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Hurricane Irma Claims

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Hurricane Irma

The property insurance claim attorneys at The Law office of Amy Boggs would like to thank all those who worked so diligently to warn, protect and serve us during the widespread devastation of Hurricane Irma. In her wake, Irma left loss of life, damaged property and threatened businesses. Before and after the storm, many people left their own families in order to rescue us, turn our power on and clear our streets. To those who served during this crisis please accept our deepest gratitude.

Now it is our turn to serve policyholders with their property insurance claims. The loss of property from a storm can be financially devastating and full recovery requires that property owners receive enough compensation from their insurance company to rebuild. Citrus farmers lost a banner crop, businesses lost needed income and homeowners lost the safety of their home. Our law firm is dedicated to representing property and business owners who have suffered loss and have struggled to receive the funds due them from their insurance company. If your claim has been denied, unnecessarily delayed or you have not received fair compensation under the terms of your insurance policy, we will vigorously represent your legal interests and pursue the funds you need to reopen your business, rebuild your home or plant your crops.

Hurricane Damages

Hurricane claims involve windstorm coverage and flood coverage. These claims can become complicated due to the various coverage issues. Having an insurance attorney who understands policy language, negotiate your insurance claim with your insurance carrier can have many benefits.

Your homeowner’s insurance policy is made up of two different components: A homeowners policy and a flood policy. When you have a hurricane, you may have multiple peril situations. You could only have windstorm but also flood, which is common. Parsing out who is responsible for what damage is an important component of a hurricane claim. There are very specific rules about deductibles and how those can be applied.

One of the biggest problems homeowners face in a hurricane situation is that the homeowners have to leave the property because they have been evacuated. Meanwhile there is water intrusion and wind damage and there is no electricity for a period of time, which results in mold. When you return to your property, document all the damages immediately before you make any temporary repairs to avoid additional damage. Insurance companies have been able to severely limit mold coverage. They will use this to their advantage. For example: You may have $50,000 worth of mold damage, $20,000 for other damages, and your mold coverage is capped at $10,000. The insurance company will offer you the $20,000 for other damages and the capped amount of $10,000 for mold damage. You are most likely entitled to more. For example, once the dry wall gets wet, it needs to be replaced. The fact that mold later grew over it does not matter, the real peril to that was water which increases how much your claim is worth.

The unsuspecting property owner can look at the policy manipulations by the insurance company and really undervalue their claim. As soon as possible contact your insurance company and ask them to explain your policy, reimbursement for additional living expenses, deadlines that apply to your claim, and so forth. Know your rights! There are very strict guidelines on flood policies. They have specific and short deadlines for submitting a claim and documentation. If you miss those deadlines it becomes a real problem. As property insurance attorneys, we can help you decipher tricky policy language and getting around the carrier’s interpretation of your policy limits. We can also make sure you are meeting your obligations under the policy so as not to hinder the claims process. Our goal is for you to receive everything that is owed to you and have your property put back to the condition it was in before the storm.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. If Hurricane Irma damaged my property, what should I do?
A. You need to assess the damage (type and amount) and make a claim. Hurricane damage can be thought of in two different types of damage i.e. water damage and wind damage. Homeowners insurance policies will normally address wind damage while Flood policies will cover damage due to rising water.

Your homeowners insurance policy is considered an All Risk Policy and will cover many different types of loss. All Risk simply means that your policy will cover everything except those types of damages caused by specified exclusions. In addition to a base policy, you might have added coverage (windstorm, sinkhole or code upgrade) which countermand normal exclusions. One such normal exclusion is for damage caused by rising water or flooding. For this reason, many Floridians have another policy specifically for damage caused by flood.

A Flood Policy covers damage caused by rising water. Determining whether damage caused in a hurricane is due to rising water (flood) or by water driven by wind (windstorm coverage in your homeowners policy) can be difficult and financially important.

The last type of policy which might be applicable is your Auto Policy. If your car was damaged during the hurricane, your auto insurance policy should cover the damage. If your car is damaged while in your driveway both your homeowners policy and your auto policy might be implicated. The key for a property owner who has suffered property damage is to fully utilize all their policies. It will be in your best interest to make the same claim on multiple policies.

Q. If my business lost income because of Hurricane Irma, what should I do?
A. Most commercial policies include coverage for lost business income. So, if Hurricane Irma affected your normal business income, you should make a claim. But be prepared for a fight, because there are a number of ways to calculate lost business income. Your insurance company might have a substantially lower amount for your loss than you anticipate. Developing a clear, accurate and justifiable amount for your lost business income could be crucial in winning an argument with an insurance company about the true nature of your loss.

Q. If my insurer has offered me a low amount of money to settle my claim, should I accept it?
A. Insurance companies will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of claims created by Hurricane Irma. Less trained and experienced adjusters will be shoved into dire situations of loss. They will be under pressure to adjust a claim quickly and move on. But, an insurance adjuster might not see all the damage or calculate the additional costs to rebuild in the wake of shortages of materials and skilled laborers. Likely, you will be offered a check which after the deductible and low estimate for repair, shocks the conscience. You can accept the check , however you must acknowledge in writing that by accepting the check you are not in agreement that it represents a final settlement of your claim. Document your correspondence. You do not want to relinquish your ability to be fairly and fully compensated for your loss.

Q. What if I don’t have the money to pay my deductible?
A. This is a terrible misconception. You do not have to pay your deductible in order to trigger the insurance company’s obligation to pay you. The insurance company will assign an adjuster who represents their interest. The adjuster will develop an estimate of repair and then deduct the amount of your deductible from their financial obligation to you. For example let’s say that the adjuster estimates the cost of repair for your covered causes of loss to be $50,000.00 and your deductible is $10,000.00. The insurance company would subtract the $10,000.00 from the $50,000.00 and offer you a check for $40,000.00. You are NOT required to have $10,000.00 in your bank account to pay out of pocket a deductible before the insurance company pays you for your loss.

Q. What are my responsibilities in making a claim with my insurance company?
A. As a policy holder who is making a claim, you do have specific and important responsibilities. First, you need to make a timely claim. This does not mean a claim must be reported immediately but it should be within a reasonable amount of time. Even if your claim has been denied for untimely reporting there are legal reasons for your insurance company to still pay the claim.

Second, you must be honest in your reporting a claim. Fraudulent reporting is a strict no-no and could result in nullifying your entire claim or worse. Be honest and accurate in your reporting. If your claim is later litigated, it will be far easier to retell a truthful story.

Finally, you have a responsibility to mitigate further damage to the property. If your roof is leaking, put a tarp on it. If a pipe has burst in the walls, turn off the main water supply. By performing your duties as a policy owner, you give the insurance company fewer reasons to deny your claim.

Q. Will my insurance company drop me if I make a claim?
A. In Florida an insurance company cannot drop you if you have an open claim with them. As part of a settlement agreement, your insurance company might make a condition of payment a release from their current policy. You should never not make a legitimate claim because of a fear of being dropped by your insurance company.

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Don’t let the insurance company intimidate or treat you or your client unfairly.

If you are experiencing a property insurance claim related dispute, call The Law Office of Amy Boggs, P.A. at 727–954–8833 for a free, no obligation consultation.

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The Law Office of Amy Boggs, P.A.

4554 Central Avenue, Suite L
St. Petersburg, FL 33711

t: (727) 954-8833
f: (727) 954-8836

The information you obtain from this communication is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Call our office to consult with an insurance attorney for individual advice regarding your specific insurance claim situation. Any accounts of recent trials, verdicts and settlements are intended to illustrate the experience of the law firm. Prospective clients may not obtain the same or similar results as each case is unique.

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