When policyholders’ have their home or business damaged by a hurricane, the financial devastation can drive people to the brink of bankruptcy. Insurance policies are contracts with terms, conditions and exclusions that dictate the rights of the parties although sometimes statutory terms can override the language of the policy. Because hurricanes are a significant risk if you live in the Miami area, policyholders need to know their rights if they confront this form of peril. As a Florida homeowners insurance claims attorney, I have helped hundreds upon hundreds of policyholders resolve disputes with their insurance carriers. Based on this extensive experience, this three-part blog provides answers to common questions.
Can I count on my insurance agent if I need to pursue a property damage claim following a hurricane?
While your insurance agent might offer assistance with your claim, insurance agents are trained to sell insurance. Agents usually have no experience analyzing coverage questions or adjusting claims.
How do I get things started if my residence is damaged by a hurricane?
If your home is damaged by the forces associated with a hurricane, you need to contact all insurance carriers with whom you might have policies. Hurricanes pose a special type of hazard because they can unleash multiple types of forces on your home, such as wind, rain and flood water. While rain and wind damage typically will be covered by your basic homeowners policy, flood damage will not be covered unless you have separate flood insurance. Homeowner often have to pursue multiple claims based on separate policies following a hurricane. Since different insurers cover different risks, the process of navigating procedural requirements and deadlines when dealing with multiple carriers can prove complicated. If you have multiple policies, the best option is to notify all potential carriers promptly just so you do not fail to provide notice to a carrier who might provide coverage
There are a number of other important steps to safeguard your post-hurricane property damage claim. Homeowners should take appropriate precautions to prevent further damage. This might mean sealing up broken out windows or using plastic or tarps on a roof with shingles that have been blown off. Prior to having the property inspected by an insurance adjuster or other expert sent by the insurance company, you should retain your own contractor who is experienced with hurricane property damage insurance claims. If you have a contractor inspect your home, you will be in a better position to assess the conclusions and damage estimates proposed by the insurance company’s expert.
What are the time limits within which the insurance company must process and pay my claim?
Insurance companies typically have provisions that provide a timeframe within which the insurer is contractually obligated to pay your claim. These provision typically provide a maximum time period for paying a policy after a settlement, appraisal or entry of judgment.
My residence was damaged by a combination of wind and storm surge how will it be covered by my insurance coverage?
This is a difficult question to answer without specific detailed facts about the circumstances. For all partial losses or for total losses suffered prior to June 1, 2005, liability for the cost of damage will be apportioned between your flood and wind coverage. If your insurance carrier is handling both wind and flood claims with a single adjuster, you must exercise caution. The determination of how to apportion your loss between flood and wind damage can have a significant impact because flood coverage usually is more restrictive than wind coverage.
If you have questions about Miami-Dade homeowners insurance claims, you are welcome to contact my Miami hurricane insurance claims law firm. 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 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.