What You Need to Know About Making a Claim
Before anyone had a chance to recover fully from the ravages of Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Sally, Tropical Storm Beta dealt the Gulf South area yet another substantial blow.
The extent of the damage has yet to be fully identified, but many thousands of homeowners experienced property damage ranging from mild roof damage to catastrophic structural failure.
If your home sustained damage in one of these storms, or in another hurricane or tropical storm, submitting a claim to your homeowners insurance is the first step to getting your home repaired and your life back to normal.
Unfortunately, this process can be a challenge. Your insurance company may attempt to deny or undervalue your claim or drag the process out unnecessarily.
A hurricane property claim lawyer can help you get the hurricane damage compensation you are entitled to under your insurance policy.
How Does Hurricane Insurance Coverage Work?
In the aftermath of a significant tropical storm or hurricane, you may have urgent questions about your insurance coverage. Some of the most common questions you might have include:
- Is there hurricane insurance?
- How much is hurricane insurance?
- Do I have hurricane insurance?
- Do I have flood insurance?
These types of insurance coverages are not available in every geographic location.
Typically, hurricane coverage is a component of your regular homeowners insurance. Flood insurance, on the other hand, must typically be purchased with a separate policy, often from a separate insurer.
Is Flooding or Water Damage Covered Under My Hurricane Insurance Claim?
The answer to this question is more complicated than you might imagine.
Typically, hurricane damage is covered by your homeowner insurance policy whereas flood damage is covered by a separate flood insurance policy or rider.
However, hurricane coverage does pay for some types of flooding and water damage. If your house sustains water damage or even flooding due to wind-driven rain, this should be covered by your homeowners policy.
Likewise, if a storm damages your roof, windows, doors, etc., allowing rain to enter the structure, this water damage should also be covered by your homeowners insurance.
If water rises up from a lower point, from storm surge, from a failed dam or levee, or from a river overflowing its banks, for example, hurricane insurance probably will not cover any damage repairs or compensate you for any related losses.
The distinction between these two types of natural disasters—often referred to as force majeure, an act of God/nature, or simply extraordinary circumstances—can be confusing for homeowners.
Lengthy legal battles may ensue, as insurance companies fight to reduce their financial losses after a major weather event such as a hurricane.
Understanding your policy limits and types of coverage can help you make sense of what your insurer’s obligations are for your damages.
Unfortunately, as victims are rarely prepared for these potentially catastrophic events, you could now be stuck trying to figure out your legal rights after the damage has occurred.
Will Flood Damage Be Covered by My Auto Insurance?
If your car was damaged or destroyed in a tropical storm or hurricane—or even in rising floodwaters—your car insurance may step up to cover this particular loss.
If you carry comprehensive automobile insurance, check with the insurer to verify whether you have flood damage coverage for your personal vehicle(s).
If so, you can file your claim directly through the insurer.
How Much Will My Hurricane Damage Deductible Be?
Determining what your insurance deductible for hurricane damage might be is another potential source of confusion.
Most homeowners insurance policies have two different deductible structures: one deductible amount for standard losses and a different amount for hurricane damage.
Depending on the terms of your policy, a standard homeowners insurance deductible typically ranges between $500 and $5,000.
The higher your deductible, the less expensive your annual insurance policy premium will typically be.
Whether you chose a higher or lower deductible when you purchased your coverage, you will have to pay that sum out of pocket before the policy coverage kicks in.
In the case of storm or hurricane damage, however, your deductible is likely to range between 1% and 5% of the insurance value of your home.
For example, if your home is valued at $250,000, your deductible could range between $2,500 and $12,500.
In some cases, this figure may range even higher, depending on the area where you live and how your insurance carrier structured your coverage.
What Types of Damages Will My Hurricane Insurance Pay?
The type of storm damage losses your homeowners policy covers can vary, depending on the type of insurance you purchased.
You could be entitled to compensation for some or all of the following:
- Water extraction and remediation;
- Mold removal and remediation;
- Debris removal;
- Repair or replacement of your home, garage, guest house, etc.;
- Compensation for the value of your home’s contents;
- Temporary roofing, board-up, and related costs to secure your property; and
- Temporary living expenses (if you are displaced).
If you purchased additional coverage for valuable personal property such as art, jewelry, collectibles, etc., you may also be able to recover compensation for those items.
The best way to determine what types of damages your policy covers is to talk to an experienced property damage attorney.
Your attorney can delve into the complex legal language of your policy and determine all potential items that you should include when submitting your claim.
How Might the Insurance Company Deny My Claim?
You pay your homeowners insurance premium faithfully, year after year.
It’s only natural that you expect your insurer to hold up its end of the agreement when disaster strikes and you need it most.
Unfortunately, this is often the time it can be the most difficult to get a claim approved or to get fair value for your losses.
Insurers may deny your claim outright or deny that you had coverage in place.
The insurance company could try to undervalue your claim, refusing to compensate you fairly for your losses.
Another tactic is to drag the process out by delaying sending out an adjuster or not providing you with straight answers.
It is important that you understand that these tactics are illegal in most cases.
The insurer must deal with you in good faith.
That means responding promptly, answering your questions, providing information, and assigning a fair value to your losses.
In many cases, a homeowner can recover penalties ranging from 50% to 200% of the money owed, plus attorney’s fees, if the claim is underpaid, delayed, or denied.
How Can an Attorney Help with an Insurance Claim?
If your insurance company is engaging in any of these bad faith tactics, contact a property claim attorney as soon as possible.
An attorney can verify the types and amounts of hurricane insurance you have.
Your lawyer and legal team can investigate and document the value of your damages and submit a demand to the insurer.
Your attorney can negotiate with the insurer, compelling them to act in good faith and in a timely manner.
With a hurricane insurance lawyer on your side, the insurer may be less likely to ignore you or attempt to deny your valid claim.
An attorney can document and file your original claim or help you resolve problems for a claim you’ve already submitted.
Be careful in speaking to the insurance company, providing a recorded statement, or discussing any settlement, especially right after the damage occurs.
These are also potential tactics the insurer can use to minimize their financial liability for your claim.
Speak to a Hurricane Damage Claim Attorney Today
The Johns Law Firm helps storm and hurricane damage victims throughout the Gulf Coast region, including Florida, Louisiana, and Texas.
We have extensive experience with insurance cases, fighting to get our clients the compensation they are owed by the insurance company.
Whether you need to submit your claim or your claim has been delayed, denied, or undervalued, contact us today.
We are standing by to assist you with your claim for damages sustained in Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Sally, or any other tropical storm or hurricane.
Call us or contact us online now to speak to one of our hurricane insurance damage attorneys.