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Storm / Hurricane Damage Insurance Claims, Disputes, and Denials

Storm Damage From Hurricane Irma

Was your valid hurricane or storm related insurance claim denied by your homeowner's insurance company? Are you experiencing delays processing your claim, or did you receive an unfair compensation offer from your insurer?

Our team of Florida homeowner's insurance attorneys have years of experience defending the policyholder rights of individuals, families, and business owners against insurance companies. To discuss challenges related to your insurance dispute, call our Florida property insurance attorneys today for a free consultation.

Storm & Hurricane Insurance Claims

  • Preparation & Recovery

    According to the National Hurricane Center, hurricane season lasts from early June through late November. According to storm records dating back to 1968, on average each year, 11.8 storms form with at least two on average becoming major hurricanes. Ahead of these ravaging storms, property owners living throughout Florida in vulnerable areas to tropical systems must review details of their insurance policies to know what is covered and how to begin rebuilding after the storm.

    Storm Types

    • Hurricanes - Obtaining compensation from a homeowner's insurance policy for such damages can be complicated. It can be difficult to determine how the damage was caused to your property if wind and/or flooding occurred and homeowner's insurance usually will not cover damages. If wind damaged your windows, but flooding also occurred on the property, your claim may be denied. The Insurance Information Institute claims roughly 98 percent of Florida residents living in coastal counties. Therefore, you will not be the only policyholder submitting a claim. The aftermath of a hurricane landfall causes insurance companies to be flooded with claims. Yours may sit for a while unless an attorney is defending your claim.
    • Storm - Defined as a weather occurrence or an unnamed hurricane, they are known to cause the same form of damage. However, you may experience similar challenges of getting an insurance approval.
    • Tornadoes - Homeowner's insurance policies typically cover such damages, but when they occur, you should document them immediately and contact your policyholder. Note essential repairs necessary for safe habitation. Reimbursement by the insurance company is possible if your home is a total loss.
    • Wind - Minor to catastrophic wind damage can occur. A review of the damage from a licensed contractor recommends new roof installation. Nonetheless, your insurance agency doesn't agree.

    Before The Storm: Preparation Tips

    • To help prove hurricane damage that occurs, take pictures and record video of your property along with personal possessions in your home.
    • Use your smartphone to take pictures of your insurance policies including home, car, jewelry, flood, windstorm/hurricane, and other policies you have. In case of a loss, the information is readily available.
    • Keep property damage to a minimum by securing loose property items or bringing them indoors. Shutter and board up windows and remove unsecured items from the lawn, patio, and yard areas.
    • Protect important items from debris or water damage by placing them in bags or waterproof containers.

    After The Storm: Recovery

    • Report any damage to your insurance company as soon as possible. A first in, first out, claim processing is likely.
    • Assess your property and create an itemized list of items damaged or lost.
    • Record video or take pictures of the damage.
    • Avoid accepting settlement offers from your insurance company until you consult with your homeowner claim lawyer unless you are sure your claim or home will be satisfied through your policy.
    • You have three years after the storm to settle supplemental claims if you don’t settle all claims on a final or full payment basis. It will help later if you need to revisit the initial claim if you find hidden damage such as in the attic or behind walls.

    Rebuilding: Selecting A Contractor

    Homeowners can choose a contractor to perform repairs when loss or damage occurs. Recommended contractors may have agreements with your insurance agency, but are not liable contractor-related issues if they occur. Insurers providing residential insurance coverage can contract qualified building contractors with experience working with hurricane-related damage under Florida law.

    Policyholders can choose service options provided by their insurance carrier including building contractors when covered by their policy. Other benefits, terms, and conditions may be provided by the insurance carrier, but they must guarantee work by the building contractor. Liability is not assumed by the insurance carrier for the building contractor's actions.

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  • Common Insurance Questions

    What is hurricane insurance coverage?

    Florida law (Fla. Stat. § 627.0629(6)), requires hurricane windstorm damage coverage to be included in residential property insurance policies. It states, "Insurers may not write residential property insurance policies without providing windstorm coverage or hurricane coverage."

    Under Florida law, hurricane coverage is defined as coverage for damage or loss caused by hurricane windstorm peril. In referencing Florida Statute 627.4025(2)(a), it includes interior property damage inside a home or building created by direct force from rain, hail, sleet, sand, snow, or dust that created an opening by which these weather-related events caused damage.

    Under state law, "windstorm" is defined as rain, hail, gusty winds, cyclones, or tornadoes caused by hurricanes which result in direct property damage or loss. Florida insurance law defines "hurricane" as an official storm system declared by the National Hurricane Center. The hurricane duration in Florida starts from the time a hurricane watch or warning is issued anywhere in Florida by the National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center, and continues for 72 hours after the end of a hurricane watch or warning issued by the National Hurricane Center anywhere in the state.

    Windstorm damage must be covered by homeowner's insurance policies under Florida insurance law. Florida Statute 627.712 states that insurers providing insurance policies to residential owners must make windstorm coverage available. Claims unrelated to hurricane damage may see higher deductibles, but coverage is still possible.

    In Florida, roof or siding damage caused by wind is covered by typical homeowner insurance policies. Also, hurricane damage in Florida has a fixed percentage deductible based on the value of the policy. The deductible must be satisfied before the policy can pay for damages.

    Insurance companies may use this rule to their advantage in an effort to limit payouts after a hurricane. They may be more likely to issue smaller settlements or deny legitimate claims.

    Therefore, it is important to review details of your insurance policy carefully to understand coverage limits and if a separate policy is needed. Doing so helps you learn if the insurance agency is being honest if they issue a low settlement offer or deny your claim.

    Can hurricane related damage be covered by my flood insurance?

    This depends on what caused damage to your property. Homeowner's insurance or windstorm policies may cover most claims, but after a hurricane, flood damage is possible. A "flood" is defined by Florida law as a temporary, partial, general, or complete water accumulation of normally dry land (two or more acres) or two or more properties with at least one being of the policyholder, including:

    • Tidal waters overflowing inland;
    • Water or surface runoff from any source resulting in rapid or unusual accumulation;
    • Mudflow; or
    • Erosion or wave currents causing substance collapse along the land, lake shores, or similar body of water exceeding cyclical levels defined as a flood.

    Meaning, in Florida, damage must occur as described in the previous four points mentioned as it relates to terms in your flood insurance. For instance, homeowner's insurance may cover water damage from a pipe burst resulting from the property being hit by hurricane-related debris or wind, instead of by flood insurance because rising waters did not cause the damage.

    How is replacement coverage and cost value determined?

    Check terms related to replacement coverage to see your entitlements. You may be protected under Florida Statue 626.9744, which states that when homeowner's insurance adjusts and settles first-party losses related to replacement or repair costs they may apply to these requirements:

    (1) When an item or part requires replacement or repair, upon the occurrence of physical damage while making the replacement or repair that is covered by your policy and not excluded, is included in the loss within appropriate limits. The insurer is obligated to pay the applicable deductible unless there are limitations in the policy, but by code or ordinance may not be liable to pay betterment.

    (2) When replacement items for a loss lack quality, size, color, or do not match what is required to make repairs or replacement, the insurer is required to make sensible replacement and repair of items for adjoining areas. During repair and replacement determination in adjoining areas, costs related to repair and replacement of undamaged property could be assessed by the insurer, including the remaining use of portions undamaged and similar factors.

    What if my insurance carrier files bankruptcy?

    The Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA) assumes policies of insurance carriers in bankruptcy or deemed insolvent, according to Florida law. Existing claims will be covered according to Florida's FIGA statue meeting the following obligations:

    A. Before bankruptcy arbitration occurring within 30 days after debt determination.

    B. Prior to date of policy expiration less than 30 days after insolvency determination.

    C. Prior to policy cancellation or replacement by the insurer within 30 days of determination.

    Based on original policy terms your payout may be assessed by FIGA with a $100 deductible. Claims more than $100 but less than $300,000 may be covered by the guaranty, with the exception of homeowner's insurance required to provide $200,000 additional coverage toward structural or content damage claims.

    We can assist in processing your claim if your insurance carrier files bankruptcy or is overseen by FIGA. Our hurricane insurance lawyers have years of experience working FIGA claims and will fight to ensure your settlement claim is justified.

    What are common types of hurricane and tropical storm damage?

    Hurricanes produce heavy rains and strong winds. Populated areas look like war zones after they move through. Strong winds uprooted trees, bring down power lines, ripping shingles off rooftops, and litter streets with debris while mangling road signs.

    Damage extent from a hurricane depends on the storm's strength which ranges from one to five based on wind speed. There are five hazards (storm categories) people should look for when assessing property damage no matter how strong the storm.

    The strength of a hurricane is determined by wind speed; it's most threatening hazard. The Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale measures wind speed and uses number categories to distinguish strength levels and the kind of damage you can expect with each.

    Category 1: A category-1 hurricane has winds sustained above 74 mph. The winds are strong enough to cause damage to vinyl siding, shingles, gutters, and roofs. Tree branches can snap, and shallow trees get blown over or uprooted. Power outages may result from downed poles.

    Category 2: A category-2 hurricane has winds sustained above 96 mph. The winds are strong enough to cause severe damage to roof and siding of homes, power lines, and uproot trees.

    Category 3: A category-3 hurricane has winds sustained above 111 mph. The winds cause widespread damage worse than a category-2 storm while uprooting trees and leaving areas without water or power.

    Category 4: A category-4 hurricane has winds sustained above 131 mph. The winds cause severe structural damage to homes including rooftops and exterior walls. Trees are uprooted and snapped with downed power poles. Some residential areas become difficult to travel through by rescue workers.

    Category 5: A category-5 hurricane has winds sustained above 155 mph as the most threatening storm of all. In the United States, only three category-5 storms made landfall including Andrew in 1992. Well-built homes could get demolished. Walls and roofs can collapse. Trees are uprooted or topped over. Road signs and lose debris become hazardous projectiles.

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  • Filing Your Claim

    What damage can I report when filing my hurricane damage claim?

    Different things may qualify for compensation depending on your homeowner's insurance policy. Such claims allowed may include:

    • Structural Damage - Physical structure damage to a residential property on the inside or outside. Shingles and roof tiles may qualify for replacement.
    • Exterior Damage - Damage occurring to fencing, pools, playgrounds, or landscaping may qualify.
    • Personal Property Damage - Clothing, furniture, kitchen items, and appliances may qualify for coverage.
    • Hotel Reimbursement - Costs incurred for staying in a hotel during a storm or home repairs may qualify.
    • Food Loss - Perishables that spoiled or went bad from a power outage caused by the storm may qualify.
    • Cleaning Costs - Costs incurred from cleaning your home after hurricane damage.
    • Alternative Living - You may be entitled to reimbursement of costs related to alternative living arrangements if you were unable to live in your home due to damage.
    • Vehicle Damages - Comprehensive insurance coverages handles damages of the vehicle, but personal property inside the vehicle may qualify for coverage under your homeowner's policy.
    • Pool Damage - Repair costs related to pool equipment or lining damage may qualify for coverage.
    • Other Property Structures - Other forms of property structures such as a barn or shed may qualify for coverage.
    • Diminishing Value - Damage that led to the loss of property with diminishing value may qualify for coverage.

    What is the timeline for claim processing?

    In Florida, to help you make and process homeowner or hurricane claims several state laws were established.

    • 14-day claim acknowledgment - In respect to a claim, insurers are to communicate within 14 days they have received, reviewed, and acknowledged the claim unless payment was issued within the period or acknowledgment failed due to factors out of control of the insurer that prevented the communication from occurring.
    • 10 days to start investigation - Proof of loss investigation must start within 10 working days of receiving statements unless stated otherwise in the insurance policy or by law or unless the investigation failed to begin due to factors out of control of the insurer that prevented the investigation from starting.
    • 90 days to pay a claim - Insurers have 90 days from receiving notice of a supplemental, reopened, or initial property claim from a policyholder to deny or pay a claim or a portion of the claim unless payment was prevented from factors out of control of the insurer. If initial claim notices are not paid within 90 days, call our Florida property insurance lawyers to learn if we can assist you in getting your claim paid. You claim may entitle you to interest. Florida law states from the date the insurer received the claim is when interest is accrued. Therefore, if more than 90 days is needed to process your claim your settlement may qualify for interest back to the initial claim date.

    How long can I wait to file my claim?

    Under Florida law, property owners must give notice of initial, reopened, or supplemental claims to their insurance company within 3 years of hurricane landfall.

    Florida Statute 627.70132 states, "Acknowledgement of hurricane or windstorm claim. - A claim, reopened, or supplemental through a property insurance policy defined in s. 624.604, for damage or loss caused by hurricane or windstorm danger, is disqualified unless an acknowledgment of the reopened, supplemental, or claim was reported within 3 years after the first windstorm or hurricane landfall occurred according to policy terms. A reopened claim or supplemental claim is an added recovery claim by insurers for loss or damage occurring from the same storm event as adjustment to the initial claim previously filed. Limitations related to civil actions are not applicable or affected related to reopened claims, supplemental claims, or claims filed timely as stated in section s. 95.11.

    Issues like mold damage or water intrusion may occur after placing your initial claim with your hurricane insurance policyholder. Therefore, you can file a supplemental insurance claim of the hurricane/windstorm landfall within three years.

    Florida property owners making a Hurricane Irma insurance claim or need assistance processing their claim can contact us to learn compensation you may be entitled. As a Florida insurance lawyer with experience handling close to 6,000 claims in the state, our team can assist with Hurricane Irma claims or other property damage claims anywhere in Florida. For assistance with any claim we are open late and on call during weekends to help with homeowner, or Hurricane Irma claims.

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  • Insurance Claim Attorneys

    Our Florida Insurance Claims Attorneys Are Ready to Help Today

    We begin with a thorough, honest evaluation of your situation, assessing the probability of a successful result using various legal strategies. We handle homeowner claims on a no cost, no fee basis when pursuing compensation, we only get paid when you do!

    Even though you faithfully pay your insurance premiums each month, insurance companies look for ways to settle claims as cheaply as possible, or to completely avoid compensating you for property damage when you need them the most, leaving you a hurricane victim twice over.

    Insurance Company Tactics

    As qualified attorneys, our expertise originates from examining exclusions, coverage concerns, and insurance policies. We know unscrupulous tactics of insurance agencies trying to minimize payments made on claims or avoiding payment altogether to maximize their profits at property owner's expense. Here is what you need to know about insurance company tactics used to make damage claim payouts challenging:

    • Deny that coverage exists.
    • Deny a claim because it is partly excluded under your policy.
    • Cause unnecessary delays in claim processing, payment, or adjustment.
    • Make false or misleading statements to you.
    • Undervalue property or offer lowball payments and estimates.
    • Discourage you from seeking an attorney to review your claim denial.
    • Send payments labeled "final" or "full" even though you are eligible for additional benefits.

    Handling problems with an insurance carrier by yourself is difficult and time consuming. Your ability to rebuild depends greatly on the insurance money if you don't have money saved. Then again, putting your savings toward hurricane damage repair may hinder your ability to save for other significant events such as a vacation, college or something deserving.

    If you find yourself facing an unjust claim denial, contact us for a no-risk free evaluation of your case. We want to hold insurance carriers accountable and get you on the road to recovery.

    Homeowner & Hurricane Damage Claims and Lawyer Fees

    Depending on the status of your case when resolved, the court may award attorney fees to offset legal costs. We handle cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you do not have to pay any upfront fees. Florida Statute 627.428 states upon execution of a decree or judgment by any Florida state court against an insurer favoring one or more insured or policy beneficiary or executed contract by insurer, court trial or, court appeal event in which the beneficiary or insured succeeds, the appellate court decrees or adjudges against insurer favoring the beneficiary or insured an acceptable sum as compensation or fees for the insured's legal representation in suit of recovery.

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