How To Document Your Hurricane Irma Insurance Claim

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
Founder of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.

The Claims Process

After a natural disaster, like Hurricane Irma, you may have suffered damages. Those losses may be slight, or extensive, and may come in many different forms. If you have a business, those losses could be in the form of loss of income. If you are a homeowner, you may have a damaged roof, a damaged shed, flooding, broken water pipes, etc. Whatever the loss may be, you’re going to require the funds to repair it. If you have proper insurance, then much of those costs will be paid by your insurance company. But in order for your insurance company to pay you, they are going to want to see documentation of your damages.

The insurance company will send out an adjuster to inspect your loss and provide you with an estimate of damages based on the opinion of the insurance company adjuster. It is common that the homeowner will not agree with the insurance company's adjuster's estimate of repairs or the scope of those repairs.  For you to receive the true value of your damages, you will need to properly prove your claim.

How to Document Your Claim

Documenting Damages

You need to start the documentation process as early as possible. You should document all of your damages before making any repairs. If not, the insurance company may not believe that it was actually damaged, or may dispute the amount that should’ve been paid. The best way is to have before and after documentation. Although not everyone does this, you should get into the habit of accounting for your personal property. Pictures, videos, an inventory list, and the receipts for these items is the best method, but even if you are not fortunate enough to have taken an inventory of your belongings before a loss, you may still recover by documenting the aftermath.

If you have to make emergency repairs, then start the documentation process there. You should do whatever is reasonably necessary to prevent any further damages. This is called “mitigating your damages” and it is generally required of you by your insurance policy. This doesn’t mean making a permanent repair, but is rather more like securing a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Shutting off the main water line, or tarping a leaky roof are common examples.  Secure all receipts related to emergency or temporary repairs.

Begin by taking pictures and videos of all damaged items. Start from one room, and cover everything that has been damaged as extensively as possible, then move to the next. For personal property, you should also make an inventory list of all of the things you have, and all of the things that are damaged. All of the rooms in your house, as well as any external structures or damaged items, need to be carefully documented even if you do not believe they are covered by your policy. Whether you are documenting structural damage, or personal property items, it will all need to be accounted for to give you the best chance at recovering for all of your losses.

If you have a business, then do the same thing. Take pictures and videos and take inventory of any structural damage, damaged goods, broken windows, etc. If you have to stop running your business then you’re going to need to document all of your pre-interruption income, your lost sales or contracts, receipts for having to pay storage, expenses to operate out of a remote location, etc. A strong paper trail is the best way to prove your damages.  Consult with your bookeeper or accountant.

Documenting the Negotiation Process

Once the storm has passed, you need to contact your insurance company and inform them of the damages immediately. You should document this conversation. You can do this by sending a confirmation email or letter stating the substance of your conversation. You should make it a habit to keep detailed records of all conversations you have with your contractors, adjusters, insurance agents, etc. Ask for names, their supervisor’s name, their extensions, email addresses, etc.

You need to locate your insurance policies. If you don’t already know, you need to figure out what types of coverage you have (dwelling, personal property, additional living expenses, debris removal, business interruption, etc.) and what are the applicable policy limits as well as educating yourself on what post-loss obligations you have to comply with under the insurance policy.  Whatever your coverage, you’re going to need to know it to negotiate with your insurance company.

You should obtain several estimates from reputable licensed contractors to substantiate your claim. BEWARE OF SCAMS. Do your due diligence, look the company up, contact the better business bureau, etc. You should also have a detailed list of all personal property, or goods you are claiming, there prices, invoices, and receipts if possible. Don’t be surprised to be met with a lowball offer from your insurance company. If you’ve kept detailed records of your damages, and you have reasonable estimates to substantiate your claims, your insurer will be far more likely to take your claim seriously.

Once you have everything documented and your insurance company has become aware of the extent of your claimed damages, then you and your insurer will attempt to agree on the “Scope of Loss.” Your scope of loss are the parameters of what needs to be repaired or replaced.  Once you have an agreement on the scope of loss then you will attempt to agree on the costs of repairing or replacing the items that comprise the scope of loss depending on whether you have an "actual cash value" insurance policy or "replacement cost value" insurance policy.

Suffice it say, that properly documenting your claim may be the difference between recovering the true value of your claim and not recovering anything at all.

You can reach Miami Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].

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