Below is a checklist for filing a Hurricane Claim:
- Ensure the property is safe to enter prior to entering. If there is standing water still in the home, do not enter unless you have an electrician inspect and turn off all power.
- Get in touch with your insurance agent and/or your insurance company to file a claim. Don’t delay. Even if you have not figured out exactly what your damage or property loss is, let your insurer (or authorized agent/broker) know right away that you have sustained a loss. Do this in writing.
- Request a copy of your policy be sent electronically to you in pdf format. You will need to review your entire policy for an understanding of what you are entitled to and what you are responsible for under your policy, including if the event is even covered.
- Do not begin cleanup, repairs, or throw anything away until you notify your insurance company!
- Take extensive photos and videos before and during the inspection of the building, damaged personal property, cleanable items, structural damage, and the standing flood levels of water in the house
- Take detailed notes. Every time you call, write or speak to anybody affiliated with an insurance company, get their name and phone number. Write down the date and time of the communication, what you said, and what they said. Do not assume you will remember a conversation — or that they will.
- Keep a copy of all paperwork. General rule: get everything in writing. Put everything in writing. Everything. Then make a copy of everything you sign and/or send (e-mail, regular mail, etc.).
- Keep a receipt of every penny you must spend as a result of the disaster. For example, if you are forced to evacuate, keep records of purchases of food, lodging, clothing, etc.
- If the roof is missing shingles, have qualified contractor mitigate the damage by installing tarps to protect the property from further damage.
- Document the damage to the building as well as the personal property. List the dates of purchase, values, and receipts, if possible. Make a detailed list of every item damaged. Don’t leave anything out. File a claim for every item. You won’t get compensation for anything for which you do not submit a claim. Contact your credit card companies and retailers to help reconstruct purchases and identify costs for replacing lost items. Family members, friends and neighbors can help you create a full description of your loss.
- Take plenty of photographs of everything, including discarded objects, structural damage, and standing floodwater levels.
- If your home is uninhabitable, keep track of any living expenses that can be reimbursed. Without receipts, you will not be able to collect any Additional Living Expenses (ALE) during the time the house is uninhabitable.
- Only hire licensed contractors to do the work. Beware of signing a contract with an “assignment of benefits” (also referred to as AOB) clause which gives all the rights and proceeds of your insurance claim to the contractor.
- The insurance company will appoint an adjuster to handle your claim. The adjuster is paid by the insurance company and works for the company, not for you. Moreover, the adjuster is not an expert on your policy, and may not know what it covers. If you think the adjuster is wrong, you may reject the adjuster’s estimates and demand a reconsideration. You can also hire a “public adjuster” to help you out.
- Request copies of all estimates and reports from the insurance company adjuster.
- Have your valuables appraised independently. For antiques, art and other valuable items, you should get your own appraisal to compare with the insurance company’s assessment.
- Get insurance company approval for repairs. Don’t start repairing or replacing property, or throw away damaged property, without your insurance company adjuster’s approval.
- Take your time. Don’t be pressured into agreeing to low-ball estimates, repairs or rebuilding. Give yourself time to review the proposed claims settlement and determine whether it is fair and acceptable to you.
- Once the damage for the building/dwelling, the personal property and ALE is assessed, a “Proof of Loss”can be filed. This is your sworn statement of the amount you are claiming (along with any necessary supporting documentation) for your official claim for damages. Make sure to check for mistakes!
- Do not sign releases or waivers until you know your rights. If you have an undisputed claim, you should not have to sign a release to settle. If you are asked to sign a release find out why and be cautious about signing away your rights.
- Always be firm but polite. Know your rights and insist that the insurance company meet its legal obligations to you.
If you feel like the process of managing your insurance claim is to much to handle, intimidating, or if you feel your insurance company is not treating you fairly, you should consider contacting an attorney who will represent your interest. Your attorney will work directly for you, not the insurance company. An attorney can handle every aspect of your claim and meet with your insurance adjuster, contractors, and anyone associated with the claim. The goal of your attorney is to negotiate the best possible settlement for your damaged property.
If a homeowner is forced to hire a lawyer to sue a homeowners insurer because the insurer did not pay enough for a claim, and the homeowner wins that lawsuit, then the homeowner is entitled to his or her attorney’s fees to be paid by the insurance company.
If you have any questions regarding property damage caused by Hurricane Michael, and/or related insurance claims, please contact my office for assistance.
Standard Homeowners or Renters Insurance Coverage
Types of Perils Likely Covered:
Loss of Utilities
Types of Losses Likely Covered:
Cost of preventative actions taken (e.g. boarding up windows)
Cost of temporary or emergency repairs
Cost of approved temporary lodging
Value of various personal property (subject to some limitations)
Value of refrigerator contents
Cost of authorized permanent repairs
Cost of damaged tree removal
Perils and Losses Likely Not Covered or Only Limited Coverage Available:
Damage due to flood water
Unauthorized permanent repairs
Ordinary living expenses
Sources of Additional Information:
The American Red Cross: 1.800.RED.CROSS or www.redcross.org
Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”): 1.800.621.FEMA or www.fema.gov/hurricane-irma
FILING AN INSURANCE CLAIM:
Continental (“CAN”): 1.877.CNA.ASAP
Liberty Mutual: 1.800.2.CLAIMS
Safeco Insurance: 1.800.332.3226
State Farm: 1.800.SF.CLAIM (1.800.732.5246)
Florida Office of Insurance has a “Hurricane Season Resources” web page:
QUESTIONS AND COMPLAINTS:
Florida Department of Financial Services (“DFS”), Division of Consumer Services handles all consumer-related questions and problems concerning insurance: www.myfloridacfo.com
Florida contact information*: 1.877.MY.FL.CFO (1.877.693.5236)
*This is a toll-free helpline number and only available to consumers calling from a Florida number
Out of state contact information: 850.413.3089
Office of the Florida Attorney General: www.myfloridalegal.com
Price Gouging Hotline: 1.866.966.7226
National Flood Insurance Program Call Center: Specialists are available to assist with the servicing of a claim, provide general information regarding policies, and technical assistance to aid in recovery:
By phone: call toll-free 1.800.621.3362 (select option 2)
By e-mail: complete a “Request for Support” form and send to FEMA-NFIP-Support@fema.dhs.gov