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?
Another type of adjuster is the public adjuster. Public adjusters are professionals who are licensed by the Florida Department of Financial Services. They are allowed to represent the rights of the insured during the property insurance claim process. They are different from the insurance adjuster, who is hired by the insurance company.
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?
Public adjusters are legally allowed to charge a percentage of the settlement or payout that the insured is awarded. If your public adjuster is unable to settle your claim you will need the assistance of an attorney who specializes in property loss cases.
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?
Insurance companies are often known to utilize unlawful tactics to avoid paying full damages.
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.