Living in Florida doesn’t always mean sunshine. From May through November, it’s hurricane season. A typical hurricane season in Florida has 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. A major hurricane is one that sees sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater. By November 2018, the Atlantic region had seen eight hurricanes. One was Hurricane Michael, an almost-Category 5 storm that made landfall on October 10th. Officials say it was the strongest hurricane to ever strike the Panhandle.
If Hurricane Michael or another Florida hurricane has impacted you or your loved ones with property damage or personal injuries, contact Fischer Redavid PLLC. We don’t charge a penny for our legal services unless we win the case. Our team of attorneys can take your hurricane insurance claim to trial if we feel that’s the best way to achieve top results. Let our hurricane damage attorneys help your family get back on its feet after a major Florida hurricane. Call (954) 800-2155 today for a free consultation.
Steps to Take After a Hurricane
As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to protect your rights and properly file a property damage insurance claim after a serious storm. You unfortunately cannot depend on insurance companies to have your best interests during this time. They will try to minimize their liability (and your payout), while you do what you can to maximize relief. The steps you take after a hurricane can strengthen your claim. Perform the following steps to ensure a fair claims process:
- Document your damages. Take photographs of everything. Start outside, with a wide-angle shot of your entire home. Turn on the date stamp feature of your phone or camera. Get photos of all four sides of the home, your roof, any fallen trees, the yard, photos of each room, and close-ups of any damaged property.
- Prevent further damage. Pull a tarp or another protective covering over your home, vehicle, and other damaged property once the hurricane has passed. If your home sustains further damage due to your failure to reasonably prevent such damage, the insurance company could use this as a reason to deny your claim or reduce benefits.
- File an insurance claim without delay. Most homeowners insurance companies require prompt insurance claim filing. Take photos, build an inventory of your damages, and file your claim as soon as you can. Contact your insurance company and follow the steps given to you for filing your claim and providing evidence of damages.
Your insurance representative will walk you through the steps of filing your claim after you contact the company. If you have any questions outside the area of claims filing, or if the insurance company seems to be infringing upon your rights, contact our attorneys. We’ll give you our best recommendations for what to do next about hurricane damage during a free consultation in Hollywood, Florida.
What Damages Does My Insurance Cover?
The standard homeowners insurance policy does not have “hurricane coverage.” Instead, it will cover wind damage. If you need flood damage protection, this is typically something you must purchase separately. Together, flood and wind damage coverage may be the closest types of insurance available to reimburse a homeowner after a hurricane. The typical homeowners policy in Florida will cover damage to your roof, siding, windows, and other parts of your property that hurricane winds damaged or destroyed.
Unfortunately, your homeowners policy generally will not cover water-related damage unless you have separate flood insurance. You can purchase flood insurance (prior to a hurricane) through the National Flood Insurance Program. The maximum coverage amount is $250,000 for property and $100,000 for the contents of your home. If you live in a high-flood-risk zone, flood insurance is most likely mandatory. Flood insurance will cover most water-related damages after a hurricane, but it won’t cover damage to your landscaping or pay for living expenses.
Read your insurance policy documents to see exactly what the company will cover. It will help you to be as knowledgeable as possible about your losses and your insurance plan. After a natural disaster, insurance claims adjusters may have stacks of claims on their desks. They generally know less about your case than you do. Use this to your advantage by presenting a clear, fact-based claim that’s aligned with the provisions in your policy. Reading up on your coverage amounts beforehand can help you know when an insurer tries to undervalue your claim.
Filing an Insurance Claim After Hurricane Michael
Your insurance company will not necessarily do what’s best for you. Most companies concern themselves with bottom lines after a natural disaster, not providing maximum recovery to each claimant. This is simply the way insurance companies operate. Increase the value of your claim by communicating with insurance claims adjusters wisely. Know what to say and what not to say during the claim filing process. Follow all proper procedures to avoid claim denials or delays. Seek legal representation if you’re afraid of an insurer taking advantage of you.
First, be careful with your initial phone call to the insurance company. During times of stress and confusion after a major hurricane, it can be easy to say something that the company may use against you later. Be honest and forthright with your losses, but don’t guess as to your damage values or underestimate your losses. Don’t discuss a loss until you have fully investigated it, have a copy of your policy in front of you, and are prepared to protect your rights. Again, hire a lawyer to take care of that first call for you if you’re nervous about saying the wrong thing.
Never agree to give a recorded statement over the phone. Insurance adjusters are experts at twisting what claimants say here to use against them during a case. Try to keep most of your communication in writing. Keep a log tracking all contacts you’ve made with your insurance company. The better you document your claim, the stronger your case against an insurance company could be later. After a storm as serious as Hurricane Michael, you have several weeks to report your losses. Take your time preparing your claim before calling.
Common Damages Left by Michael and Irma
Florida is the top state in the nation in terms of storm surge risks to property. Almost 351,100 homes are at “extreme” risk of damage from storm surges in the state, while over one million homes are at “very high” risk. Florida is also the top state for inflation-adjusted insured catastrophe losses from 1987 to 2016, at $70.8 billion. After a hurricane such as Michael or Irma (a category 4 storm that took 34 lives in Florida and caused an estimated $50 billion in damage – the fifth-costliest hurricane to hit the U.S.), the average homeowner may have damages such as:
- Damaged siding
- Damaged or lost roofs
- Structural collapse
- Water damage
- Wood rot
- Mold and mildew
- Landscape damage
- Uprooted trees
- Vehicle damage
- Total property loss
- Broken windows, sunroofs, and doors
Many homes post-hurricane are unlivable. It can take months to repair and rebuild homes to a point where owners can safely move back in. Some homeowners may experience total losses, where a hurricane completely dismantles a home past the point of repair. Homeowners can face thousands of dollars in repair costs, as well as living expenses while they stay in hotels during property repairs. Meanwhile, insurance companies may try to refuse coverage for these losses through many questionable tactics.
Don’t let an insurance company get the last word after major hurricane damage. Contact us to discuss your case and how we can help. Call (954) 800-2155 today.
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When you contact your homeowners’ insurance company with a hurricane-related claim in Florida, prepare to have the adjuster (the person in charge of reviewing your case) fight you every step of the way. The insurance company’s number one goal is to minimize your recovery. It will try to achieve this goal with tactics meant to undermine or confuse claimants in their times of need. Common tactics you may encounter include:
- Denials based on lack of coverage, exclusions, or supposed fault on your part
- Unreasonable claim delays during processing or payout
- Making false or misleading statements
- Undervaluing property damages and offering a small settlement
- Saying a low amount is the “best” or “final” settlement offer
- Telling you a lawyer is unnecessary to resolve your claim
The odds are stacked against you during a homeowners insurance claim for a hurricane in Florida. You’re going up against insurance company employees who have years of experience delaying, denying, and unfairly handling claims. Sadly, most claimants don’t understand their rights and settle for much less than their cases are worth – or walk away with nothing at all. After a serious hurricane in Florida, protect your rights with help from an attorney.
What to Do if Your Insurer Denies Your Hurricane Insurance Claim
If your insurance company has denied your Florida hurricane claim, don’t give up. You may still be able to recover monetary benefits by appealing the insurance company’s decision. The insurer may be guilty of unfair dealings. Contact Fischer Redavid PLLC after receiving notice of a claim denial – or receiving a suspiciously low settlement offer – for a free insurance claim consultation. We are personal injury attorneys with the knowledge, resources, and experience to build a strong case on your behalf. We fight for you, not for insurance companies or personal profit.
Our Florida hurricane damage lawyers can review your case, visit your property, assess damages fairly, help you file a claim, and appeal an insurance decision for you and your family. We have the power to take over any part of the insurance claim or appeals process on your behalf. Our trial experience puts us in a prime position to defend your rights and fight for fair insurance benefits after suffering serious property damage in a major storm. We proudly represent victims of Hurricanes Michael and Irma throughout Florida.
Your Legal Champions
At Fischer Redavid PLLC, our team of personal injury and accident lawyers is equally focused on your legal experience and the results of your case. We want you to feel understood, cared for, and supported through every step of the legal process, from pre-litigation to post-resolution. With our firm, you’re not just a number, you’re a human being, and we’ll treat you that way.