Understanding the Claims-Filing Process for Hurricane Insurance
We all remember the hurricanes that devastated Florida and Texas last year. In addition to the many deaths and injuries, about 200,000 homes sustained wind and water damage. In the aftermath, countless people were left scrambling, trying to process a claim with their insurance companies or government agencies.
Be Prepared for the Storm
One of the many lessons learned from past hurricanes is to be prepared. Part of that preparation involves getting ready to file a claim if you need to later.
- Find and waterproof your homeowner's and, if you have one, your flood insurance policies. Homeowner's policies don't cover flood damage.
- Make a note of policy numbers, phone numbers and other pertinent information.
- Read your policy. Deductibles for hurricane damage are typically higher than your standard deductible.
- Take a lot of pictures and videos of your home and belongings, including what's inside cabinets or drawers. If you have time, make up an inventory list. Upload electronic policies, photos and other documents to an online storage site for safekeeping.
Contact Your Insurance Company
If you've sustained storm damage, contact your insurance company as soon as policy. There are time limits, so don't wait too long.
You'll receive a claim number and be contacted by an adjuster. Take lots of pictures of the damage; later, take more pictures of any changes. If any part of your claim is disputed, these pictures are evidence.
Mitigate Storm Damage
You're legally required to do what you can to prevent further damage. This could involve putting a tarp on a leaky roof or trying to dry out water-damaged items. Mold grows very quickly.
Keep Careful Records
Keep records of phone calls to the company, contractors and others including dates, names, phone numbers and what actions will be taken. You need to stay on top of everything. If there's a problem later, your documentation will be invaluable.
Know Your Rights
Be polite, but remember most things are negotiable and insurance companies seldom hurry.
- Never accept the first offer. In fact, don't sign anything until you've had it looked at by an attorney who routinely deals with insurance companies. This may be the largest insurance claim you'll ever have, so protect yourself.
- Don't forget the adjuster's paycheck comes from the insurance company.
- You don't have to settle for the contractor the insurance company wants you to use for an estimate or the work. Get a second opinion.
- Check your policy for the right to mediation or an appraisal to settle a dispute.
- Don't be defrauded by unscrupulous contractors who abuse an Assignment of Benefits agreement which "assigns" your rights under your policy to the contractor. Have an attorney check agreements or contracts before you sign.
For help with Florida property insurance claims, contact Strems Law Firm. You've been through enough. Let an experienced lawyer fight to protect your right to fair compensation. Call (786) 661-3111 or go online today to schedule a free case evaluation.