Table of Contents
- What Should I Do After a Hurricane?
- Hurricane Insurance Claim Checklist
- What Types of Damages Am I Entitled To?
- What are the Common Types of Hurricane Property Damage?
- How Do I Document Property Damage After a Hurricane?
- Tips to Avoid Injury When Returning Home After Evacuation
- Dealing With the Insurance Adjuster
- What is a Public Adjuster?
- What Tactics Do Insurance Companies Employ?
- Contact a Lawyer for Hurricane Insurance Claim Assistance
- Hurricane Claims Lawsuits: FAQs
Florida Hurricane Claim Attorneys
Boca Raton Florida Insurance Claim Attorneys Stand Ready to Fight for the Compensation and Support You Need After a Hurricane
When your insurance company fails to live up to its promises, we step in and protect your legal rights and financial future. Download a copy of “Tips for Speaking with Your Adjuster” checklist here.
Living in South Florida comes with many benefits such as seemingly endless sunshine and warm temperatures, access to the beach, and endless outdoor activities and sports. Unfortunately, with these benefits also comes the potential for devastating losses caused by hurricanes. From June through November, Floridians are constantly monitoring the weather in the Atlantic Ocean. The dreaded cone of uncertainty that predicts where a storm is going to hit is part of everyone’s daily discussion.
Hurricanes have the potential to destroy property and cause serious damage that can have negative impacts long after the storm has passed. At Osborne & Associates Law Firm, P.A., our South Florida insurance claim attorneys aren’t afraid to go up against insurance companies that have unfairly denied, delayed, or devalued your claims. We’re ready to investigate your claims, gather evidence to support your position, and help you achieve the best possible outcome.
What Should I Do After a Hurricane?
In order to make sure you receive the full monetary coverage you deserve after a hurricane, you should:
- Document all losses and expenses: Be sure all your property damage is documented in writing and through pictures and video. Don’t throw anything away without itemizing and documenting it first.
- File a claim: You should file your claim as soon as possible. By law, insurance companies must send out an adjuster when a claim is filed; any delay in filing could affect the overall outcome of your award.
- Seek legal assistance: Dealing with insurance agencies and adjusters can be burdensome, especially in a situation that’s already stressful. A Florida hurricane claim attorney can review your rights and options, and will possess the knowledge and expertise that you may be lacking for these claims.
- Obtain a second opinion: If you know anyone who is a civil engineer or an expert on home damage, you may want to have them look at your home. Insurance companies often have their own interests in mind, not yours.
See our checklist below for items you should gather when preparing a hurricane insurance claim:
What Types of Damages Am I Entitled To?
Before a hurricane ever strikes, it is important to carefully read your homeowner’s policy to understand exactly what type of damage is covered. A comprehensive insurance policy covers:
- Damage to or the loss of your home
- Damage to other buildings or structures on your property such as detached garages, decks, fencing, swimming pools, and pool cages
- The contents of your home
- Loss of the use of your home
- Payments to third parties for liability or medical expenses
Each policy or contract will be different and may be subject to change over time, so it’s important to periodically review your coverage for any adjustments.
A Note on Windstorm vs. Flood Insurance
Most Florida residents have some form of windstorm coverage, but many others might not have specific flood coverage. Make sure you understand what your policy covers — many homeowners wrongly assume their homeowner’s insurance policy covers flood damage when it actually might not.
Hurricanes can create both wind and flood damage. The way the damage is categorized can affect the amount of your claim, so be sure you check your policy and understand exactly what’s covered and what isn’t. If you aren’t sure about your coverage, contact a lawyer who can help you review your policy and make sure you’re receiving the reimbursements you’re entitled to.
What are the Common Types of Hurricane Property Damage?
Hurricanes are known to cause property damage through a number of different factors, including high winds, floodwaters, and flying objects. The following are common types of property damage that you might be dealing with after a hurricane:
- Structural Damage: Hurricanes can damage walls, doors, and other areas of the house. Powerful winds can destroy roofing or even lift entire sections of the roof off the house. This can leave the house further exposed to stormy weather.
- Broken windows: High winds and pressure can shatter windows, even if they’re shuttered closed. Flying objects can also break glass windows and doors.
- Water Damage: Rain, flooding, and burst pipes can damage a home in many different ways. This can also lead to mold and mildew after the hurricane conditions are over.
- Personal Property Losses: Clothes and other small items can be severely damaged in a hurricane, especially if they are exposed to wet conditions for long periods of time.
- Electronics: Power surges during a storm can damage or wipe all electronics and appliances that happened to be plugged in during the storm. Try to unplug as many household items as you can before a storm.
Also, other types of property and assets besides the home itself can suffer damage in a hurricane. This includes tool sheds, swimming pools, and automobiles. Be sure to document all of your affected assets. A delay or denial of a hurricane insurance claim can occur if you don’t fully record all losses, or if you make errors in the process.
How Do I Document Property Damage After a Hurricane?
Before hurricane season begins, you should be sure your household is well-stocked with flashlights, fresh water, non-perishable food, first aid kits, and any other items that might help you during the event.
After a hurricane, you should take the following steps to make sure you aren’t being taken advantage of during an insurance inspection:
- Take as many photos and videos of the property damage as you can — this can help provide evidence in case the adjuster tries to downplay the value of the damage.
- Write down notes describing the damaged property, including its original cost and approximate date of purchase; don’t throw anything away that hasn’t been inspected.
- Keep all receipts and invoices that can help support your claim.
- Make sure you have copies of all documents, photos, and videos before submitting them to the adjuster.
Make sure you are fully present and paying close attention during the adjuster’s inspection. After a hurricane, insurance adjusters may try to rush through the process so they can get to their next inspection appointment. Be sure they conduct a thorough assessment of your property, even in areas that have no apparent damage, as there may be hidden or latent damage there. Don’t let yourself be rushed through the process.
Tips to Avoid Injury When Returning Home After Evacuation
When returning to your home after evacuation, you should take precautions to avoid injury if you’ve been away for a while. These include measures such as:
Only travel home if it’s been declared safe to do so
Even if a hurricane has fully passed, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s safe for you to travel back home. Standing water can damage the roads and may sweep vehicles away. Downed power lines and fallen trees can also block travel routes. Simply being in your car won’t protect you from these hazards.
Only travel back home when it’s truly safe to do so.
Be extra cautious when re-entering your home
When it is safe to travel home, try to make sure you arrive during daylight hours. This will help minimize additional dangers and difficulties when entering. Check for structural damage as well as damage to gas and power lines. If there is flooding in your home, don’t re-enter until a professional lets you know it’s safe to do so. If you hear strange noises, leave immediately — these could be an indication that the structure is about to fall or collapse.
If you need to use a flashlight, turn it on before you enter any vacant building. The battery could create a spark that ignites any gas leaks in the area.
Minimize electrocution risks
Be extremely careful to avoid electrocution when re-entering a flooded home. Do not turn the power off or on, or use any electrical items while standing in water. Also, check for underground or downed power lines, which may charge standing water. When in doubt, get in touch with an electrician for advice or assistance.
Also, it’s important that you do your best to keep your phone charged during this time — it will likely be a main way of communicating with loved ones and insurance companies. If your power is out, find different ways to charge your phone, like through your car or with a portable charger.
Be mindful of extreme weather conditions
Hurricanes can put survivors out of power for weeks; this also means potential exposure to extreme heat with no air conditioning. Stay hydrated while cleaning and stop all activity if you begin to feel tired.
Also, when using generators, be mindful of carbon monoxide exposure. Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the main causes of death after a hurricane. Elderly people and children should be relocated to hotels or other places if possible when hot weather is an issue, as they are often particularly vulnerable to the heat.
Beware of mold and clean safely
If your home has been flooded and closed up for many days, you should assume that it has mold. Make sure you clean and thoroughly dry as needed, and discard all spoiled food. Wear protective gear such as masks and gloves.
People who have lung conditions or are immunocompromised should avoid entering areas where mold is present, and very young children should also refrain from participating in cleanup. Make sure you have documented all damage before beginning cleanup.
Take care of your emotional health
Anxiety and stress can be common right after a major hurricane. Don’t try to face these pressures on your own — this can make things worse. Speak with a friend or loved one, call a disaster distress hotline, or talk to a counselor if you feel overwhelmed. You should also avoid any dangerous clean-up situations if you feel mentally or emotionally compromised in any way.
Dealing With the Insurance Adjuster
When you file a hurricane damage claim, the insurance company will send out an insurance adjuster to assess your property and begin the process of valuing the losses. How you handle this property evaluation can make or break your claim. Here are some points to help you understand exactly who adjusters are:
- Adjusters may have an intensely heavy workload immediately after a hurricane. They may be traveling from hundreds of miles away and could be working long hours.
- Adjusters may charge a percentage of the award, which could affect your overall compensation
- Many insurance agents may be working only part-time or doing adjusting as a “side gig” right after a hurricane
- Insurance adjusters can often be young, inexperienced, and poorly trained
Due to these considerations, it’s in your best interest to work with a hurricane claims attorney who can help review documents and protect your rights when interacting with an adjuster.
What is a Public Adjuster?
In contrast, public adjusters assist the insured by estimating damage and negotiating with insurance companies in presentation of claims. When working with a public adjuster, always check their credentials to make sure they are legitimate.
Should I Hire a Public Adjuster or a Property Damage Attorney?
However, it is advisable to contact an attorney early on, before you contact a public adjuster. You may also consider hiring an attorney rather than working with a public adjuster, who may not be 100% familiar with your case. In comparison, an attorney understands all the complex legal defenses and strategies the insurance company might use to try and lessen the value of your claim.
Working with a Public Adjuster vs. Hiring a Hurricane Damage Attorney
- Licensed to help with hurricane damage insurance issues
- Can estimate property damage and losses
- Not always able to settle for full damage reimbursement
- May not be aware of alternative options or complex legal nuances
Hurricane Damage Lawyers
- Intimately knowledgeable on a broad range of hurricane claims
- Can pursue the best legal strategies for compensation
- Able to identify gaps and potential disputes in a policy
- Can pick up where an adjuster’s assistance leaves off
What Tactics Do Insurance Companies Employ?
One of the main methods insurance companies employ to avoid providing full payment is by devaluing your home and the contents within. We work tirelessly to develop a strong case to support the full value of your home and property to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.
Another tactic is to miscategorize property damage so that the insurance company pays less. An example of this is attempting to categorize damage from the wind as flood damage, or vice versa.
Lastly, there may be attempts to downplay the total, actual damage sustained in order to cut costs. To avoid missing compensation for the full value of the property damage it is vital to document your property damage through photos and videos.
Contact a Lawyer for Hurricane Insurance Claim Assistance
Hurricanes are a part of life in South Florida. Insurance policies are designed to protect property owners in the event of hurricane wind and water damage. When insurance companies fail to follow the law and leave homeowners without the financial support they need, the South Florida insurance claim attorneys at Osborne & Associates Law Firm, P.A. are here to help.
To discuss your options during a free consultation, call us at (561) 293-2600 or send an email today. We serve clients throughout South Florida, including Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Broward County, and all surrounding areas.
Hurricane Claims Lawsuits: FAQs
You should actually contact an attorney as soon as possible, preferably before contacting the insurance agency. By doing so, you have the chance to have a legal professional review your policy and documents and inform you of how to proceed. Also, the attorney will be able to interact and negotiate with the adjuster and the insurance company on your behalf.
You should file as soon as you are able to do so. By law, insurance companies are required to investigate and settle insurance claims in a timely manner. Delayed payments from insurance companies often lead to additional expenses that the homeowner must cover during an already emotional and financially stressful time.
The Statute of Limitations regarding property damage claims resulting from a hurricane requires that the insured provide notice of the claim to the insurance company within three years from the date the hurricane made landfall or caused the damage. Trust our South Florida insurance claims attorneys to work diligently to help you receive the support you need as fast as possible.
This depends on the exact terms of your policy contract. In some cases, it may be possible to appeal or contest the results of a claim. However, this can create even more delays and can translate into even more losses for you. This is why it’s important to contact an attorney right away, so they can identify potential issues and conflicts in your policy.