Most homes have homeowners policies covering wind damage, but insurers have been steadily increasing hurricane wind coverage deductibles and imposing other sometimes draconian policy limitations. In addition, homeowners’ policies do not cover flood, earthquake, tree removal (unless the tree damages the house) or food spoilage from power failures. As a Miami insurance recovery attorney can tell you, in the wake of a storm, homeowners must be vigilant with their insurance companies throughout the claims process to ensure that they receive a full and fair settlement. Your claim is unique and should be treated as such by your insurance company. Here are some important tips and considerations as you go through the claims process.
Tips for Filing Flood and Wind Claims
First, If you have a legitimate claim, do not hesitate to file it. Insurers should not raise your rate for filing a claim or fail to renew your policy as a result. Second, once your claim is reported, be sure to make a note of your claim number. Third, maintain receipts for any expenditures related to immediate repairs you had to make to secure your home or any living expenses (hotel, meals) if you could not return to your home following the storm. These may be reimbursable under the “Additional Living Expense” portion of your homeowners’ policy. Forth, many insurance companies have repair programs in which they offer to send out one of their approved contractors to estimate your property damage. While you may wish to obtain an estimate from their contractor, you are not under an obligation to use them. As the claims process gets underway, it is a good idea to obtain a repair estimate from a trusted local contractor to use as a guide in talking with the adjuster.
Keep Good Records
When you file a claim, you should immediately start a notebook documenting all contacts with your insurance company. Include the date, time, who you spoke to, and a brief description of the exchange. If you need to complain later, this information will be important. For more tips on how to communicate with your insurance company, click here.
As soon as possible after the storm, make as thorough a list of your possessions as you can. Use pictures of your belongings taken before the storm and keep them in a safe place (ideally, the cloud). Valuation is a significant issue in many hurricane claims. For example, the insurance adjuster may not be able to distinguish a rare antique from thrift store junk.
What if My Claim is Denied or the Offer is Too Low?
If your claim is denied or you believe the offer is too low, the first step is to demand that the insurer identify the language in your policy that served as a basis for the settlement. You may learn that the company has slipped new limitations into your policy and not adequately informed you. While the practice of shifting the cost of previously insured events back to consumers may be acceptable, consumers must be given the option to select the level of coverage they want with fully informed consent.
Importantly, once the insurance company tells you the reasons for its action, it cannot produce new reasons for denying payment or making a low offer at a later time. That is, you have locked them in, which is an important consumer protection. If you review your policy and believe that, under a reasonable reading, you are entitled to the full amount of your claim, you may be able to prevail in court. Courts consistently rule that if an insurance policy is ambiguous, the reasonable expectation of the insured policy will control since the consumer played no part in writing the language of the policy.
How We Can Help
If you have suffered hurricane or windstorm losses and are involved in a coverage dispute your insurance carrier, a Miami insurance recover attorney at Ver Ploeg & Marino can help you. Contact us at (305) 577-3996 or by email.Share