Hurricane Preparedness from the Legal Perspective: Preparing for Property Damage before the Next Storm Hits
With hurricane season peaking, Florida homeowners are well-advised to prepare in advance for filing property insurance claims. Not only is this a vital component of a comprehensive hurricane preparedness plan, doing some homework now will help you restore order in the wake the next storm. If/when you need assistance resolving your claim, it helps to work with the right property insurance attorney. In the meantime, here are some tips to help you prepare.
Obviously, it is crucial to document the condition of your home, as well as all of your belongings, before a storm hits. And the easiest way to do so is to take pictures with your smartphone — of everything. Start with the house, by taking pictures inside and outside, from all angles, as well as the area around the house. It is of utmost importance to document the condition of the foundation, walls, roof, ceiling, windows, siding — as claims adjusters will certainly do so after a storm.
It is also a good idea to document all of your personal property, typically referred to as “contents” under the terms of most insurance policies. This includes taking pictures of the contents of drawers, cabinets, closets and storage spaces. In short, you need to have proof of everything you own, as well as the prior condition of your home and belongings. Being unable to prove the prior condition of your real and personal property will invariably lead to delays and claims’ denials.
Review Your Homeowners Policy
It is important to know what’s covered and what isn’t under the terms of your homeowners insurance policy. First, homeowner’s insurance generally excludes damage from flooding caused by rain and highwater, which means you will likely have a separate flood insurance policy. Given that flooding from backup or broken water pipes is common in South Florida, however, some homeowner’s policies may contain riders covering such damage, which may not covered under flood insurance. That sounds confusing, because it is.
Anyway, most homeowners policies also include a “hurricane deductible” that generally ranges from 1 percent to 5 percent of the insured value. If your home is insured for $500,000 and your hurricane deductible is 2 percent, for example, you will need to cover $10,000 out-of-pocket for repairs before your hurricane coverage kicks in. Moreover, be aware of any coverage exclusions and limits of your homeowners insurance.
Finally, it is important to remember that insurance companies frequently interpret policy provisions to minimize or deny valid claims. The primary reasons for claim denials include:
- The loss is excluded from the policy
- The damage is less than what the insured claimed
- The damage falls below the policy’s deductible
- The damage is the result of normal wear and tear
Regardless of the reasons for a claims denial, a skilled attorney can help to enforce your rights.
Why This Matters
By understanding the terms of your homeowner’s insurance policy before the next hurricane, you can avoid unnecessary delays or claim denials. Of course, you should also be prepared for an evacuation in the event of a storm. This means compiling all of your important financial records, having a supply of nonperishable food and water to last for at least three days, mapping out an evacuation route, and coordinating your plan with loved ones.
After the storm, your insurance company has an obligation to fulfill the terms of your homeowner’s policy. When an insurer fails to do so, the attorneys at Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLC are here to help. Contact our office as soon as possible to set up a consultation.
Posted in: Property Damage