If Hurricane Dorian damaged your property, you should immediately take the following steps to make sure your homeowners insurance company pays the full value of your claim:
1. Report Your Claim
You should immediately contact your homeowners insurance company and your insurance agent to report your claim. Following hurricanes insurance companies sometimes do not answer or immediately return calls. So, you should make a record of your effort to report your claim. Each time you call your insurance company to report your claim, take a screen shot of the call from your cell phone (in the event you don’t have access to call detail reports on your cell phone bill). You should also email your insurance company and insurance agent to report your claim and, again, save your sent emails so that you have proof that you reported the claim.
If you live in a condominium or other dwelling with a homeowners association that may be responsible for some or all of your damages, you should immediately report the claim to the association as well.
2. Take Photographs and Video of the Damage
You should photograph and, where appropriate, video the damage to your home and personal property. This includes damage to the interior and exterior of your home. (Hopefully you photographed your property prior to the storm, so that your pre and post storm photographs and video will show that the damage did not exist prior to the storm).
Regarding your personal property (such as clothing, shoes, furniture, rugs, etc.), do not throw anything away. Not only should you photograph and video such items, but you should do everything possible to preserve such items until your insurance company sends an adjuster to inspect your damages.
3. Protect Your Property From More Damage
You have an obligation under your insurance policy and Florida law to do what is called “mitigate your damages,” which means to protect your property from further damage. So, if you have broken windows or a leak in your roof, for example, cover these areas with tarps, plywood, etc. in order to present more water intrusion and damage.
4. Stay Someplace Safe
If your home is uninhabitable, your insurance policy includes coverage for what is known as Loss of Use, which is sometimes called Alternative Living Expenses. Your insurance company is obligated to pay any increase in your living expenses so that your family can “maintain its normal standard of living.” This means, for example, that if your home – the insured property – is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home your insurance company must pay the reasonable expenses incurred for you to rent a property similar to your home. In other words, your insurance company is obligated to do more than put you up in a hotel room. Your insurance policy has a limit on the amount of Loss of Use coverage, which is contained in Coverage D of your policy. Check your policy, and call your insurance agent with any questions.
5. Consider Hiring A Lawyer To Help With Your Claim
Lawyers can also obtain an estimate of your damages, and help you process and negotiate your claim with your insurance company. Most lawyers charge the same percentage of your recovery from hurricane damages as would a public adjuster. If your case goes to court, you won’t have to pay the lawyer a percentage of your recovery because Florida law requires your insurance company to pay your legal fees and costs if your case settles in court or is won at a trial. Your insurance company will have a team of adjusters, contractors, engineers and lawyers who will try to deny or minimize the value of your claim. You should have your own team of experts to ensure that you receive the full value of the insurance coverage that you paid for and deserve.
Wites & Rogers represents homeowners and commercial property owners throughout Florida in claims against their insurance companies. Our team includes lawyers, paralegals, adjusters, contractors and other experts that we hire for each case. For a free consultation, call Wites & Rogers at 1-866-277-8631 or via email at email@example.com