Dealing with insurance claims after a hurricane is never fun, but you can make them more manageable by following a few best practices.
Hurricanes are terrifying experiences for everyone who encounters them, but even after the storm passes, the stress and anxiety remain. The minute the winds and rain die down, the clean-up commences, and the aftermath usually involves calling your insurance company.
While insurers can be a headache for homeowners, there are some things you can do to get through the process with your sanity intact.
Follow these tips to ensure that you have coverage for all of the damage, so your repairs are completed quickly, and you don't end up overpaying.
1. Check your coverage
From the second you move into a home or condo, you should know what your insurance coverage entails. Failure to learn about your policy could lead to big surprises after a hurricane.
But after a hurricane, pull out your policy and verify how your insurance policy handles storm damage and claims for the specific kinds of damage you received. There are usually time frames in which the insurance company must be notified, and other time-sensitive steps you may have to take.
If you're on the board of your homeowner's association or condo association, do you know the association's responsibilities? After a hurricane, it's important to know what the property's insurance policies do and do not cover, as well as the financial deductibles and limits, so you can answer any resident questions and take appropriate steps to begin repairs.
For example, many insurance policies don't include flooding, which is a significant problem after a hurricane. If your property experienced flooding, and its insurance policies do not cover that, what do you need to do next to get repairs started?
2. Inspect the damage and your deductible
Have a look at the damage to determine if you need to file a claim or claims with your insurance company.
Don't bother filing a claim if there isn't any damage, even if you've pre-emptively put money into the clean-up. Pointless claims waste the insurer's time, and you're unlikely to get any money back anyway.
In situations where there is minor damage, however, you should file a claim. Even if it doesn't reach your deductible limit alone, the amount is often cumulative.
For example, if your deductible for wind damage is extremely high — up to 5% of the property's value —that can be very difficult to reach. As a result, you might be better off paying for the repairs yourself.
However, you should still file a claim because, if another hurricane comes through and there's even more wind damage, you'll be closer to your deductible limit. You'll also need the claim on file to receive coverage for future losses.
In short, unless your property is unscathed, file the report to protect yourself from future expenses.
3. Have money on hand
Try to make sure you have the funds to make essential repairs available at all times. It's not a bad idea to have a disaster account set up for this purpose.
In the aftermath of a hurricane, homeowners, HOAs, and condo associations bombard insurance companies with claims, and it could take weeks to get an appraiser to your property. Even if you do receive an appraisal, Florida law gives insurance companies a lengthy period to payout. In fact, 10 months after Hurricane Michael in October 2018, as many as 20,000 claims had yet to be paid.
In the meantime, you'll need to repair everything to make your home or condo livable again. If you have broken windows, paying to have them replaced is necessary. When there is standing water, removing it, and drying everything immediately is essential to prevent mold.
Document your repairs and take pictures of the damage before you begin to ensure that the insurance company will pay for it. As long as you have clear records of the repairs you've paid for, you shouldn't have any problem getting your insurance to cover the costs.
Get what you're entitled to
Many Americans dread the thought of dealing with an insurance company because they know it will be a battle. Document everything and know exactly what your policy includes to give yourself the best chance to get every penny you should. If your insurer still doesn't cover you, contact a lawyer.
Peyton Bolin Law can help write claims of your behalf or deal with problem insurance companies, making sure you get what you deserve without the hassle. We work quickly and efficiently, helping you to recover the highest possible settlement. Contact us immediately after a hurricane, and we'll start the process without collecting any upfront legal fees.