If you live in an area at risk for weather-related damage, such as from hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and other natural disasters, purchasing insurance coverage for this possible damage may either be required or at least, heavily recommended. However, if you ultimately end up suffering damage from a weather-related natural disaster, filing a claim may often be more difficult than you expect.
Unfortunately, many insurance companies may look for ways to avoid paying your claim. Indeed, this has been very common with hurricane insurance claims, as your home insurance provider may claim your policy does not cover damage from a storm surge caused by the hurricane, while your flood insurance provider may claim the storm surge damage was wind damage since the hurricane propelled the water and could refuse to compensate you, too.
Florida frequently experiences hurricanes and various other weather-related natural disasters that can cause serious devastation for large areas of the state. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the United States loses more than $50 billion per year in economic damages because of hurricane winds and storm-related flooding alone. Meanwhile, the CBO estimates that insurance coverage will only cover about 50 percent of residential losses.
If you have suffered hurricane or other weather-related damage, trying to recover from the damage can often be confusing and difficult, especially if you try to pursue an insurance claim on your own. A skilled Florida attorney like Mike Redondo and the team at Redondo Law can help you navigate the disaster damage claims process while allowing you to focus on rebuilding your life as Redondo Law negotiates with the insurance company on your behalf.
Overview of Natural Disaster Damage Claims
Depending on the nature of your damages and the terms of your insurance policy coverage for weather-related damage claims, you may be entitled to compensation for damages such as:
- Property damage to your home
- Damages to other structures on your property such as sheds or barns
- Damages to fencing or other improvements on your property
- Loss of use of your property
- Relocation expenses such as hotel costs
What is the Disaster Damage Claims Process?
There are several steps you should take if you have suffered damage from a hurricane or other weather-related natural disaster. This includes steps to begin the recovery process as well as the necessary steps to navigate the disaster damage claims process.
File Your Disaster Damage Insurance Claim Immediately
Most insurance policies generally require you to act quickly following damage from a storm or other natural disaster. You will likely need to file an insurance claim as soon as possible after suffering the damage. This is why it is so important to document everything thoroughly, and it is also why it is often crucial to have an experienced attorney help guide you through the process and negotiate with the insurer on your behalf. Failing to immediately file an insurance claim after suffering weather-related damage may be seen as suspicious by your insurance company and make your insurer more likely to deny or undervalue your claim. In filing a claim, you should be sure to closely follow any specific requirements or details for filing a claim that may be present in your policy.
Cover Up Any Damaged Property
If you have suffered any property damage from the disaster, such as damage to the roof of your home, you should cover it with a tarp or similar covering to prevent water or other additional damage once it is safe to do so. If you are not able to safely make repairs yourself, consider contacting a professional to assist you. Preventing any additional damage can help you avoid potential safety hazards while lowering the ultimate costs to repair or replace the damaged property. This step is especially important as many insurance companies may point to any additional damage caused after the storm as a reason to blame you for the damage and deny your insurance claim.
Document All of Your Damage
You should be sure to document everything related to any weather-related damage you suffered from the disaster. Be sure to take photos of all damaged property and be sure that pictures show all of the property and damage. Try to get pictures that show all four sides of your home and as much of the roof as you can, as well as close-ups that show any damage in better detail. Take pictures of entire rooms inside your home, then of individual items. As you take pictures of your property and damages, be sure to keep a detailed inventory of all damaged property. Complete records and pictures can often be the difference in proving your damages and losses when filing an insurance claim. This evidence can help you prove the extent of your losses and prevent the insurer from finding a way to deny your claim.
What the Insurer May Try to Do During the Claims Process
Insurance companies will often do everything in their power to reduce the amount of compensation they pay, if any, to settle any insurance claims after a natural disaster. Insurance companies make their money by paying as little as they can, even after people have diligently paid their premiums for months (or even years) with the expectation that the insurer would be there to compensate for any hurricane or other weather-related damage. Unfortunately, insurance adjusters and representatives may interpret language within your policy in such a way that allows them to manipulate the situation to their advantage. As a result, the insurer may utilize various strategies to make it more difficult for you to receive compensation for any damages you suffered. These tactics include:
- Denying that your insurance policy is even valid;
- Claiming that your damage was caused by an uncovered event;
- Denying your claim by arguing that your claim is excluded or partially excluded under your individual policy;
- Trying to force you to settle under other policy coverage categories rather than paying your claim under the appropriate coverage category;
- Disputing the amount or extent of your damages;
- Claiming that your damages were caused by your failure to take appropriate remedial measures such as covering a damaged roof before it could suffer additional water damage;
- Using undervalued estimates, valuations, or offers to get you to agree to lower payments that do not fully cover the extent of your damages;
- Attempting to convince you to settle your claim as quickly as possible before you have had the opportunity to speak with an attorney to assist you with your disaster damage claim;
- Attempting to convince you that you do not need a lawyer to help resolve any claims dispute;
- Demanding you sign a written release of any supplemental claims you may have as a condition of payment or settlement of your claim; or
- Writing “final” or “full” on a settlement check even when you may reasonably believe that you have an additional or supplemental claim for that loss.
Other common tactics include denying their obligation to defend you against any claims made under liability insurance coverage. Insurers may also try to minimalize subsequently incurred expenses that arise from your property damage, such as hotel stays, rental vehicles, temporary storage units, and other costs.
Why Hiring a Lawyer Will Help Your Claim
Insurance companies have teams of attorneys whose sole purpose is to save the insurer as much money as possible. To do so, their job is to settle claims such as yours for as little as they can. Facing the insurer with its team of lawyers by yourself can be a daunting task and may ultimately leave you with much less compensation than you may actually be entitled to, or none at all if the insurer succeeds in denying your damages claim. Your attorney can help you hold your insurance company accountable while giving you the ability to get your life back on track with your property restored. Furthermore, an attorney can help make sure that you file any claim within the applicable legal time limits, known as the statute of limitations, to make sure that any such claim is not barred as being too late after the damages were sustained.
If you have suffered hurricane, flood, or any other weather-related damage, you should contact an experienced Florida weather damages lawyer like Mike Redondo as soon as possible to discuss your rights and to help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Mike and the team at Redondo Law are experienced, knowledgeable, and skilled to help you through the recovery process and to fight the insurance companies on your behalf to make sure you are compensated for your damages.
Contact Redondo Law for Your Hurricane and Weather-Related Damage Claims
With Redondo Law, you will have the assistance of an attorney and team who can assess the true extent of your weather-related damage, discuss your legal options, estimate how much your claim may be worth, navigate the insurance claims process with your insurer, and work to negotiate a fair settlement that compensates you for your losses. Contact Redondo Law today for a free, comprehensive consultation where we will answer your questions about your weather damages claim and advise you of your rights.