Hurricane Ian recently caused an estimated $25 billion – $40 billion in damages across the State of Florida, much of which is not fully protected by insurance. If your property has been damaged or destroyed as the result of this ferocious storm, the difficult and uncertain work of rebuilding now begins.
What do you do first? And how do you make sure you’re receiving every dime you deserve from your insurance company?
It’s going to be a long road ahead but you’ll want these basics to start the process.
Immediately After the Storm:
Report the Damage
Instead of jumping straight into clean up and repair mode, it’s best to contact your insurance company before doing anything else. This allows your agent to advise you on a repair plan that adheres to the terms of your policy. Gather as much information as you can about your policy, including how much time you have to file a claim. It’s going to be a busy time! Most insurers will advise that once you file a claim, you’ll likely wait a few days or even weeks before an adjuster contacts you to schedule an inspection. The earlier your claim is in, the better, as claims are prioritized by first-filed and most severe.
Make Temporary Repairs
After contacting your insurer, you should begin making temporary repairs to secure your property. This might include boarding up broken windows, placing tarps over holes in the roof, and/or drying out wet items to prevent mold. Take photos and video of all damage both inside and outside of your home or property before any clean-up or repair efforts are made. Keep receipts for materials used and keep a record of all repairs made. It is important to know that payments for temporary repairs come out of the total settlement amount of your claim, so now is not the time to make extensive or permanent repairs. Property insurance policies typically require that you make repairs to mitigate further loss. BUT, you will not want to start those renovations before the insurer can conduct an inspection of the property. It is critical that you wait until after meeting with your claims adjuster to begin final repairs.
If You Need to Relocate/Evacuate
If you are unable to live in your home due to the storm damage, your insurance policy may cover reasonable additional living expenses. These expenses can include hotel rooms, gas, meals and even clothing and other necessities. Be sure to keep records and receipts from all expenses you pay out-of-pocket while you are displaced. Sometimes insurance companies will advance the money to you but regardless, you will be required to provide proof of how the money was spent.
Filing a Claim
Once you’ve notified your insurance company of your claim, the insurer will assign and send out an adjuster to inspect your property. Generally, an adjuster will inspect your property within 2-4 weeks. In the meantime, you will need to thoroughly document your losses and get ready for their visit. And don’t forget, make emergency repairs and mitigate any further damages, if necessary, but do not complete unnecessary repairs before the insurer’s inspection takes place!
You will want to begin making a list of damaged items, along with specific product description information and estimated value, immediately. The more detailed the information you can provide, the smoother the process is likely to go. Again, take photos and/or video of all damage and do not throw anything away until the adjuster has seen it. During their visit, the adjuster will inspect the damage, take photos and measurements, and provide instructions on submitting receipts for emergency repairs and reimbursements. They should also go over the claims process and an itemized claim estimate with you. Be sure to ask any and all questions you have, and do not be afraid to contact them to follow-up.
Obtain written estimates from licensed contractors on repair costs. You ALWAYS want at least one (preferably two or three) independent estimates, as insurance companies make their profits by delaying, denying, and/or low-balling claims. Ensure the bids are detailed and include information such as materials to be used and prices on a line-by-line basis. Once you find a contractor and a bid you like, your adjuster will need to approve the cost. Never pay in advance of work being performed, and never sign your insurance check over to a contractor.
Get Help from a Legal Professional
If you need help navigating the difficult maze of delayed or denied property insurance claims after Hurricane Ian, the Law Offices of Heather D. Lee may be able to assist you.
Often, when a property insurance claim is denied, people turn to a public adjuster for help. However, most public adjusters charge contingent-fees similar to an attorney’s fees. And when your public adjuster cannot get a fair settlement of your claim? Well, they’ll leave you looking for an attorney to file a lawsuit. Don’t waste your time and valuable funds. Go directly to the assistance you need now.
The Life & Property Insurance Law Offices of Heather D. Lee provide free consultations on all potential cases. As a Florida native, Attorney Lee knows how devastating the aftermath of hurricanes and other major storms can be. You don’t have to go through this nightmare alone. We are here for you, Florida.