Navigating how to file an insurance claim after a hurricane can feel like one more thing on top of devastating loss. What steps should you be taking to ensure you get fairly compensated? In this post, we’ll discuss your options so you have peace of mind and are prepared for the process.
After your loss, it’s important to contact your insurance agent as soon as possible. The insurance agent will have forms to fill out and a checklist of what documents and information are required to ensure your claim is successful.
Following the insurance agent’s instructions is vital, as insurance companies can deny your claim for hurricane damage if you’ve reported your damage too late or filed your paperwork incorrectly.
What is a Hurricane Damage Insurance Claim?
You want to file a hurricane damage claim when your property has sustained damage caused by wind or wind-driven rain. Different insurance policies cover different disasters, so it’s important to understand your coverage before filing your claim.
Homeowners’ policies typically cover wind damage, some water damage (i.e. burst pipes), and sewer backup. If your policy doesn’t include these coverages and you live in a hurricane-prone area, it’s wise to add them as separate endorsements.
Flood damage caused by a hurricane will not be covered by your homeowners’ insurance policy. Instead, you’ll need a separate flood insurance policy to cover water and storm surges from natural disasters.
Most homeowners’ insurance policies cover wind damage that results in missing roof shingles or upturned trees. However, in many states, wind damage is covered under a separate insurance policy.
Talk With an Insurance Lawyer Before Filing Your Claim
Nobody should have to take on huge insurance companies alone.
Insurance companies look for ways to save money on payouts. Some will delay payments, undervalue claims, and deny worthy claims. If you believe your insurer is requesting unnecessary documents to delay settling with you, an experienced insurance lawyer can help move the process along.
Insurance attorneys can also assist in the claims process. For example, when assessing damage, the insurer will send their own hired contractor or insurance adjuster to estimate the damage. Everyone analyzes damage differently, so getting additional independent estimates is a good idea.
An experienced insurance attorney will know who to contact, what to look for, and they also understand the best way to communicate with insurance companies, contractors, and other parties.
What Do I Claim on Insurance After a Hurricane?
The insurance company may issue payment for any of the following types of claimed damaged property:
- Water damage
- Wind damage
- Additional Living Expenses (ALEs)
- Roof damage
- Damage to any outbuildings such as a garage or shed
- Any money spent on mitigating the damage (such as having a roofer tarp your roof to prevent further water intrusion)
What’s a hurricane deductible?
Hurricane deductibles are paid in one of two ways:
- Percentage deductible: The amount paid is a percentage of the home’s entire insured value.
- Dollar deductible: Based on specific losses (fire, burglary).
Nineteen states require homeowners to have a hurricane deductible (including Florida, Louisiana, and Texas).
What Should I Do Immediately After the Hurricane?
Ensure your safety. Depending on the state of the home and area, you may need to find lodging elsewhere. Once safe, contact your insurance company and wait for their instructions. It’s important not to make repairs until the adjuster comes out since you want them to get an accurate reading of the damage.
1. Document your damage
- Photograph and write descriptions of all the damage, both internal and external.
- Document any ruined items (furniture, electronics, toys, appliances).
- Take pictures of any damage to the roof and yard, including sheds, decks, and pools.
- Locate receipts for purchased items.
- Document any items purchased, including food, clothing, and shelter post-hurricane.
- ID numbers of items purchased.
2. Start a claim log
List everything you have documented. Make sure you have the name, title, and contact information of anyone you speak to (insurance people, contractors, etc.).
3. Understand your coverage plan
Read your policy before the storm comes. Contact your insurance company and ask them to walk you through anything confusing.
How Do I File a Hurricane Insurance Claim?
Make sure you have a copy of your policy, including the policy number. You’ll need to reference that number when you contact the insurance company, and your policy will have instructions on how to file your claim. Below are tips for filing hurricane damage claims in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, three states where Tighe P.A. practices insurance law.
Tips for filing in Florida
The statute of limitations in Florida provides two years from the date a storm first makes landfall to file a claim after a hurricane.
The state of Florida also provides a Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights. These rights require insurance companies to adhere to certain procedures and timelines. These rights include:
- Notify the claimant within 14 days that the claim has been received.
- 30 days to receive notice that the claim was approved or denied.
- 90 days to notify the claimant that the review is finished and what payout, if any, will be sent.
- The claim will have a maximum amount payable and a deductible to be taken from the total payout.
Homeowners’ insurance laws in FL
The Florida legislature has approved numerous laws for homeowners’ insurance, such as Florida Senate Bill CS/SB 2-D: Property Insurance. They include:
- Companies cannot refuse policies on homes with roofs over 15 years old.
- Limitations on various attorney fees in insurance-related cases.
- New inspection requirements for condominiums.
Tips for filing in Louisiana
In the state of Louisiana, an insurance claim must be filed within 180 days from the end of the state’s emergency declaration. The statute of limitations to file a lawsuit against the insurance company is two years.
Homeowners’ insurance laws in LA
Louisiana passed a bill (Louisiana Act 345) that alters many areas of insurance protocol, including:
- Clients can choose their own contractor for estimates.
- Increased scrutiny and review of carrier depreciation claims.
- Claims adjusters have increased accountability for any improper behavior, including a prohibition of adjusters steering clients to third-party contractors.
Tips for filing in Texas
Be aware that most homeowners’ policies in Texas do not cover flooding.
Homeowner’s insurance laws in TX
Insurance claimants should be mindful of homeowners’ insurance laws passed in Texas, such as Texas Insurance Code Section 542A. These laws include:
- A reduced penalty rate for late payments from lawsuits.
- Limitations on insurance provider payouts for plaintiff’s attorney fees.
- Protections for individual insurance agents from the ramifications of being personally sued.
How Should I Prepare for the Insurance Adjuster’s Visit?
Best practice is to be organized and efficient to ensure a productive visit from your insurance adjuster. Here are key steps to follow.
1. Create an inventory
- Take note of everything damaged.
- Separate the damaged items from items that are intact.
2. Get repair estimates from trusted contractors
The best ways to find a good contractor
- Referrals from people you know and trust.
- Inspect previous work.
- Review their “resume”.
- Verify credentials (insurance, certifications).
- Have a lawyer prepare a contract. Keep everything in writing.
- Have a chat with them.
Avoid dishonest contractors
After a storm, there are always scammers that will come around. Follow the above steps. Be wary of anyone who contacts you or leaves a brochure on your front door. Also, be alert to high-pressure “sign now” sales tactics.
When Do I Get a Settlement from My Claim?
Under most policies, the deadline for insurance companies to initiate the claims process ranges from 15 to 90 days following a catastrophic loss, such as after a hurricane. That timeline varies by state and if your claim is denied, the subsequent disputes can take up to a year or more before you receive a settlement offer.
What If My Claim Is Denied?
If your hurricane insurance claim is denied, you still have options. Contact an experienced insurance lawyer right away to help you assess your case and appeal the denial to ensure you get a fair payout.
Reasons for denied claims
Insurance companies will often deny claims. Sometimes for legitimate reasons and sometimes not. Most insurance companies will try to make a “lowball” offer after they have reviewed your claim.
Some tactics homeowners’ insurance companies use to underpay or deny claims include:
- Categorizing the cause of the damage as an uncovered cause.
- Citing a lack of evidence of the damage as a reason for low pay-out or denial.
- Citing failure to submit all required forms.
- Claiming that the damage occurred before the hurricane.
- Claiming damage is a result of poor maintenance.
- Severely underestimating the cost of repairs.
How Tighe P.A. Fights For You
At Tighe P.A., we know that insurance companies can be bullies. You don’t have to fight them alone. Our insurance attorneys tailor their legal representation to meet your needs and advocate tirelessly on your behalf.
Reach out to Tighe P.A. today and let our insurance attorneys take it from here.