From June through November, Floridians are on high alert for hurricanes. This year, category 4 Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc on many homes and businesses. Whether big or small, hurricanes can cause significant damage to property. These damages can be enormous, resulting in numerous and large claims as people and businesses try and rebuild. While in most cases property owners have no problem getting the compensation from insurers that they deserve, here are some tips to increase the likelihood of having claims approved the first time around.

Verify That You Have Coverage Before the Storm Hits

It does not do much good to take a look at your coverage—and see whether you actually have coverage—after the storm has hit. Insureds should make sure that they in fact have coverage at least annually. With many people now electing to get e-statements, it may be easy to miss that coverage is expiring or that the insured needs to affirmatively elect to stay with the insurer. Try and make a reminder in a phone or calendar about when that coverage is going to expire.

If you do have coverage, it is also important to understand what the policy covers and does not cover. One may have a hurricane policy and will be surprised, once a storm hits, that their claim is denied. Some hurricane policies do not cover flooding and storm surges, for instance, even though flooding is a common consequence of hurricanes. 

Or, one may have coverage but still not be completely covered in the event of a hurricane. This might be because the coverage amount is too small. If there is not enough money to cover the claim, then the insured will have to pay the difference out of pocket. 

This is why it is important for insureds to verify that they have coverage and understand what that coverage is for. Reviewing your policy ahead of time is beneficial, but the terms can be confusing. Having an experienced insurance attorney review your policy, and explain any gaps in coverage, can be very beneficial. 

Report Your Damage as Soon as Possible

No one will expect you to call your insurance carrier during the middle of the storm. However, you should contact your insurance carrier as soon as possible. Once the storm has passed and it is safe, let your insurance carrier know that there has been a storm and you have sustained some damage. You must give the insurance carrier prompt notice of damage.

However, if you do not call your insurance provider within a reasonable amount of time, it may raise questions about the extent of the damage—to the point that your claim is denied or you do not receive all of the money to repair the damage. This is because damage worsens as it is not corrected. If a roof sustains damage and is not promptly repaired, this could lead to water damage in the interior of the home. The insurance carrier may be less likely to pay for the water damage, arguing that the homeowner should have notified them about the roof damage so they could have prevented the water damage.

Additionally, in the case of major storms, there will be many policyholders filing claims. In the case of Hurricane Ian, over half a million claims have already been filed. Making sure you get your claim in with your carrier as soon as possible means that you will likely receive assistance with your situation sooner than later.

Document Damages

Even if you think it is obvious that there has been significant damage to your property, you have to show that there was damage and that the damage was a result of the hurricane. When it is safe to do so, take pictures and video of the damage that resulted from the storm. It is also helpful if you have photos or video of your property from before the storm, as this will help solidify that the storm caused the damage and not something else. Time is of the essence, as the insurance adjuster will look for evidence that the damage had a cause that is not covered by the policy.

Be sure to be specific about what the damages are. For instance, if an entire room of the home is damaged, be sure to list which items in that room were damaged. Just listing that a living room was a total loss does not reflect that the living room included furniture of a certain dollar amount, electronics of a certain dollar amount, etc. Going to the carrier with the dollar value of what was lost will help boost your claim. If you have receipts for those purchases, that is even better.

As is feasible, wait to get rid of damaged things. Of course, you do not want to hold onto moldy items, as that can cause significant health problems. But it can be helpful for the insurance adjuster to see damaged items. At least get a photo of the items before you discard them so that there is proof that you had the items and that those items were damaged beyond repair.

Prevent Further Loss

Something that some insureds forget is that they have what is referred to as a duty to mitigate losses. This means that when property damage occurs, property owners need to act reasonably so that the damage does not get worse. Just like the last example, where a roof has sustained damage and is now causing water damage, the homeowner needs to take steps to prevent water damage as is reasonable. Placing a tarp on top of the roof, or moving valuable items out of the way of the water coming into a home, would count as reasonable steps that the property owner will be expected to take. If you do not, then the insurance company can argue that the damage could have been prevented and will deny compensation. 

Don’t wait until a hurricane hits to figure out if you are covered. Contact an experienced insurance claim attorney today at 321-283-5888.