Residents of Miami and throughout Florida have been fortunate not to experience a hurricane make landfall in Florida for years. Despite this period of good fortune, we cannot expect that we will be hurricane free indefinitely. If you suffered through the pummeling Florida took between 2004 and 2006 with 8 hurricanes and four tropical storms, you recognize that we are probably overdue for a hurricane or bad tropical storm. If you are a homeowner, it is important that you understand what to expect if a hurricane damages your residence. I have provided some answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about hurricane damage claims in Florida.
Do I need to involve my insurance company and pay the deductible rather than asking FEMA for assistance?
FEMA will not provide financial assistance for losses covered by insurance because this would constitute a duplication of benefits. However, you may experience property damage or loss not covered by your homeowner insurance policy. FEMA often provides financial help with those types of losses.
How do I initiate a claim with my insurance company after a hurricane?
You need to notify your insurance company promptly after the loss, obtain a claim number, and confirm your communications in writing.
What if I cannot live in my home because of the extent of the damage?
Your homeowner policy will include a type of coverage referred to as Loss of Use or Additional Living Expense. This form of coverage applies to additional living expenses that you incur because your home is not habitable after damage from a covered peril. Examples of expenses that might be covered include relocation costs, storage expenses, furniture rental and the cost to install utilities at a temporary location. This form of coverage will also apply to amounts you pay for housing, food and transportation above what you would have paid if the damage had not occurred.
Homeowners should review their policy to make sure they are clear on what specific additional expenses are covered by their policy. Because Florida insurance law may not require insurance companies to advance payments for this type of coverage, it is important to maintain records and receipts regarding these types of expenditures. If your homeowner insurance carrier takes the position that your home is habitable despite a lack of running water or electricity, you should contact an experienced Miami hurricane claims attorney.
Will FEMA pay my deductible since it often pays for hurricane losses not covered by insurance?
Unfortunately, FEMA does not cover this type of expense.
How do I handle debris on my property following a hurricane?
Whether you have coverage for removal of debris will depend on the precise language of your policy. However, you are legally responsible for ensuring that debris is cleared from the premises. Sometimes, the municipality or county will offer a coordinated debris removal program after a hurricane.
What should I do if I do not hear from my insurance company for several weeks after notifying the company of my claim?
Although hurricanes can cripple businesses, insurance companies have emergency disaster plans, so you should not have to endure long delays when communicating with your insurance company.
If your insurance company is not responding to you, it might be advisable to talk to a Florida hurricane claims attorney. I invite you to contact my law firm with your questions. I am an experienced homeowners insurance claims attorney who handles disputed claims 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 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.