Unlike any other state in the nation, Florida’s geography sets the stage for powerful thunder- and tropical storm activity, which are often accompanied by strong winds, flash floods, tornadoes, and – with the proper conditions – hail. Property damage resulting from severe weather is exacerbated when the damage remains exposed to the elements.
Many hurricane property damage victims in Florida, unfortunately, find out too late that insurance companies may not pay a claim in full, or that insurance companies will delay a claim’s payout. If you or a loved one has been the victim of storm-related property damage, or your insurance provider has underpaid or denied your claim, contact an experienced storm-related property damage lawyer to discuss your legal options.
How Property Owners Can Build a Compelling Claim
Property owners should take every precaution when it comes to securing their property, because insurance companies and their adjusters will take advantage of insurance loopholes to deny claims or mitigate their financial liability.
The Shiner Law Group provides some of the tactics insurance companies employ to avoid paying for storm-related damages:
- State that property owners failed to mitigate storm-related damages or fix preventable maintenance issues properly.
- Attribute water damage to flooding or pre existing leaks.
- Claim that unsafe living conditions existed prior to the storm (i.e. residing near the coast).
Property damage victims should know that flooding from rising water—storm surges, flooded lakes, etc.—is typically not covered under standard home insurance, so property owners may need to take out an additional flood insurance policy.
Note: The National Flood Insurance Reform Act (NFIRA) of 1994, enacted by Congress, mandates a 30-day waiting period before a new flood insurance policy, as well as any modification to a preexisting policy, can take effect.
Receiving financial compensation for damaged roofs depends on several factors: the age of the roof, its condition prior to the storm, and the type of coverage purchased.
What to Do Before and After a Hurricane
The storm damage insurance claims process can be particularly complex; however, property owners should be wary that insurance companies, while there to protect you, are focused on protecting their financial interests.
So, what should you do before and after a hurricane?
First and foremost, do not wait to secure an insurance policy; most insurance policies limit a claimant’s time to file. Second, minimize storm damage by securing your residence and create an inventory of your personal belongings. Take pictures, record video, and recover proofs of purchase to help build the most compelling claim.
After the storm has passed:
- Assess the damage. Document any evidence and procure news stories of the storm’s presence in your area, as it may be required.
- Contact reputable contractors and obtain three written proposals. Ensure the contractor performs a full property inspection. Be wary of contractors who are approved by insurance companies, as they may have a financial incentive to save the insurance company money.
- Familiarize yourself with your insurance policy and contact your insurance company’s claims department. Be prepared to provide evidence, including your contractor’s estimate. Record the names of insurance representatives you have communicated with and document conservations.
When your claim is approved, the insurance company will send two separate payments. The first payment is to cover the cost of materials, which your contractor must order in your name. After the materials are delivered and the repairs are complete, your property will be subject to a city inspection. Property owners will be able to approve all repairs before making the second payment to their contractor.
In the event a claim is denied, property owners are entitled to meet with three insurance adjusters. Most state laws prohibit policy cancellations in the event of severe weather. Additionally, insurance companies cannot increase a policyholder’s rate without increasing the rate for all policyholders in the area.