In Florida, tropical storms are a potential threat for every homeowner. These storms can range in severity and duration, resulting in damage to homes and possessions, and threatening the lives of those in the storm’s path. After the storm has passed, you may need to file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance company to get financial compensation for the damages your home sustained. For many homeowners, the process of filing an insurance claim can be complex and unclear. Critical mistakes in the beginning of the claims process can reduce the amount of compensation a homeowner receives. Find out how to properly file an insurance claim after a tropical storm with our experienced insurance law attorneys.
Find Out What Your Homeowners Insurance Policy Covers
As a homeowner, it is important to be familiar with the specifics of your policy – specifically, you should know what is a covered loss and what is excluded. Certain types of damage may be covered, but a tropical storm may complicate the situation, and almost always calls for a much higher deductible. Be sure to read over your policy and ask your insurance company if you have any specific questions regarding coverage.
Learn what types of damage are covered, and if your policy has any special considerations when it comes to named storms, such as tropical storms or hurricanes. It is possible that your insurance may not cover floods, even if the flooding results from an otherwise covered loss (for example, a roof leak). In addition to damages to the property itself, your policy may also cover evacuation expenses, such as a hotel, transportation, and food. These expenses are known as ALE, or Additional Living Expenses. If your policy allows for these costs, make sure to save your receipts and submit them to your claims adjuster.
Frequently, insurance policies have a standard deductible amount that must be accounted for before the insurance company will tender any payments to the insured. In other words, if you have a deducible of $1,000, the damage to your property must exceed $1,000 before the insurance company will pay you for a loss. Because of the incredible destruction that tropical storms often cause, hurricane deductibles are almost always significantly higher than an “all perils” deductible, which applies in the event of any other type of loss. Many policies will often include a separate process for storm damage, which often use a percentage based on the total amount of insurance paid for as the deductible, rather than a set amount.
Document the Damages
After the storm has passed and your safety is no longer in jeopardy, you should immediately document the extent of the damage. Take notes on what damages your home has sustained, and if you have any possessions that have been either damaged or ruined. Take as many photographs with a time and time stamp as you can to show the extent of the damage. These pictures can later be used to strengthen your claim and ensure your insurance company is aware of all the damage. If possible, gather receipts for damaged items to verify their value.
If it is necessary to perform emergency repairs immediately, and you cannot give the insurance company an opportunity to inspect first, thoroughly document the damages to your property before making these repairs. Photos, notes, and receipts can only help your claim. If you pay any expenses out of pocket, save all receipts and invoices. Be sure to take pictures of serial or model numbers of technical equipment, such as damaged laptops and televisions.
You can begin your cleanup process before the adjuster comes, but be sure to take photographs documenting your actions. You may be able to reduce the amount of damage to your home and belongings by carefully drying them out. Remove as much as you can from the inside of your home, and sort what can be saved from what cannot. Be sure to document all items that are thrown away. Run fans and a dehumidifier inside your home to help dry out the interior, which reduces the chance of mold and mildew. Carpets are extremely difficult to dry and may have to be ripped out. Assess the cost of replacing the carpet versus trying to perform dry out services, keeping in mind that the carpet needs to first be pulled up to ensure all the moisture underneath is gone. Drying out your home can prevent further damage, such as mold issues that may be not obvious until much later.
File Your Claim Quickly
After a tropical storm, many homeowners will be filing claims with insurance companies, so it is important to ensure that your claim is filed in a timely manner. Because of the sheer volume of claims that are likely to be processed by insurance companies during that time, it is possible that your claim can get lost in the shuffle, causing delays to the repair process. Filing your claim as quickly as possible can reduce the chance of having to wait for compensation.
Find out your insurance company’s process for submitting claims (many of which are easily accessible online or via a 1-800 number). Each company may have a slightly different process, so it is important to learn your chosen company’s preferred method. When submitting your claim, provide as many details regarding the damaged items as possible, but be sure to note that there may be damages you have not yet discovered. If you are unable to continue living at the property, it is important to let the insurance company know, and send them all documentation regarding your additional living expenses. After your claim has been submitted, an insurance adjuster will come to your property to assess the damage and determine what your insurance payout should be.
Get Help with Your Claim
You may be faced with the challenge of submitting an insurance claim after a storm, and should know the extent of your coverage, along with your options regarding the claims process. These details can be tricky and should be analyzed by an experienced professional. An experienced insurance attorney can guide you through the process, protect your claim and help you receive the compensation necessary to rebuild your home.
Pazos Law Group understands the complications that homeowners can run into when making an insurance claim after a serious storm. Contact our South Florida insurance attorneys by calling (954) 719-5557.