Natural disasters come in all shapes and sizes. Earthquakes, fires, floods, and tornadoes all affect various parts of our country, but in the state of Florida, tropical storms and hurricanes are the natural phenomena with which we are most familiar. However, no matter how many times we experience them or how well we prepare ourselves for hurricanes, sometimes you just can’t keep your home from being damaged or destroyed. When that’s the case, how do you know what your next steps should be? How do you make sure you and your family will eventually have a home to return to?
If you’ve secured the correct wind and water home insurance before the damage occurred, follow the insurance policy process for filing a claim and starting repairs. You have the right and the ability to get your home back to its pre-disaster condition.
What to Do Immediately After a Hurricane
If your home has been destroyed by a hurricane, hopefully you and your family saw the danger coming and vacated the premises to seek shelter somewhere safe, and you’ve also thought to bring all your important documents along with you for safe keeping, including your home insurance policy. If you have your policy, the first thing you’ll want to do after a hurricane is read through it and thoroughly understand your coverage, as well as discover the best way to contact your insurance provider.
As long as it is safe to do so, you should then inspect your home to get a thorough idea of the damage done. Be wary of potential collapses, gas leaks, flooding, sewer line damage, or electrical damage. If any areas of your home seem potentially dangerous to walk through, do not enter them. It is not worth the risk of harm to yourself. Document what you can from afar by way of photos, video recordings, and compiling a written list of the damage done and belongings lost. You will need this evidence to file a claim with your insurance provider.
Next, you will want to get in touch with your home insurance provider using their preferred means as instructed in your policy. It’s important to take this step as soon as possible, because after a communal natural disaster there is a large increase in the volume of claims they receive. The sooner you get your claim filed, the sooner action can be taken to make repairs on your home.
What to Expect After Your Hurricane Claim is Filed
Once you file your claim, your insurance company should contact you within fourteen days to schedule their inspection of your home—though again due to the large volume of claims filed it could take longer. Keep a record of the calls, dates, and names of who you speak with. In the meantime, you and your family may need somewhere to go if you can’t live at home. Don’t be afraid to ask local relatives or friends if they have space to put you up for a little while. If that is not a feasible option, you will need to pay to stay in a hotel or other temporary dwelling. The costs of living out of a hotel, Airbnb, or rental home can add up considerably over time. If your insurance plan includes reimbursement for temporary dwelling while your claim is being addressed, you should be compensated for those costs. Just make sure to check the spending limits your policy may have before you get settled somewhere and keep all receipts.
After you file a claim, your insurance provider will send a field adjuster out to inspect your home. This company representative will gather evidence and assist with making a determination about the coverage you should receive. Most field adjusters are not licensed general contractors and may not even be familiar with Florida state laws. Sometimes they may have been sent to help with inspections from out of state. They may offer to write you a check on the spot,and although the check may be tempting to accept, if you feel their settlement offer is inadequate, then do not sign any releases to go along with it. Doing so could waive your entitlement to additional benefits, for which you are always allowed to file. Instead, make sure you get a second opinion from other sources.
The Whisler Law Firm’s Hurricane Insurance Claims FAQ is a great resource for getting confusing or difficult insurance claim and inspection questions answered.
How to Start Repairs After a Hurricane
Your insurance company is supposed to make a coverage decision within 90 days of their inspection. That can be a long time to wait to start addressing repairs and allow you and your family to get back into your home. Your field adjuster may also ask you to use their preferred contractor rather than hiring a private contractor, which can delay the process even more if their preferred contractor is very busy. Consult with The Whisler Law Firm’s expert team at no cost to have a property insurance lawyer help you review your claim and work with your provider to reach a settlement that gets you back into your home as quickly and safely as possible, with the settlement amount you deserve.
Once the extent of coverage and repairs have been agreed upon between you and your insurance provider, it’s time to start making repairs to your home and replacing your lost belongings. Following a hurricane, it’s common for general contractors from all corners of the state to converge on your community and offer their services. While many of them are professional in their practices, be wary of scammers trying to take advantage of the situation. Always ask for paperwork that proves the contractor is licensed in Florida, has appropriate insurance, and possesses the proper credentials and client references. It’s a good idea to get written, detailed estimates from at least three different reputable contractors for comparison. The Whisler Law Firm’s free Hurricane Preparedness eBook goes further in depth about all the right questions to ask potential contractors.
After a hurricane, you have a right to have your home returned to its pre-loss condition. If you believe your insurance provider is not delivering the results you expect, and you believe their behavior may be in violation of the policy you have in place, The Whisler Law Firm can help. We’ll review your policy, assess the damage to your home with the help of qualified professionals, and work with your insurance provider to get the proper coverage needed to make repairs. In Florida, if you prevail or settle your suit with your insurance company, they are legally required to pay your legal fees. Our process starts with an entirely free consultation with our experienced team and doesn’t end until we have delivered results. Call our office at 833-529-5677 or use our online form to get your free consultation scheduled today.