If you live in South Florida, you know the threat of hurricanes looms every year. We take precautions like gathering supplies, ensuring we have enough food and water for our family, and putting up hurricane shutters when a storm approaches. And we purchase property and casualty insurance that covers hurricane damage in case a storm damages our homes.
But as many people find, insurance companies don’t always live up to their end of the insurance contract. They may look for loopholes to deny coverage or offer lowball settlements, hoping claimants are desperate enough to accept anything to help them pay for damage.
If you are having trouble getting your insurance company to pay you compensation you are due under your policy, know that you have rights. Coffey Trial Law represents homeowners, association boards, property managers, and public adjusters, helping them hold insurance companies responsible for the terms of their hurricane damage policies. Call 954-541-3194 to speak with a hurricane damage insurance claims lawyer in Fort Lauderdale about your claim and how we can help you.
What types of damage does hurricane damage insurance cover?
The high winds and excessive rainfall that come with a thunderstorm, windstorm, tropical storm or hurricane can cause extensive damage to property. Florida law requires homeowner insurance policies to include hurricane coverage for damage caused by wind and rain. Insurance policies should cover:
- Roof damage
- Damage from flying debris
- Moisture damage (e.g., mold, water damage from flooding)
- Broken windows
- Damaged garages or property extensions
- Damaged flooring
What damage your policy covers depends on the fine print in the policy itself, but you should consider the following:
- Where is your home located? If you live on the coast or another “high-risk” location, your policy may not cover your damages.
- Is the damage inside? Hurricane coverage policies should cover interior damage “if the direct force of the windstorm first damages the building, causing an opening through which rain, snow, sleet, hail, sand, or dust enters and causes damage.”
- What does your policy say about flood damage? Pay attention to the specific wording of the flood damage exclusion in your homeowner’s policy.
Be assured that the insurance company understands every word of your policy. That’s why we take a fine tooth comb to the policy to understand all coverage and exclusions. This level of detail and commitment is crucial to recover maximum compensation.
How does the insurance claim process work?
If your house suffered damage in a hurricane, you will need to file a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible after the storm.
The company will then send an adjuster to your property to assess the damage and determine the cost of repairs. These estimates will vary depending on the adjuster’s method for assessing damages.
The insurer will then offer you a settlement based on the adjuster’s estimate of your damages. In many cases, the offer is much lower than it should be. Insurers do this because they know that claimants are often facing significant damage they need to repair fast, and that this creates a sense of urgency to settle.
But you have the right to appeal a denial or lowball settlement offer. In fact, we encourage you to exercise this right so you hold the insurance company to the coverage you are paying for every month when you pay your premium.
What excuses do insurance companies use to reject claims or offer lowball settlements?
Remember that insurance adjusters are working for the insurance company, not you. And the insurance company is a business hoping to minimize payouts. The insurance company does whatever it can to pay as little as possible.
Insurance companies often cite these excuses to reject claims or offer low settlements:
- The water damage occurred after the hurricane: Insurance companies may claim the water damage occurred after the storm and therefore falls under a separate flood damage policy. Your attorney can dispute this claim by showing that the hurricane caused the water damage.
- Your house is not up to code: If you live in an older house, insurance companies may claim that it is not up to current code and as a result was unable to stand up to the storm.
- Your house is in an unsafe location: As we stated above, your location may be “high-risk.” If your house is located on the beach, the insurance company may claim you assumed the risk.
- Pre-existing damage: Your insurance company may try to claim that mold and other damages existed before the storm even hit.
- Damage caused by storm surge or waves: Houses near the coast have a higher risk of damage from storm surge or waves. As we stated above, you can only recover damage if the storm caused the weakness in the property that enabled the damage.
Coffey Trial Law Fights Back Against the Insurance Company
If your insurance company is not playing fairly, do not give up. There are ways to fight back to recover the damages you need to fix your property, but this is no easy task. Here are some of the strategies we use to get insurance companies to pay claimants what they owe:
Get Contractors and Insurance Adjusters to Agree on “Scope of Loss”
To ensure that you get the best settlement possible, you should seek a fair “scope of loss.” The Scope of Loss document will describe all of the repairs and replacements needed with no prices quoted. Our hurricane damage insurance claims lawyers in Fort Lauderdale work with independent, reputable professional contractors to provide rebuilding and repair estimates.
If we and the insurance company can agree on a scope of loss, your contractors and the insurance company’s contractors can bid on the scope, which may help you get a fair claim settlement.
Collect Evidence to Prove Causation
If the insurer is claiming that the damage occurred before or after the storm occurred, we collect evidence to prove that the storm directly caused the damage. Photos, property receipts, estimates, and other documentation can help prove your case.
Hold Insurance Company Accountable for Negligence
The insurance company owes you a duty to compensate you in a timely manner under the terms of your hurricane damage policy. If an insurance company is negligent in handling your claim or unnecessarily delays payments, you may be able to sue for bad faith.
Call Us to Recover All Compensation You Are Due
If a hurricane destroys or damages your property, you are probably feeling overwhelmed by the cost of repairs. The damages can cost you tens of thousands of dollars if your insurance company denies your claim. Some people end up moving because they cannot afford to pay for repairs without insurance.
A successful lawsuit against your insurance company could mean compensation for:
- Dwelling repair costs
- Replacement of lost contents
- Additional living expenses (ALE) (e.g., temporary rent/hotel, food)
- Debris removal (if covered by your policy)
- Punitive damages for bad faith
The property and casualty insurance claims lawyers in Fort Lauderdale at Coffey Trial Law know how painful it can be to suffer hurricane damage only to be denied by the insurance company. We do everything in our power to hold your insurer accountable and cover damages you incurred in the storm. Call Coffey Trial Law today: 954-541-3194.