When disaster strikes (whether manmade or natural), it is easy to become flustered and panicked. Oftentimes, the initial response is not one decided upon after cool and unhurried contemplation but more of a “knee-jerk” response. Business owners are not immune from this type of response. When owners arrive at their small business after a hurricane to see their establishment completely destroyed, they frequently spring into action without thinking of the ramifications of their actions. When a claim subsequently is filed with their small business insurer, they discover their initial responses make it more difficult to have their claim approved.
According to Entrepreneur magazine, mistakes that cause the most problems for small business owners include:
- Failing to document the extent of your loss: Before you move a single board or pick up a broom, you should take photographs of any damage. If the insurance adjuster is not able to conduct an inspection promptly, you have evidence regarding the extent of damage to the business. If you must begin repairs before the adjuster can make it to you (see below), take photographs of any repairs performed.
- Not waiting for the adjuster: In order to process your claim, your insurance company will need to see the extent of your loss and the damage to your business. Cleaning up your business or starting repairs before the adjuster can examine your business can lead to your insurance company disputing your loss and/or disallowing compensation for repairs you implement. If you must repair your business right away in order to prevent further loss, it is imperative that you take before and after pictures of any repairs.
- Throwing away damaged merchandise or items: Do not throw away merchandise that has been damaged or damaged items that you had to replace (like shingles, drywall, etc.) until your adjuster has been able to document the extent of your loss. Like the structures of your business, damaged merchandise and other items are evidence of the severity of your loss. If you begin cleaning up the business before the adjuster arrives, you need to preserve a pile of the damaged merchandise and items somewhere on your business’s property so that the adjuster is able to inspect these items.
- Accepting your insurance company’s first offer in settlement: Your insurer generates profits by collecting more money in premiums than it pays out in claims. Expect that your insurance company’s first settlement offer will be too low to adequately compensate you. If the company’s first settlement offer is too low, you should not be shy about declining the offer and insisting on the actual value of your loss. Any amount you request for settlement of your claim should be backed up with objective evidence, such as repair bills or estimates, receipts, etc. The more evidence you can amass as to the extent of your loss, the more success you are likely to have in negotiating a higher settlement amount. A plaintiff’s insurance claim attorney may be able to assist you in negotiating a better settlement offer with the insurance company.
If your insurance carrier is refusing to comply with its contractual obligation, you are invited to contact our law firm to speak to an experienced Miami insurance claims attorney. My law firm specializes in representing policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. Click here to read about some of our case results. 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.