Florida insurance companies do not specifically designate coverage as “hurricane insurance.” Instead, they offer homeowner policies that cover wind damage. There is; however, a special deductible for hurricane damage. The deductible is a fixed percentage of the total amount of the policy, and it must be met before the insurance company will pay for hurricane damage.
Insurers use the ambiguity of the state’s insurance rules to exploit the insured. They often claim they are not liable for certain damages and deny claims if they sense that a property owner is not aware of the rules. They often make low-ball offers to reduce payouts. Therefore, homeowners who purchase insurance must carefully read and understand their policies to determine the types of damage that are covered and types that may require a separate policy.
While claim denials and low-ball offers are common tactics that insurance companies utilize against their unsuspecting customers, they may choose to employ some of the following:
- denying that coverage exists
- denying a claim because parts of a claim or the entire claim is excluded from the policy
- unreasonably delays processing, adjusting or paying a claim
- making misleading or false statements
- refusing to pay for a type of coverage or forcing the insured to settle under a different type of policy coverage
- claiming that lawyers are not needed to settle the claim
- requiring a written release of supplemental claim
- including words like “full” or “final” with a settlement check when the insured may also have a supplemental claim
TYPES OF DAMAGE
Hurricanes pack strong winds and heavy rain that move in a distinct path. Wind speed determines the severity and category rating of the storm. Hurricane strength is rated according to the Saffir-Simpson scale, which ranges from Category 1 storms with wind gusts in excess of 74 miles per hour to Category 5 with gusts above 155 mph.
A Category 1 hurricane can damage roofs, gutters and siding, and detach shingles. Damage that is characteristic of a Category 5 storm includes caved roofs, collapsed walls, destruction of well-built homes, and the transformation of street signs into deadly projectiles. Hurricanes bring torrential rains that range from a few inches to several feet falling within a short period of time, increasing the likelihood of flood damage after the storm has moved on. Perhaps the most underestimated – and destructive – consequence of a hurricane is storm surge. In an instant, low-lying areas could be covered by fast-moving ocean water that decimates anything in its path.
Getting the Protection You Need
Hurricane season begins in early June and ends in late November. Property owners prepare for this hazardous stretch by carrying insurance to compensate for storm damage that may occur. Although homeowners pay their monthly insurance premiums in exchange for coverage and peace of mind, insurance companies commonly attempt to pay as little as possible in the aftermath of a storm. Therefore; before choosing a policy, property owners must determine exactly what is covered, the exact circumstances under which the company will compensate and how much the company will pay.
WHAT TO DO AFTER THE STORM PASSES
Attempts to prevent storm damage often aren’t enough to completely withstand the forces of nature. After the storm, all structural damage should be covered by a tarp to prevent water intrusion and to protect against elements that may cause further damage. Preventing additional damage will give insurance companies one less reason to deny or reduce compensation by claiming the bulk of the damage resulted after the storm.
Thoroughly documenting the post-storm scene is of critical importance when filing a claim. Start by taking photos outside the house, capturing each side. Be sure to include a portion of the roof in each shot. Take photos of the entire yard. As a general rule, begin with wide shots, then gradually move to shots that show specifically damaged areas in greater detail. Create an inventory of all damage while taking photos.
If your claim is denied, do not give up. Call a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in storm damage claims to learn your rights. Couture Law P.A. can help property owners better understand how claims work, and save time and frustration in an otherwise lengthy, tedious process. Having a legal professional on your side compels the insurance provider to remain accountable and reduces the likelihood and severity of deception.
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