Filing an Insurance Claim after Hurricane Irma
Hurricane Irma left a path of destruction across Florida and the Caribbean. Depending on the kind of damage to your home or business, flood or wind, you may need to file more than one insurance claim. Here’s what to do when filing Hurricane Irma damage claims to ensure a maximum payout of insurance benefits.
1. Determine if the damage exceeds your policy’s deductible.
If your property has been damaged by the storm, the first thing to do is to determine if you have coverage. If your property had flood damage then you would need to have a flood insurance policy in order to have coverage. If the damage was caused by wind then you would need to have windstorm coverage. Once you have determined you have the correct insurance coverage for the loss, you should review the extent of the damages. If the damages exceed your insurance policy’s deductible you should consider reporting the loss to your insurance company or your insurance agent. If not, you should just proceed with getting the damages repaired without filing a claim. Hurricane deductibles can be significant and are often between 2 – 5% of your Coverage A amount.
2. Report your loss to your insurance company and agent immediately.
If the answer is yes, damage exceeds your deductible, you should report the loss immediately to the insurance company. Your insurance policy has language requiring you to report a loss in a timely manner. The policy will say something to the effect that you have a duty to report a loss as soon as possible, as soon as practical or even immediately, so report your damage as soon as you know you may have a claim exceeding your policy deductible. In cases of natural disasters, such as Hurricane Irma, insurance companies will be overwhelmed as they are not staffed to handle the volume of claims. Right now we are experiencing insurance companies taking up to 2 – 4 weeks to send an adjuster just to inspect the properties due to the amount of claims as well as conditions of the areas. Hiring an experienced property insurance attorney who understands the requirements and can provide assistance with communications with the insurance company may often help speed up the claims process.
A loss can be reported by contacting your insurance company directly or through your insurance agent. Don’t hesitate to ask questions when reporting a loss:
- Request a copy of your policy.
- Am I covered?
- What is my coverage?
- What is my deductible?
- Do I need estimates?
- When should I expect to be contacted and by whom?
3. Take photos and keep all receipts for all damages and expenses related to the damages.
At this point, you don’t really want to touch anything or change it in any significant way, except to mitigate and prevent any other damage. The insurance company will need an opportunity to inspect the damage.
Take pictures of damages; keep all your receipts for repairs (temporary or permanent); and don’t throw anything away. Your insurance company will also need a inventory of damaged items so you should begin to make a list. It is also important to understand it is your duty to mitigate damages, which means you have to take measures to prevent any further damage to your home or personal items. If your roof is leaking – place a tarp on the roof to limit or prevent additional water leakage. Report the loss before replacing the roof, but mitigate by placing a tarp on the roof, if necessary. Insurance policies can have language allowing the insurance company to deny a claim if the repairs are done prior to the insurance company’s inspection.
If your home is severely damaged and you can’t stay, inform the insurance company of your need for additional living expense reimbursement. Additional living expenses are covered on an incurred basis only – meaning you will need all receipts for reimbursement, whether it is travel, food, hotel or other temporary living expenses.
4. Cooperate with the insurance adjuster.
Upon reporting a loss, an adjuster from the insurance company will call to interview you about the loss and visit your home to access the damage. The adjuster will likely ask for a recorded statement as to what happened and the extent of the damage. We encourage people to seek our help when making a statement to the insurance company as they will often use the information to their advantage.
The insurance policy provides that you have an obligation to cooperate with the adjuster in investigating the loss, also referred to as “duties after loss”, which includes the expectation that you will:
- give notice
- protect the property from further damage
- keep records of repair or expenses
- cooperate with investigation
- prepare inventory of damaged personal property
- allow inspection of the damaged property
- provide documents relevant to the loss
- submit to an examination under oath and/or recorded statement
- prepare a signed, sworn proof of loss
5. Await your claim response and follow up when necessary.
The insurance company will send a letter after conducting its investigation as to its determination of coverage and payment of damage. If the insurance company determines there is no coverage, then you will receive a denial letter. You have the legal right to question and challenge both the amount of a payment and the denial of coverage.
Our firm can help you review your policy to determine and locate coverage, assist in submitting claims, review the assessment and estimate provided by the insurance company, coordinate inspections with the insurance adjuster and experts, and navigate the claim process with your insurance company. We work on a contingency fee basis – we do not charge clients costs or fees until we recover denied or disputed insurance coverage benefits. In many cases, Florida law allows us to seek legal fees directly from the insurance company, over and above the insurance coverage benefits we obtain for our clients. We offer free consultations as to your specific hurricane claim issues. Please contact us to schedule a consultation. Learn more about insurance claim disputes and litigation.