Hurricane Season:  Homeowners’ Insurance

Heavy rains, high winds and lightning are the tell-tale signs that it is hurricane season in Florida. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released their predictions for the 2016 Hurricane season.  While they predict this year to be “normal” in the number of named storms, it only takes one catastrophic storm to cause severe damage to your home and property.
The official prediction is for 10-14 named storms in the Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico region.  Approximately 4-8 of those named storms will become hurricanes.  While it is impossible to predict the path of a tropical storm or hurricane, it is highly likely that North Florida will see at least one severe tropical event this season.
Now is a good time to dig that insurance policy out and do some careful reading.  Insurance companies have made billions of dollars on careful writing of insurance policies and employ a massive field of adjusters to ensure that your claim is minimized.
What is “Hurricane Damage”? 
Hurricane damage is usually defined as heavy rain being blown through windows or broken windows, satellite dishes, or other debris damage from high intensity hurricane winds.  This can also include roof damage, and damage to the exterior of your home caused by high winds.
Why do I need a separate “Flood Damage” Policy? 
This is one of the subtle tactics employed by insurance policy writers.  While it is obvious that most hurricanes include heavy rain and flash flooding, damage to your home is almost always excluded from these policies and most be covered separately.
Why is my deductible important?
It is important that you understand how your insurance deductible is calculated before you file a claim.  Some companies have a dollar amount (i.e. $1,000 or $3,000) where some do a percentage based deductible.  Your deductible establishes what amount of damage YOU as the homeowner are responsible for before the insurance kicks in.  High deductibles may drastically lower your claim.
Look for Important Exclusions and Definitions
Insurance policies do not operate on the same level of common sense and language as the rest of the world.  Look for what is excluded from your coverage and what the definition of terms like “flooding” mean to your policy.  Often small floods are not covered by flood insurance, meaning that at least two acres may have been affected or other properties adjacent to yours in order to qualify.  That being said, make sure you understand what your responsibilities are to mitigate damage.  Often sandbags and fast water removal to mitigate mold and mildew spread is necessary to keep your claim in good standing.   Again, make sure you document the damage with photos before any clean up measures begin.
After the storm clears – What to do now?
Most homeowners instinctively begin the cleanup process after the storm passes.  This however, may destroy valuable evidence for your claim.  Take pictures of everything immediately!  Broken glass, flood levels, and property damage all must be documented for your insurance adjuster.  Even items that don’t seem too valuable will add up on your claim.
If necessary, make temporary repairs to broken windows and rooftops, but document everything!  Pictures are essential in the first hours after the storm, then make a list of all damage and losses.
When should I file my claim to the insurance company?
Immediately!  If your home is damaged due to a major storm, it has likely affected thousands of other residents.  Insurance companies will be short staffed and working on claims on a first-come first serve basis. Waiting a few days after a storm will likely delay your claim by weeks or even months.
Be as complete and thorough has possible when speaking to your insurance company.  Inform them of the entire situation and if you are evacuating to another location, make sure they have your updated contact information available.
Patience is Key!
While your immediate action is essential in the hours after a storm, it is necessary to give the insurance company time to fully evaluate your claim and the claims of other affected persons.  This can be a long process.  Check in with your adjuster weekly to check on the process.
When in Doubt, Talk to an Expert!
Insurance companies hire attorneys to represent the company’s best interests, not its customers.  If you have a disputed claim or believe that the insurance company is dealing with you in bad faith, you have the right to seek legal representation to assist you.  The attorneys of Massey & Duffy, PLLC have represented clients in all types of property insurance claims.  Our attorneys will help you understand your policy, all exclusions and inform you of your legal rights.  If the insurance company is deliberately delaying your claim, we will represent you aggressively to ensure you receive just compensation.
If you are a resident of Alachua County, Lake County, Columbia County, Levy County, Marion County, Bradford County or Sumter County, we can help you settle your Homeowners Insurance claim.
Call our Gainesville office today at (352) 505-8900 to schedule your FREE CONSULTATION.


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