Hurricane Insurance – What you need to know
Am I covered?
This is the main question. The short answer is “it depends.” Most homeowners have windstorm coverage in their standard insurance policies. While the language can vary somewhat, usually you are covered if a named storm causes damage to your roof, causes water to enter your home or business or otherwise causes damage to the structure.
What do I do after a storm?
Before and after a storm, you should take photographs of your home or business and the contents. When a storm like Hurricane Michael hits, it can level structures making it nearly impossible to prove or disprove what was inside the home. If you want to be compensated for the contents of your home, you’ll need to be able to establish what you had, its prior condition and its current condition.
One of the first things you should do, perhaps even before documenting the damage, is to call your insurance company and make a claim. Remember, you have paid a premium for a number of years for the possibility that something like this might happen. Insurance is a product, like a car or a television. The only difference is that it is not something that you can see or touch. However, it is still a product that you have been buying for years. When a major named storm does significant damage to your home, it not the time to be shy about demanding that you receive the product that you purchased.
We have heard stories of insurance companies being overwhelmed during major hurricanes and either not answering their phones or denying claims without the appropriate investigation. Both of these practices are simply unacceptable and you need to speak to an attorney if your claim is not being considered promptly and seriously.
How does my deductible figure into a claim?
Hurricane deductibles range generally from 2% to 10%. Insurance companies sometimes write estimates that are just enough to meet your deductible, so that you end up getting no money in the end. If you get an estimate that is coincidentally about the same as your deductible, you should see this as a red flag that something isn’t right and you should contact an attorney.
How long do I have to make a claim?
Almost every policy requires prompt reporting of your claim. There are statutory limits that require claims to be made within two years. However, if you have been through a named storm and you know you have damage, you should contact your insurance company immediately. There is no reason to wait. You should not be concerned about rates going up because you make a claim. By and large, such myths are just that – myths. Remember, you paid for a product and it is time to receive that product.
Should I use a public adjuster?
Public adjusters come out in droves after hurricanes. They populate damaged areas looking for clients to assist in making claims. This can be overwhelming for some families and communities to handle, especially after suffering major losses to their property and, sometimes, lives. Like any profession, some public adjusters are upstanding and others are questionable. Please do your due diligence before signing up with public adjusters.
Can I deposit checks that have been issued by the insurance company?
Once again, it depends. Make sure you read the check very carefully along with any letters or releases that may accompany the check. If there is any language that suggests that you are accepting full and final payment by depositing the check, you will likely not be able to pursue the matter further. If the payments are interim payments and clearly not meant to be final payments, you can probably deposit the checks. This is important in post-hurricane situations because repairs often need to take place immediately, even if it is not the full repair. Thus, you may get a check that will only allow for the roof to be repaired, but will not cover your personal effects or the damage to the interior. This is something you’ll obviously want to do right away to prevent further damage. Just make sure that you are not preventing yourself from receiving further funds from the insurance company. You may want to call us first before depositing the check so that we can discuss your particular situation.
Should I sign a release given by the insurance company?
Only if you are not interested in obtaining additional funds and are satisfied with the payments you have received. A release likely will preclude you from receiving any additional money on the case.