Avoiding Common Commercial Claims Mistakes Following a Disaster

If you are the owner of a small business or a stakeholder in a commercial enterprise in Florida, a natural disaster can have a devastating impact on the viability of your business.  Commercial coverage can protect business owners from potential liability claims and property damage, but the value of this coverage depends on understanding your policy and avoiding key mistakes when pursuing a claim.  There are a number of common mistakes made by business owners, and this blog post is intended to provide an overview of frequent commercial claims errors and to provide a roadmap to navigating these potential obstacles.

In the aftermath of a natural disaster like a hurricane, errors committed while filing a claim can delay payment of your claim or even prevent any payment of the claim.  Even if payment is only delayed, a substantial delay can cause a loss of market share or other severe financial harm to your business.

Failing to Keep Evidence of Loss: Many business owners who are cleaning up after a loss caused by a storm will dispose of damaged structural materials, inventory or business records.  When water damage decimates flooring, merchandise, insulation and other property, the damaged items should be preserved.  Damaged materials and destroyed merchandise might constitute the strongest evidence to document the extent of your loss.

Not Taking Steps Ahead of Time: The effectiveness of a plan to deal with a loss caused by a disaster is improved by taking proper precautions.  This means confirming you have appropriate coverage and that you can locate your policies.  Generally, you also should ensure that you have a copy of your policy safely stored in a safe deposit box or other location that is accessible in the aftermath of a severe storm or other catastrophe.

Not Contacting Your Commercial Carrier Promptly: Delays in contacting your commercial carrier can mean that repairs are performed prior to the carrier being notified of the loss.  While an adjuster will be dispatched to the business, cleared debris or repairs can result in confusion regarding the extent of the damage.  Repairs that are implemented, including repairing water damage, may result in specific repairs or costs of repair being disallowed by the commercial carrier if the repairs precede the inspection.  Most insurance companies have quick response teams that can be utilized in the aftermath of a major catastrophe, so immediately contacting the insurer can mean a quick inspection and evaluation of the situation.

Lack of Understanding of Your Policy: A common myth among business owners is that coverage for the facility means that perils like floods, earthquakes and other possible perils will be covered.  Frequently, certain perils will only be covered unless a separate rider or policy is purchased.  In states where earthquakes are common, for example, a separate rider/policy might be required to provide protection against this peril.  Similarly, flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program must be purchased to cover many forms of water damage that constitute flooding under standard policies.

There are many missteps and pitfalls that can torpedo a commercial insurance claim, so you should promptly consult with an insurance claims attorney if you are having problems dealing with your commercial carrier.  If you have questions about commercial insurance claims, you are invited to contact our law firm to speak to an experienced Florida commercial insurance claims attorney.  My law firm represents policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM. 

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