, negotiate with the insurance company, and file a lawsuit if we have to do so, in order to get you the compensation you deserve.
Call the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine today at 1-800-747-3733 to get started.